For the injury victim whose only exposure to litigation is Law and Order, the thought of initiating an insurance claim or lawsuit against the responsible party may seem daunting to say the least. Oftentimes, victims are too perplexed by the seemingly chaotic insurance and civil claims system to even follow through with a lawsuit – and may accept a low-ball settlement offer from the insurance company instead. However, as an experienced Temecula car accident lawyer can attest, a claim or lawsuit can be manageable and get you the compensation you need.
Each case is unique. But most follow the process outlined below.
1. Meet with & Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
We offer free consultations so you have nothing to lose by talking about your case with a personal injury attorney at the Sargent Law Firm. When you meet with your attorney, discuss the following issues:
- What happened
- Who you think is at fault
- What evidence you have
- What damages you suffered
- What (if any) communication you had with the other party or insurer
If you hire us, we will get to work on filing the claim with the appropriate insurance company. We will set to work investigating your accident to evaluate liability.
2. Investigate Your Accident
As your attorneys, we will work on getting a copy of the accident report, start negotiations with the insurance adjusters, and collect and present appropriate evidence. This includes:
- Photographs of injuries or property damage
- Medical records and bills
- Documents establishing wages and lost earnings
It is important to get a full accounting of your medical condition and injuries before you settle your claim. Otherwise, you might settle your claim prior to fully understanding the long-term effects of your injuries.
3. Negotiate a Settlement with the Insurance Company
The insurance adjusters will review your case and come up with an offer to settle your case. The initial settlement is usually low and does not account for all of your damages, short- and long-term.
Before you accept any settlement offers or sign any papers, let us review them. If you accept a settlement offer, you cannot reopen the claim later to get more compensation.
If we decline the first offer – which is often the case – we will continue negotiations. The timeframe during which negotiations take place varies depending on a lot of factors. In many cases, we are able to reach a fair settlement. But in some cases, the insurer refuses to offer fair compensation and we must file a lawsuit.
4. File a Personal Injury Claim
In California, the California Code of Civil Procedure governs the personal injury lawsuit process. Under these laws, the lawsuit process officially begins when the injured party – known as the “plaintiff” – files a complaint in state court naming at least one defendant as allegedly responsible for the injuries. Under Sections 422.30 and 425.10, the complaint must set forth at least the following information:
- The name of the court and county within which the complaint is filed.
- The title of the action, including the names of all the parties.
- A statement of the facts giving rise to the cause of action.
- A demand for judgment and relief.
Once complete, the complaint and accompanying paperwork is filed in county court, at which point the defendant is under a deadline to initiate a response or counter-claim.