Every personal injury case is different, but generally they all follow a similar path at the beginning. From a Round Rock dog bite to an Austin car accident, the first steps that take place afterward all tend to have the same trajectory. Unfortunately, some cases can drag on for quite awhile. Meanwhile, your life goes on. So what are the stages of a personal injury case and how can the changes in your life impact what happens with your case?
It is important to keep in mind that the stages outlined before are just the tip of the iceberg. If you decide to file a lawsuit, then there will be quite a few steps after what is described below. Your attorney can walk you through those steps and the expected timeline as well.
Your first priority is to take care of yourself and recover from your injuries! This means going to your appointments as scheduled and being completely up front with your doctors about all of your injuries and related symptoms.
After you’re finished with treatment, your attorney will gather all of the documentation necessary to support your claim.
The demand packet sent to the insurance carrier will include all related medical bills and records, documentation to support a claim for economic damages, as well as demand for pain and suffering.
Once all of documents are in, your attorney will prepare a demand packet to send to the insurance carrier to begin negotiations.
Once your attorney has the best offer from the carrier, they will discuss your options – whether to accept the offer or file a lawsuit and keep fighting.
If you decide to accept the offer presented, then your attorney will negotiate your medical bills and obtain the settlement funds from the insurance company.
There are no guarantees as to how long your case will take to resolve. On average, cases can take anywhere from three months to three years or more to resolve. There are many factors that impact how long your case will take, including but not limited to:
For example, if you sustained a mild neck strain and your condition improved after a handful of visits with your primary care physician, then your case will likely resolve a lot faster than if you suffered broken bones and required surgery and extended therapy to heal. Keep in mind that it is important to receive medical care until you have fully recovered for your injuries or at least until you have reached the physical condition you were in prior to your Austin car accident. You don’t want to rush things and wrap up treatment before your body is healed because you might have lasting injuries that the insurance company won’t compensate your for.
Another factor that determines the length of your case includes how quickly the medical bills and records get in. Some providers, like hospitals and general practitioners, take longer to put things together while others can get them prepared in just a few days. In order to make the strongest case possible, your attorney likely won’t send a demand to the insurance company until they’ve received all of your medical bills and records.
The last big factor that determines the duration of your case is how reasonable the insurance company is with their negotiations. Sometimes they’ll make a decent initial offer right away. From that point, it’s easy to get the maximum offer and get your case settled. More often than not though, the insurance companies will make an insulting low offer and it takes time to negotiate to a more reasonable one. Even after lengthy negotiations, they may not increase the settlement to make it fair for you. If that’s the case, your attorney will likely suggest filing a lawsuit.
Litigation can take several years. Unfortunately, in the age of Covid, court systems are backed up and lawsuits are significantly behind on their trial dates. If you file a lawsuit for your case, prepare to wait several years before settlement.
That might make you ask, what happens if you have a big life change during your personal injury case? Some changes can have a big impact on your case. Others won’t make much of a difference. We’ve compiled some of the biggest changes you might experience so you know what to expect.
Moving is a part of life. You don’t have to put your life on hold and avoid moving simply because of your personal injury case. If you move while your case is pending, then there are a few things to keep in mind. The contract with your personal injury attorney likely requires you to advise them of any changes in your address, phone number, and email. It’s important that they have accurate, up-to-date information so they can keep you informed of your case.
If you filed a lawsuit for your case and you’re moving away from where the lawsuit was filed, then you may be expected to travel back for several important litigation events such as mediation, depositions, and trial preparation and testimony. To be fair, in light of Covid-19 most of these events are handled via Zoom now. It’s possible that once the pandemic has ended, the practice will remain the same and you might be able to avoid in-person attendance. However, it’s always best to make sure that you budget travel time and expenses for these occasions just in case.
If you lost a job because of your injuries from a wreck or were demoted to a different position, then you’re entitled to be compensated for loss of earning capacity and well as lost wages. Loss of earning capacity results when your accident injuries impair your ability to earn a living in the future - whether it be a promotion or future wages. Lost wages are the exact amount of income you lost due to time off work for your injuries and treatment.
If you changed jobs for unrelated reasons, just keep your attorney informed. If you start a new job, or if you have to move because of financial issues, your attorney can make sure that your case is updated appropriately.
In the unfortunate occasion that you were pregnant at the time of the wreck, make sure your attorney knows! There is a significant amount of heightened stress and anxiety involved when you're pregnant during an accident. It’s paramount that you get checkout as soon as possible to make sure you and the baby are okay after the crash. In the unfortunate event that there are any complications with your pregnancy from the wreck, then your attorney needs to know and to document the file accordingly.
Additionally, pregnancy can put a hold of some of your medical care. It is not uncommon for expectant mothers to wait on chiropractic care, physical therapy, and or pain management until after the birth of their child. This is perfectly reasonable because pregnancy comes with a wide variety of aches and pains, sometimes it is hard to know if the pain will resolve after birth or if additional, more aggressive medical care is needed. If you choose to hold off on treatment until after the birth of your child, make sure to tell your doctors what you are experiencing at every appointment. It is important to document your symptoms throughout your pregnancy.
Lastly, sometimes things happen that make it virtually impossible to reach your attorney. Your contract with them likely requires you to cooperate with their representation at every step of the way. One of the most frustrating things we deal with as attorneys is the inability to reach a client to take action on their case. It’s absolutely crucial that you communicate what’s happening, whether that be through snail mail, e-mail, or a voicemail. Oftentimes, you can tell your attorney that you won’t be able to contact them for several weeks and they’ll tell you what they’ll do with your case during that time.
If you are going to be out of reach for a significant amount of time, it may be a good idea to appoint someone you trust to help facilitate communication between you and your attorney. You may also choose to give someone power of attorney to make decisions on your behalf. If you have questions, it’s always best to discuss your options with your attorney so your case doesn’t come to a complete stop until your back.
Life happens! Your personal injury case should not make you feel suck or trapped. If you’re worried about how life changes are going to impact your case, talk to your attorney right away!
If you've been in an Austin car accident, the attorneys at McKinney Vos can help. We'll focus on your case while you focus on recovering, and if any life events come along before your case resolves, we'll be here for you. Based in Austin and female-owned, we pride ourselves on service and communication with our clients. Contact today for a free case consultation.