Being involved in an accident can be a very unnerving experience. Accident victims often find themselves experiencing painful post-trauma injuries, both physically and emotionally. Recovering from your injuries may seem daunting. For many people, their situations already seem overwhelming without the added legal “pressures” they feel can come with hiring an attorney.
Not everyone who is injured in an accident requires the help of a personal injury attorney. In some situations, a legal professional will not be able to help. In others, the injury victim may be better off representing themselves in their claim. In many cases, however, a personal injury attorney can guide their clients, providing advice would otherwise be unavailable to an injured individual. At Christensen & Hymas, we are honest with all of our prospective clients. If we evaluate your claim and believe you are better off handling your own case, or if you have a case we honestly believe cannot win, we will tell you upfront. Because we know how confusing the legal process can be for people unfamiliar with personal injury law, we want to do everything we can to help you understand you personal injury case.
What exactly is a personal injury case?
According to nolo.com, a personal injury case occurs when money damages are paid to an injured person, known as the plaintiff, by the person or the company who is found legally responsible for an accident. An outside party other than the plaintiff must be responsible for an accident in order for the plaintiff to collect damages from them. For example, a person who slipped and fell, who crashed their car into a stationary object, who was injured by chemicals while working alone, or who was otherwise involved in a one-person-accident cannot have a personal injury case, and therefore cannot collect monetary damages for their injuries or medical bills.
How do we handle personal injury cases?
At Christensen & Hymas, we only accept a small number of personal injury cases. While many other law firms operate in a high-volume fashion, we are very selective and do not take every case that is proposed to us. We believe that by focusing on a small number of personal injury cases, we are better able to devote the time, resources, and efforts necessary to help you win your case. Each year, we accept only a limited number of the hundreds of cases people ask us to represent. As your attorneys, we want to do right by you—which means we will only accept cases we think have a good chance of winning.
Although every case is different, we generally follow the guidelines listed below when preparing personal injury claims:
- Evaluate the claim during an initial interview, educate the client about the legal process as it pertains to personally injury cases, and determine any deadlines that apply. (Please be aware that personal injury claims often have to be filed within a certain amount of time after the injury occurred, or the case will be considered void)
- Establish immediate contact with all insurance companies involved in the claim. We will notify them of the claim and request that, from this point forward, they communicate with our legal team and not the client firsthand. This allows our clients to focus on the healing process without having to worry about the stress of dealing with insurance representatives.
- Gather the necessary evidence to help support your claim. This evidence will include accident-related evidence (i.e. police reports and photographs), medical records, and bills. The more legal, documented evidence there is to support your claim, the better we can represent you.
- Thoroughly analyze insurance policies and read the “fine print.” We will evaluate the client’s insurance policy to better understand what is or isn’t being paid for immediately. We will also determine whether there is any coverage the client has that may pay all or a portion of the medical bills while the claim is pending. Different levels of insurance, in turn, offer different levels of protection for their policy holders.
- Discuss the insurance policy with the client so they fully understand the financial aspects of their personal injury case. In addition to helping clients with their coverage comprehension, we will make suggestions to the client as to what coverage should be purchased in the future to ensure more comprehensive protection.
- Speak with those involved in the accident and interview known witnesses. Particularly if the accident was an automobile accident, there will likely be several cars who saw the collision from different points of view.
- Analyze the legal elements of the case. In addition to studying the scene of the accident and gathering property damage information, our team will need to gain a full understanding of legal issues such as comparative negligence and damage limits.
- Fully review medical records. We will either meet with the client’s physicians or request written reports from them that explain, in detail, the client’s condition and any ongoing treatment needs. The better we understand our clients’ medical needs, the more prepared we can be to help them receive the treatment necessary.
- Determine whether or not the client’s health insurance has already paid expenses that are related to the injury claim. Often, if the insurance has paid some of these expenses upfront, proceeds from the claim settlement must be used to reimburse the health insurance plan.
- Prepare a demand package to be sent to the insurance company in an attempt to settle the case. As your personal injury attorneys, we will advise you against accepting any settlement offers that are unfairly low to you as the accident victim. Often, insurance representatives from the at-fault party’s insurance will attempt to settle your case very early on with a check—typically written for only a few hundred dollars. We strongly advise against accepting any such offer without speaking with one of our attorneys first. At Christensen & Hymas, we promise to help negotiate a fair settlement. We are able to successfully settle 90% of our cases without ever having to sue the person who caused the accident.
- If, after we have sent a demand package to the insurance company and spoken with representatives, the insurance company is unwilling to make a reasonable settlement offer, we will discuss the benefits of filing a lawsuit. We will discuss these benefits both among ourselves as well as with the client in detail, explaining the pros and cons of suing someone.
- If a lawsuit is filed, we will prepare the client, the witnesses, and any healthcare providers for depositions. Although the majority of our cases are settled without lawsuits, in the event that a lawsuit is the best option for you and your loved ones, we will be there for you to advise and answer questions every step of the way. You will not be facing your deposition (sworn testimony) unprepared.
- Prepare written questions and answers, and take the deposition of the defendant and other witnesses.
- Prepare for and attend mediation for potential settlement before trial.
- Go to court and set a future trial date.
- Prepare for and help you prepare for the trial and/or the settlement before the trial.
- Prepare the witnesses for trial.
- Prepare medical and demonstrative exhibits and evidence for trial.
- File briefs and motions with the court to eliminate surprises at trial. We want things to run as smoothly as possible, so this means being totally prepared before we ever begin the trial.
- Take the case to trial with a jury or judge.
- Analyze the jury’s verdict to determine if either side has good grounds to appeal the case. If you appear to have lost your case due to the vote of the jury, do not give up hope. There are still options to appeal your claim and pursue a more fair settlement.
If a case is won, how much is it “worth”?
The first thing people always want to know about their personal injury case is how much their case is “worth” in terms of settlement dollars. While the answer may be disappointing, it is the only truly accurate answer: it is impossible to know the value of a case upfront. Before all of the facts have been gathered, it is absolutely impossible to put a price tag on a claim. Attorneys may try to coerce you into signing a fee agreement before your actual settlement has been reached—this is a dangerous, unreliable practice that can get both parties into trouble down the road. No one can honestly tell you what your case is worth until much later down the road. Only after we have gathered all the necessary facts and evidence, spoken with your doctors, and prepared a demand package will we be able to accurately tell you the value of your case.
As you navigate the ups and downs of your personal injury case, take comfort in the fact that you do not have to do so alone. Our Christensen & Hymas family devotes time and attention to each client we work with, ensuring that you receive the help you need along your road to recovery.