What Are the Steps in a Personal Injury Case?

“I never thought I would need a personal injury attorney,” and “I’d never planned on hiring a personal injury law firm after a car crash” are statements we hear from our clients. As a part of our blog series created to explain the personal injury process, we recently detailed Ten Reasons to Consider Legal Action after a Personal Injury. This piece outlines the steps in a personal injury case to help others understand more about the legal process and the benefits of hiring the right personal injury law firm. 

Act at the Scene of the Crash.
The very first step to take after a car crash is to call 911 and seek emergency medical treatment, if necessary. Next, report the crash to the police (or if the injury is from a slip and fall, report the incident to management), who will then fill out a report of what happened based on witness statements and an investigation of the scene. In a car crash, be sure to exchange information—including insurance documentation, driver’s license, name, and phone number—with the driver of the other car. It is sometimes easier and faster to simply take photos of the information exchanged, including photos of any incident reports filled out for a slip and fall.

Next, take photos of the damage to both vehicles, any visible injuries, and pictures of the scene of the crash. Finally, be sure to document any injuries you have, and obtain the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the crash.  

Retain a Personal Injury Attorney ASAP.
One reason to immediately retain a personal injury law firm is to get legal representation to help guide you through the insurance claims process and to assist you in getting the proper medical treatment.  Skilled law firms will work fast to collect critical information about the crash, including witness statements, traffic camera footage, and property damage information. If the injury was caused by a slip and fall, a law firm will take steps to ensure the property owned preserved all evidence related to the fall, including recorded video camera loops, cleaning logs, and photos of the area where the fall occurred. 

Reputable personal injury law firms like Maier Gutierrez & Associates offer no upfront attorney fees, no initial consultation fees, and no out-of-pocket expenses for their injured clients. Maier Gutierrez & Associates will advance any costs needed to pursue the case, including the costs for medical records, private investigators, and expert witnesses. Our fee is a standard contingency fee arrangement, based on the percentage of the money recovered at certain stages of the claim. If there is no legal claim or recovery, Maier Gutierrez & Associates will not charge the client any fees or costs. There is no downside to consulting an attorney to help you navigate the personal injury process and to understand your legal rights. 

Help with the Damages Vehicle.
If your car is towed from the crash scene, be sure to get the tow truck company name and the location of where your vehicle is stored. If you have not already, seek the advice of an attorney early, so he/she can communicate with both insurance companies on your behalf. There are common pitfalls with an injured person dealing with an insurance company directly that can be used against them later in the case, so it is best to let the law firm help with all communications with insurance companies. 

Maier Gutierrez & Associates prides ourselves on the caring, personalized service we offer to those we serve.  Our client concierge team assists those in car collisions with car rental help or even car repair since insurance companies can take up to thirty (30) days to process requests. If your car is deemed a total loss, we can help you navigate that process to get you back on the road as soon as possible. We want our clients to focus on their healing and getting their life back on track. 

Receive the Medical Treatment You Need.
In the case of a severe injury, it is critical to seek emergency medical treatment immediately. Oftentimes, a person who is seriously injured is afraid to seek emergency medical care because of he/she does not have health insurance or is afraid of the costs associated with emergency medical care.  At Maier Gutierrez & Associates, we can help alleviate these concerns so you can focus on getting the medical treatment you need.

For injuries that initially appear to be minor, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with a doctor or urgent care facility specializing in treating injuries from car collisions, slip and fall incidents, and other personal injuries. Oftentimes after a car crash, the adrenaline rush from being involved in a crash can mask the pain from an injury so the person may not fully experience the pain from an injury until the days after the crash.  

For treatment of whiplash injuries from a car crash, doctors sometimes start with conservative medical care, including physical therapy or chiropractic treatment to see if the injury is from soft-tissue or muscle strain.  Medical professionals specializing in treatment of injuries from car crashes know what symptoms and signs to look for that could be an indicator of a longer-term injury.  

It is important to report to your doctor all new aches/pains that you are experiencing after a car crash.  Sometimes, what a person thinks has nothing to do with an injury from a crash can be the biggest sign of significant—and permanent—damage, like nausea as a result of a brain injury or numbness/weakness in their hands and feet caused from a spinal injury. Our team can help you get immediate appointments with specialist doctors and consult with medical professionals on recommendations to help you navigate through the treatment process.

Identify All Applicable Insurance Coverage to Cover Your Damages.
While your medical treatment and automobile repair take place, our team searches for all applicable insurance coverage available for to cover the damages you have incurred from the crash. The law requires insurance companies to produce all applicable insurance coverage for the person who caused the crash; however, insurance companies will oftentimes refuse to produce this information until after a lawsuit is filed. At Maier Gutierrez & Associates, we diligently search for all applicable insurance coverage and we also look at all available assets of the party at fault.  In some instances, we identify whether an at-fault driver was in the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash, placing liability on the company the negligent driver was working for at the time of the crash.

Identify Injuries Caused by the Crash, Including Any Future Medical Treatment and Economic Damages
There is no downside to consulting an attorney to help you navigate the personal injury process and understand your legal rights. Once Maier Gutierrez & Associates is retained on your case, we will work with you to understand the settlement value for your case based on the extent of your damages and what is recoverable under Nevada law. We utilize our years of experience in litigating personal injury cases for plaintiffs and previously, on behalf of insurance companies, to understand the value for each personal injury case. On your case, we will work with your doctors to understand the injuries that were caused by the crash and the need/cost for future medical care. We will also identify all other recoverable damages that you may have, such as lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, diminished value on your vehicle, and all pain and suffering damages. Once your damages have been identified, we will prepare a demand letter on your behalf to send to the insurance company that will detail your injuries and damages with supporting evidence and then propose a settlement offer.  

The next step to negotiate the terms for settlement. If we are able to settle your case with the insurance company, then we move quickly to resolve your case, ensure any liens or medical balances are paid, and get you a settlement check. If there is no settlement, we will move the case forward to litigation by filing a lawsuit against the at fault driver.  

What happens next does not occur as quickly as an episode of your favorite legal drama, yet litigation begins with a discovery period, where both sides are allowed to gather evidence to support their claims and defenses. Depending on the complexity of the case, the discovery period can last anywhere from one to two years. The discovery period is set by the court and allows both sides to conduct depositions, send written discovery requests for documents, admissions, or testimony, gathering of medical records and billing, and retention of expert witnesses. If the injured plaintiff is still undergoing medical treatment and is being recommended for future medical care, the defense is allowed to schedule a Rule 35 examination on the plaintiff, which is when the defense hires a doctor to examine the plaintiff and give the defense an opinion on the extent of the injured plaintiff’s injuries and cause of the injuries. 

Next, both sides prepare for arbitration or trial. In Nevada, if the personal injury case is worth $50,000 or less, the case will be set for a non-binding arbitration. If the case is worth more than $50,000, it will be exempted from arbitration and set for either a jury or bench trial. Either side can request a jury trial and trial preparation can be an intense and lengthy process. The quick trials that take place in a standard 30-minute television show are just not possible in real life. A civil case can take anywhere from three to five years to reach trial, and after the verdict, either party can appeal the verdict, which could add another year or two to resolve the case. 

Not all cases will reach a trial. Generally, 95% of all personal injury cases will settle before trial and cases can be settled at any point from filing the complaint, in the middle of discovery, during jury selection, waiting for the verdict to be rendered, or even after the verdict. In most cases that go to litigation, once discovery is completed; parties on both sides schedule a settlement conference or mediation to attempt to resolve the case.  At a settlement conference or mediation, the parties and attorneys confer with a neutral third party—often a former judge—to work and get both sides to compromise their position to reach a resolution. Settlement conferences/mediation are confidential, so there is no downside to attempt to resolve the case before undergoing the risks and costs of trial.  

Do Not Settle for Less Than You Deserve
Our team works tirelessly to help our clients from the moment we are retained through case resolution and oftentimes, after the time the case closes. We treat and consider our clients like family and want to ensure they always have a legal team in their corner. Our team members are more than just your legal representation.  We are here to help you deal with the stress and uncertainty as a result of being injured in a car crash.  For some clients, we help as sounding boards for any concerns our clients have about their case. For other clients, we actively help them understand the medical treatment being recommended to guide them through their recovery. We also help our clients navigate through health insurance coverages, subrogation liens, assisting with vehicle repairs, and support you at every stage of the legal process. Maier Gutierrez & Associates is with you every step of the way to get the settlement you deserve and an opportunity to return to life you lived before being injured.