Once you retain an attorney to represent you in your car accident or other injury case, the process to get to settlement has a number of steps all of which may take from one to two months to run their course.
The lawyer or their staff will first of all make sure the insurance companies and medical providers are notified that you are represented. This means they can no longer contact you directly, but must go through your attorney. Most lawyers in any injury case will counsel you to never talk to the other party’s insurance company (known as the adverse) even before you have hired an attorney. Do not agree to any settlement they offer until you find out from a lawyer if it is reasonable given the facts of the incident. If you have a good case, an attorney will be able to get more money for you than you would be able to get on your own.
If you have not finished your medical treatment at the time you retain the lawyer, they or their staff will keep in touch with you throughout your treatment. You should keep them updated and let them know of any major changes which take place during the course of your medical care. They will make sure you understand how any medical treatment will affect your case, and this will help them be prepared when it is time to write up the demand for settlement.
Once you have finished your treatment, the lawyer or their staff will prepare a demand to be sent to the insurance company or other responsible party. This will explain your injuries and will stipulate a fair amount of money for your settlement. You will be able to review the demand and make changes before it is sent. The attorney’s percentage as well as other costs are included in the amount the demand requests.
The other party will respond to the demand with an offer of settlement. Your lawyer will let you know what this offer is and will get your approval to accept it. If it is not acceptable to you, your lawyer will negotiate to get you a better settlement. Sometimes this takes a few times going back and forth. Once you have agreed to a settlement, the opposing party will send a check to your attorney, along with a release which states you will not in the future be able to make a claim for this same incident. After the attorney has taken their percentage of the settlement (usually 1/3), as well as other administrative costs, you will be issued a check for the remaining amount. The lawyer will provide you with a settlement statement detailing the settlement and costs.
If an acceptable amount cannot be reached by negotiation in this way, a lawsuit may need to be filed. Your lawyer will explain the benefits and drawbacks of filing suit so you can decide if you wish to proceed. If a lawsuit is filed, you will have to pay a filing fee up front, and if it goes to Mediation or Arbitration, you may also have to pay for those services. Many times the threat of filing suit will get the other party to offer more money, and sometimes even if suit is filed, they may offer an acceptable settlement before it goes any further.
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