What’s Involved in a Personal Injury Case?
An accident can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating. If you’ve been injured, you may have medical bills and other expenses that racked up while you took time off work to heal. You may be considering filing a personal injury claim to recover damages against the responsible party. Before you get started, you should note that every situation is different, but there are some general things you can expect in a personal injury case.
1. Consulting With a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Case
Pursuing compensation for your injuries can be a complex process that will go much more smoothly with an experienced advocate on your side. You should schedule a meeting with a Bakersfield personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can offer advice on how to maximize your claim using information like:
- Bills for immediate medical assistance
- Bills for rehabilitative care necessary for your full recovery
- Proof of lost income, including future lost income for disabling injuries
- Proof of any pain and suffering you experienced
Your lawyer will be able to answer any questions you have about the process and provide you with guidance every step of the way. They can ensure your claim paperwork is filled out accurately and help you address any issues that may arise.
2. Investigating for the Case
If you decide to proceed with your case, your lawyer will carry out a comprehensive investigation to determine the viability of your claim. They will attempt to prove the other party acted negligently and their poor judgement resulted in harm to you. To build your case, they will review accident reports, photographs or videos taken of the scene, witness statements, medical reports that prove your injuries, and your employment history to evaluate lost wages. If necessary, they will consult with experts and specialists to prove the extent of your injuries. Generally, the more evidence you have to support your claim, the better outcome you will have.
3. Filing an Insurance Claim to Settle
It’s recommended to speak with a lawyer before filing an insurance claim. The at-fault insurance company will attempt to pay you as little as possible for your injuries. They may use devious strategies to reduce your payout, but a lawyer will be able to advise you on how to deal with the insurance company in a way that will help benefit your claim. They know how insurance companies operate and will be able to provide guidance for speaking with insurance representatives.
Your personal injury lawyer will prepare a settlement demand letter and send it to the insurance company. This letter will detail the extent of your injuries and losses and demand compensation in full. After reviewing the letter, the insurance company will either reject it, accept it, or present you with a counteroffer. If this offer is much less than you asked for, you can try to negotiate. However, in the event that all the back-and-forth fails to produce a fair offer, you and your lawyer should discuss whether or not to move forward with a personal injury lawsuit.
What Happens If I have to Sue?
A personal injury lawsuit is usually a last resort that’s taken if all efforts to settle fail. If you do decide to sue for damages, your lawyer will prepare the legal paperwork that details your right to compensation. Keep in mind that California has a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. In most cases, lawsuits must be filed within 2 years of the injury. However, it’s usually better to file sooner rather than later for a greater chance of maximum recovery. If you start early in the process, your lawyer will have more time to prepare, get in touch with witnesses, gather evidence, and file the paperwork.
Once the lawsuit has been filed, your attorney and the defendant’s attorney will attempt to gather more evidence to support their case. Your lawyer may seek further witness testimonies or even depositions from experts in accident reconstruction to prove fault. During the discovery phase, each party can request information on what evidence the other side will be using to present their case.
Your lawyer may recommend mediation to try to resolve the case without further litigation. During mediation, a neutral third party will work with you and the defendant to facilitate a settlement. If one is reached, the case will be dismissed. However, if mediation fails, it will proceed to trial, where each attorney will present their evidence and question witnesses in front of a judge or jury. If they rule the defendant was indeed negligent, the judge or jury will award compensation.
What to Do to Maximize Compensation
While each individual case will have a different outcome, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of obtaining the maximum amount of compensation.
- Call the Police: The officer will prepare a police report that documents the potential cause of the accident as well as the contact information of everyone involved. This is often the first thing a lawyer will use to begin building a case.
- Take Photos of the Accident Scene: Be sure to take photos from every possible angle. This will leave little room for doubt and can be crucial in determining fault.
- Collect Witness Statements: These statements are important in proving that the accident happened the way you described it. Ask anyone who may have seen the incident to leave a statement and their contact information.
- Get Immediate Medical Assistance: Even if you didn’t require medical treatment at the scene, you should still get an examination by a medical professional right away. They can rule out any injuries that may not show symptoms for hours, or even days, after the accident.
Get a Free Consultation for Your Personal Injury Case
The Law Office of Kyle W. Jones can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. We are an experienced personal injury law firm that serves victims in Bakersfield and the surrounding area. We offer a free consultation to help you learn more about your legal options after an injury. Contact us today to get started.