It seems so simple. You are stopped at a red light, and someone hits you from behind. You are injured, the police are called, an ambulance is called, and you are taken to the closest ER. The driver who hit you is given a ticket.
Since you were hurt, you call a personal injury lawyer to handle your case. Sounds simple but is not. There are many complex issues in all personal injury cases, even those as seemingly simple as described.
Many clients are surprised about how long it takes to resolve their car wreck case. While it is true that the rare case is resolved in a few weeks, most are not, and sometimes take years to settle. Why?
How Much Insurance Coverage is Available?
There are certain procedures that are common in all car wreck cases. After you hire a personal injury lawyer, the first thing to do is find out insurance details. Florida law requires insurers of Florida residents to disclose all liability coverage within 30 days of demand. While some companies provide this information quicker, most do not. An experienced Florida personal injury lawyer will send a request to your own insurance company, to determine the limits of your medical coverage and also if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage protects you and allows you to make a claim for your injuries if the at-fault driver has little or no bodily injury coverage. The lawyer will also put your health insurers on notice of the claim, as they may also be responsible in paying for treatment after the no-fault (PIP or Personal Injury Protection) coverage is exhausted. This process is extremely important, as the value of your claim is often determined by the insurance coverage available. It may be several weeks before your lawyer even knows how much coverage is available.
Treatment and Permanent Injury Diagnosis
If you are injured, you will start treatment with an appropriate specialist. Depending on the nature of your injury, it may be months or even years before you know the ultimate outcome of your injury. For soft tissue or whiplash-type injuries, it usually takes 6 to 9 months before the patient reaches maximum medical improvement. Clients must reach this stage of treatment before the doctor will give an opinion about the permanent injury. Under Florida law, (Florida Statute 627.737) states that you must have a permanent injury to recover from pain and suffering type damages, and you must have this opinion from a licensed physician.
The Demand and Negotiation Phase
After the extent of your injury is known, then demand is made by your lawyer on your behalf to the at-fault party’s insurance company. An experienced and board-certified trial lawyer will have the benefit of knowing the value of such cases and will know how to properly negotiate with the insurance company. Make sure your personal injury lawyer has a reputation as one who will fight to get you top value for your accident claim. Companies know that experienced trial lawyers will take a case to trial if necessary and will pay accordingly.
The negotiation phase may take weeks or months, depending on the nature of the claim along with the availability of medical records and the insurance coverages.
If the at-fault party does not have enough coverage to fairly settle your claim, and you have underinsured motorist coverage, then an additional negotiation will occur with your own insurance company.
What if Your Car Wreck Case Does Not Settle?
A small percentage of cases do not settle at the presuit stage and must be filed in court. In other words, if the insurance company is not fair with its offer, the case must move on to the litigation stage. Your lawyer will file suit in circuit court seeking damages. This process may take many months to get these cases ultimately resolved.
Litigation Process Includes:
To determine the nature of the injuries and the value of the claim.
The courts will require a mediation session to try and resolve the case.
If a case cannot be resolved through mediation, the case will be scheduled for trial in court.
While most cases settle before trial, it may take many months to get this done.
NOTE: During the COVID epidemic, most courts are not even scheduling civil trials, and in fact in may be several years before a case goes to trial. Even after trial, appeals may slow down the process. For these reasons, it is often best for both sides to settle before trial. Having a board-certified trial lawyer is a great advantage for the injured party.
It is a Marathon and Not a Sprint
While your car wreck case may seem simple, even simple cases can take a long time to get resolved. Between treatment, negotiation, possible litigation, or even trial, the process can seem overwhelming. That is why you need to hire an experienced trial lawyer to handle your case.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you’ve been the victim of an accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.