When someone is injured in an accident or suffers any other type of injury at the hands of another person or party, they may be eligible for compensation. Filing an injury claim is a process that can take just a few days, or it can go on for several months or longer, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
A personal injury claim almost always involves an insurance carrier. Sometimes, you will be dealing with the insurance company for the party who was at fault for the injury. In other cases, you may be filing a claim with your own insurer, who may in turn seek reimbursement from the responsible party or their insurer.
Whichever the case, there is one important point to remember as you enter the claims process; the primary goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little as possible for your injury. They may use a number of various tactics to achieve this goal, but at the end of the day, everything they do is designed to protect their bottom line.
Since you are trying to obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries and the insurance company is trying to minimize their losses, you have conflicting interests. Therefore, no matter how friendly they are or how many times they reassure you that you will be “taken care of”, you must view them as an adversary and treat everything they do with skepticism.
The Personal Injury Claims Process
The injury claims process begins when you realize that you have been hurt after an accident or incident, and you file a claim with the insurer. Shortly after the claim is filed, you will likely be contacted by the adjuster or someone else with the insurance company to discuss your situation.
As mentioned earlier, this person will usually be very friendly, ask how you are doing, and assure you that they will take care of you. After that, they may ask for a recorded statement and access to your medical records, presenting these requests as “formalities” that must be done in order to process your claim.
They may also come to you with a quick settlement offer to resolve the claim. In general, it is best not to accept the first offer that you receive from an insurer, because it is likely to be for far less than what your claim is really worth. At this point, it is strongly recommended that you at least speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.
There are numerous traps that an insurance company might set to diminish the value of your claim or even deny it all together. This is especially true in Virginia, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine.
Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering compensation if they are found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying accident or event. You can be sure that the insurance company will look for any possible reason to pin at least some of the blame on you; and this is why it is best to get an attorney involved as early as possible in the process, so your right to recover compensation will be preserved.
After being injured, your main focus should be on your recovery. As such, it is very important to listen to your doctor, follow all recommended treatments, and refrain from any activities you are told not to participate in during your recovery period. You must follow your doctor’s orders and do everything you can to get better, not only for the sake of your health, but also to fulfill your legal duty to mitigate your injuries as much as possible.
Investigating your Claim
While you are focused on your recovery, your attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident or event that led to your injuries and how everything occurred. They will also examine the full extent of your injuries once you have recovered or reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) in order to determine your total damages and what your claim is worth.
Once the total value of your claim has been determined, your attorney will prepare a settlement demand to present to the insurance company that will reflect not only economic losses such as medical bills and lost wages, but also non-economic losses such as physical pain and suffering and psychological distress. This may set off a series of back and forth offers and counter offers until the two sides agree on a reasonable settlement amount that fully compensates you for your losses.
Most personal injury cases end up with an out of court settlement, because trials are costly, protracted, and unpredictable, and an insurance company is all about managing risk, which generally means they are motivated to avoid litigation. All that said, there are times when an insurer is not willing to negotiate in good faith. In such cases, your lawyer will be prepared to pursue full damages at trial.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits. So, if no settlement is reached within two years of your injury, a lawsuit must be filed in order to protect your right to compensation. Filing a lawsuit does not necessarily mean there will be a trial, however. Many times, just the filing of a lawsuit and the threat of a trial is enough to bring the other side back to the table and make them more willing to negotiate a reasonable settlement. If the case does go to trial, it will involve multiple phases and most likely several months or longer before the case is concluded.
Injured in an Accident in Virginia? Contact a Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one suffered any type of personal injury in Virginia and another party was responsible, contact Schilling & Esposito today at 804-261-1001 for a free consultation and case assessment. We will sit down with you to discuss your case and review your legal rights and options. And if we decide to take your case, it will be done on a contingency fee basis, so you will not have to pay upfront attorney fees to receive the strong personalized representation you need and deserve.