1. You need to be proactive about receiving, following-up, and completing your medical treatment for your personal injuries. In any case, you should at least have an idea of what your medical treatment entails or looks like for the following weeks or months to come.
2. Your personal injury lawyer will have the authorization to obtain all copies of medical records, documentation, and bills from any care providers you went to for your injury. However, you must be diligent in giving your lawyer a copy of documentation for any lost wages from employment absence that took place.
3. Once your lawyer has the necessary documentation, he/she will draft a “demand letter” to the third-party’s insurance company.
4. The insurance company will typically respond with a settlement offer within approximately 30 days.
5. A consecutive correspondence between the attorney and third-party’s insurance company will take place. Your attorney will try to negotiate with the insurance company to push the insurance adjuster to present their best offer.
6. If both parties are able to agree on a number, your case settles. However, you must also agree to the settlement offer as well. If the former or latter does not take place, the next step is to file a lawsuit against the other driver.
7. Once the lawsuit is filed, you will be assigned a trial date approximately one year out from the date of filing.
8. Your case can settle at any point during the time leading up to the trial date. If no settlement is reached during that time, the case goes to trial and a jury decides the amount you get.
If Liability is Disputed
If liability is disputed, your car accident case will take more time to settle. Sometimes, liability is clear cut based off the damages that a vehicle sustained. For example, in a rear-end scenario, the driver of the vehicle that rear-ends a leading vehicle will almost always be considered as partially negligent. However, gray areas such as the leading driver reversing suddenly or the leading driver’s brake lights not functioning properly constitutes the leading driver to be at fault. As a result, we have a “he said, she said” scenario.
In a disputed liability case, the driver’s insurance company will attribute “comparative negligence” in their settlement offer. For example, if they claim that you were 50% at fault, their settlement offer still reflect a 50% reduction for your comparative negligence. Unless you agree to settling your case for the reduced amount, a law suit will have to be filed in orther to gather enough evidence to contest the comparative negligence claim.
While a case can potentially settle at any point leading up to the trial date, your case will take approximately one year to go to trial once a lawsuit is filed.
Approximately 98% of California personal injury cases settle before trial. Your personal injury lawyer will give you his or her advice, but it is ultimately up to you to decide whether to accept the settlement offer. It would be in your best interest to regularly follow up with your attorney and be in regular contact with them.