If you become injured in the greater Fresno area because someone else was negligent, as soon as you’ve received medical treatment, discuss your legal rights and alternatives with a California personal injury attorney.
A good injury attorney will review the details of your case, study the police and medical reports, question witnesses, and explain how personal injury laws in this state apply to your own case.
After reviewing your case, a personal injury attorney should provide you with a “ballpark” estimate of how much compensation you should expect to obtain and also a general estimate of how long the process should take.
WHAT ARE THE KEY QUESTIONS IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
The compensation you receive and the time that it takes will hinge on the answers to these questions:
1. What caused the accident? Was your injury directly caused by the accident – that is, by another person’s negligence? Did you have any pre-existing injuries? Are the medical records enough to prove your claim?
2. Which party is liable? When determining the worth of a personal injury claim, the central question is “Who was at fault?” In some California traffic collisions, both drivers will share a percentage of the fault.
3. What insurance coverage applies? An experienced injury attorney will review every insurance policy that may be applicable and will identify all potential compensation sources.
HOW LONG CAN A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM TAKE TO RESOLVE?
If you choose to file a personal injury claim, you’re going to need some patience. A simple case can be resolved in weeks, but some cases take over a year, and the most complicated cases – with multiple defendants and substantial cash at stake – can take years and go through several appeals.
A quicker settlement is usually available, but only if you’re willing to settle for less. Why do some cases take so much time? Sometimes it’s because of the case’s legal and factual complexities; other times, because a substantial amount of compensation is being sought.
But when a victim’s injuries are serious, a case may be delayed because that victim has not reached a maximum point of medical improvement. In other words, the case is delayed because the final amount of the healthcare expenses can’t yet be exactly determined.
WHAT CAN COMPLICATE AND DELAY A PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
What legal or factual complications can delay the resolution of a personal injury claim? In cases arising from traffic accidents, determining which motorist was liable can often be difficult. Determining how much compensation a victim needs can also be challenging.
An automobile insurance company probably will not offer you a settlement until the liability question is answered. An injury victim’s attorney must prove that:
1. A defendant was negligent.
2. The defendant’s negligence was a direct cause of the victim’s personal injury or injuries.
Keep reading for a brief discussion of how a personal injury matter arising from a serious accident might move from injury to resolution.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN AN ACCIDENT HAPPENS?
Seek medical attention immediately – the sooner, the better, and within at least twenty-four hours. Should you delay treatment, an insurance company can claim that perhaps you weren’t actually hurt at all.
Unless a personal injury plaintiff (that is, the injury victim) has suffered egregious injuries requiring lifelong treatment and care, the settlement negotiations cannot begin until the plaintiff has reached the “maximum medical improvement” point.
In most situations, the plaintiff can’t know what compensation to seek until he or she has reached the point of maximum medical improvement.
AFTER MEDICAL TREATMENT, WHAT’S NEXT?
Your choice of a personal injury attorney can make all the difference. You will need a lawyer with significant negotiating experience as well as courtroom experience. Most injury cases in California are resolved when the lawyers for each side meet privately and negotiate a settlement.
If an acceptable settlement isn’t offered, your injury attorney may recommend taking your case to trial and asking a jury to order payment of the compensation you need. While your lawyer should be experienced, he or she should also give you confidence and be someone you trust.
HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE THE INSURANCE COMPANY?
Especially if you were injured in a traffic crash, an insurance claims adjuster may contact you almost immediately. You should avoid providing the adjuster with any recorded or written statement. What you say might be twisted or misinterpreted and used against you.
You may be offered a quick settlement – for a substantially lesser amount than your claim is worth. Don’t accept it. If you do, you may forfeit any right to file a lawsuit or to seek additional compensation should you need it later.
Settling your case prior to completing medical treatment or receiving a full diagnosis can be a big mistake. Let a Fresno personal injury attorney handle the negotiations with the insurance company – that’s a personal injury attorney’s job.
If you’ve been injured by another person’s negligence in any accident, consult a qualified personal injury lawyer before you even speak to an insurance company representative.
WHAT HAPPENS AT YOUR MAXIMUM MEDICAL IMPROVEMENT POINT?
Sometimes it can take months for your attorney to compile the evidence and prepare to negotiate with the defendant in your case and with his or her attorney. If these negotiations end with a stalemate, you may only have two options: take a less-than-acceptable settlement or go to trial.
Don’t be too anxious to file a formal lawsuit. If you take legal action too swiftly, you can get tripped up with inadequate medical documentation and evidence. Most injury lawyers suggest waiting to take legal action until you’ve reached the maximum medical improvement point.
Once a lawsuit has been filed, it may take weeks for the defendant to be “served” with legal papers. A defendant then has time to submit a response.
“Discovery” takes place as the lawyers for each side take interrogatories and depositions (statements and testimony) and exchange evidence. Private negotiations usually continue along with and during the discovery process.
HOW LONG WILL IT ACTUALLY TAKE TO RESOLVE YOUR CASE?
Here in California, the amount of time from the day you file a personal injury lawsuit until a trial’s first day depends on the court, the jurisdiction, and the progress, if any, of the private negotiations. In the longest scenario, it may be roughly two years from the filing date until the trial date.
But most personal injury trials in California will begin less than a year after the lawsuit has been formally filed. A trial’s length hinges on the case’s complexity. A personal injury trial can end in a day or in a month or even longer. Each case is entirely unique.
An injured victim of negligence in California can win justice as well as compensation, but you must be advised and represented by a skilled accident attorney. Your future may depend on it.