How Does the Personal Injury Claim Process Work?
Finding Evidence to Support Your Claim
The importance of this step cannot be overemphasized. To receive compensation, you will need to show that the defendant did not act with reasonable care and that this carelessness injured you. The longer you wait to obtain evidence, the harder it will be to find.
After an accident, document the event as much as possible. Take pictures of the accident scene. If you were in a car accident, take pictures of the state of the vehicles immediately after the crash. And remember to always hold onto copies of your medical records and bills.
In some complicated cases, evidence will be harder to find. For example, you might have been hurt by a defective product. Your personal injury attorney will request evidence from the manufacturer and others to help build up your case. For this reason, you can help bolster a case by meeting with an attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
Notifying the Insurance Company
You need to promptly notify the defendant’s insurance company that you intend to file a claim. This notification is really preliminary. You don’t make a demand for specific compensation or share information about the accident. However, you do need to give them a heads up that you were injured and will be making a claim shortly.
This is where an attorney is a big help. Your lawyer can handle all communications, allowing you to focus 100% on your recovery. You also don’t want to start answering questions, since the insurance company might be digging for information to help them blame you for your injuries!
Communicating with the Insurance Company
After you notify the insurer that you were hurt, they might send you a “reservation of rights” letter. This letter is standard and nothing to get worked up about. It simply states that the insurance company intends to investigate your claim but reserves the right to deny the claim if it is not covered.
However, the insurance company might take the next step and ask for a recorded statement. We recommend avoiding that for now, at least until you hire a Las Vegas personal injury attorney to represent you. As mentioned above, many adjusters are digging for reasons to deny or reduce your claim.
Estimating the Value of Your Claim
An injured victim cannot negotiate a fair personal injury settlement until they know the value of their injuries. In Nevada, a client can receive money damages for all losses proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence, including:
- Medical and rehabilitation bills
- Lost income or lost wages (when injuries prevent our client from working)
- Property damage, such as replacing a damaged vehicle
Typically, the above losses come with a price tag—we can measure them in dollars and cents. We will want to see all medical bills, including statements from your insurer and any receipts for out-of-pocket payments. You should also provide proof of your income, such as a pay stub.
Accident victims can also receive compensation for non-economic losses, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
The amount you can receive for these losses depends on many factors, such as how badly you are injured. A seasoned Las Vegas personal injury lawyer can use his experience to estimate a fair amount you can receive for these intangible losses.
Sending a Demand to the Insurance Company
The demand letter kicks off the negotiation process. Once we know how much your injuries are worth, we can make a demand on the insurance company for compensation. The demand letter will include information about the accident, as well as your losses.
Typically, it is best to propose a high settlement figure, which gives you room to come down and reach an agreement. Negotiating a settlement is a definite art, and knowing how insurance companies operate helps. For this reason, hire an experienced attorney who has gone toe-to-toe with the large insurance companies in Nevada.
Generally, the insurance company will reject our initial offer and make one for much lower. Negotiating a settlement includes a lot of back and forth between the parties. Although some insurance companies might settle quickly, others hold out for a while.
Negotiation proceeds a little like dickering over the price of a car—the buyer has a number and the seller has a different number, and each side moves a little toward the middle, step by step. Here, you have an amount you want to receive for your injuries, and the insurance adjuster definitely wants you to settle for less.
One tactic adjusters use is to claim they have only been “authorized” to offer up to a certain amount and that they can’t go over that amount. This might be true. But it is also true that the adjuster can go back and get authorized for a higher amount. Never believe that insurance companies lack the money—these are huge, billion-dollar industries.
The best way to negotiate is to stay calm and avoid making the dispute personal—which can be hard when you are suffering from painful, life-changing injuries. Remember that the adjuster is not your friend, but he is also not your enemy. We have found that holding out for more money is a good strategy. The more anxious you are to settle, the less you will probably receive.
Accepting an Offer
When negotiating, you should have an absolute minimum that you are prepared to settle for. Always have this amount in mind. If the adjuster cannot meet this amount, then you will have to walk away.
Sometimes we see a different problem: the adjuster immediately agrees to your minimum amount. What do you do? Should you accept it and call it a day? In this situation, it’s best to set your expectations a little higher. The adjuster clearly agrees that your case is serious and is willing to offer considerable compensation.
You will probably reach an agreement in person or in writing. Don’t say you accept an offer until you really mean it. It is bad form to try and back out after reaching a verbal agreement.
All agreements will be memorialized in a writing and signed by both parties. Your attorney will either draft the agreement or review the other side’s and offer suggestions. The agreement should include how much you will receive and how it will be paid.
The settlement will also contain a release. By signing a release, you are agreeing not to bring future claims against the defendant based on this accident. Without a release, an insurer will not agree to a settlement.
Filing a Lawsuit
Settlement has many advantages. You generally receive money much faster, and you are guaranteed something. The adjuster also knows how much they will have to pay.
When you can’t settle, the only way to receive compensation is to file a lawsuit. But lawsuits are risky—you might lose and receive nothing. The insurance company also runs the risk that a jury could hit them with millions of dollars in damages. Negotiating a settlement removes these risks.
If you have handled your claim yourself and negotiations have hit a wall, contact a lawyer. Court procedure and rules are hard for a layperson to learn, and judges expect those who represent themselves to do everything a lawyer would.
Naqvi Injury Law is Here for You
Our firm stands ready and willing to help you with your personal injury claim. Before starting negotiations, contact our firm to schedule a free consultation.