PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS ACTIONS IN PROSECUTING THE PERSONAL INJURY CASE

Last week we gave you the automobile accident checklist. Today we go into details to the lawyer’s functions in prosecuting a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact tortfeasor’s insurance company

Dealing with the culprit’s insurance company following an accident is frustrating, confusing and leads to the insurance company low balling your case and ending with the injured party recovering for less money. Then, if they hired a personal injury attorney, once you call the Law Offices of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC, we take down in a telephone interview, the facts of the accident and the injuries sustained. We will then have you come into the office to sign up the case and go over the details of the accident and injuries sustained. The injured party, the plaintiff, will sign HIPPA authorizations so we can get copies of all medical records from your treating physicians. We get the list of hospital, doctors and physical therapy places where you have treated. If your treatment has ended with the hospital or doctors, we immediately order your records by writing for them with the HIPPA authorizations. We wait until you finish treating with a particular doctor or rehabilitation facility before ordering the medical records.

Injured party should not contact the tortfeasor’s insurance company

The personal injury lawyer will contact the culprit’s insurance company immediately. It is very important that the injured party does not contact the culprit’s insurance company as they will try to get a recorded statement that the insurance company will use against you. Never speak to the liability insurance company of the culprit without an attorney. Your personal injury attorney will take the responsibilities and burden of deliberating and negotiating with the culprit’s insurance company. Do not believe, no matter how friendly the claims examiner is, what they say. Their job is to minimize your injuries and most times use unscrupulous means to get information to use against you. Never believe an insurance company’s representative is on your side because they are not! Once you have hired an attorney, the burden of dealing with the insurance company will be lifted off your shoulders. We tell our client their only duty is to treat for their injuries and start the healing process.

Pre-suit

Pre-suit handling of your case is to gather all related medical records and bills you have. In New York, the car you are in pays no-fault benefits up to $50,000. This is not always the same insurance company that insures the culprit or tortfeasor. No-fault forms are to be filled out with the insurance company of the car you are in. They will pay all of your medical bills and 80% of your lost wages up to $2,000 per month. The injured party can speak to the no-fault claims representative but not the tortfeasor’s liability claims adjuster. Once the injured party has finished treatment, the attorney will gather all the medical records to evaluate your case monetarily.

At this point, the attorney prepares a medical package to the tortfeasor’s liability insurance company. This outlines treatment from each medical provider, hospital, doctor and rehabilitation facility without filing a lawsuit. Once the medical package has been sent to the tortfeasor’s liability insurance company, the insurance company must, by New York law, advise your attorney the liability limits of coverage for personal injury. If the amount of coverage is limited, in New York the tortfeasor must have $25,000/50,000 liability limits. If the tortfeasor has no insurance (cancelled for non-payment of premiums) or limited coverage, the attorney must get the injured party’s automobile coverage declaration sheet to ascertain if the injured party has uninsured or underinsured coverage and immediately, advise your insurance company of a potential uninsured or underinsured claim. This preserves the injured party’s rights to go after their own insurance company’s uninsured or underinsured limits. The policy limits listed on your policy is deducted from the tortfeasor’s coverage and the balance is available for a proceeding after you settle with the tortfeasor through arbitration up to your uninsured or underinsured coverage. Sometimes, we advise your insurance company of a potential claim even if we don’t know the tortfeasor’s liability coverage limits. As the law requires, notification for an uninsured or underinsured claim “as soon as practicable”.

Evaluation of injuries

Once all the medical records are received and treatment ends, your personal injury attorney will evaluate the case and advise you of your injuries value. Your personal injury attorney will then attempt to settle your claim. Once receiving an offer, we advise our client of the offer and if the value of your claim is higher than the offer, a lawsuit is filed in the appropriate county. Only a small number of cases settle prior to filing a lawsuit.

Start the lawsuit

Once it is determined that the value of your case is greater than the offer, a summons and complaint is filed in the appropriate court. Our firm handles cases in all five boroughs of New York City plus Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam & Dutchess Counties. After the summons and complaint is filed, the discovery portion of the litigation begins. It is in this section of the lawsuit where various demands will be made by defense counsel and discovered, i.e. Demand for a Bill of Particulars, Demand for names of witnesses, photographs of the scene or motor vehicles involved in the case. This is an in-depth investigation of your claim. The plaintiff will respond to the demand for a Bill of Particulars questions, detailing how the accident occurred, listing all the personal injuries sustained and list the names of all medical providers who treated the injured party together with lost time from work and an amount of lost wages. Other demands are made in writing for copies of any written or oral statements taken of the injured party, copies of photographs of the scene, photographs of the vehicles as well as names of any witnesses.

Once the bill of particulars is filed, our firm immediately asks the Court for a preliminary conference. Both sides must appear before the assigned Judge to the case and work out any paper work still outstanding and enter into a discovery schedule for depositions (in New York they are referred to as an Examination before Trial) where the plaintiff’s attorney questions the tortfeasor about how the accident happened. This is done before a Court Reporter who takes down sworn testimony that becomes part of the case. The tortfeasor’s attorney questions the injured party about how the accident occurred, the injuries sustained, the treatment received from all providers and whether the plaintiff had sustained prior injuries. Certain demands are made after deposition about questions answered. An Examination before Trial allows your attorney to sit down face to face with the tortfeasor or witness and question them. The tortfeasor’s attorney hired by their insurance company questions the injured party. This gives the defendant (tortfeasor’s) attorney and insurance company to analyze the demeanor and presentation of a witness. Once these steps are completed, your attorney will have a complete understanding of your claims (injuries) and evaluate all at fault parties and factual circumstances surrounding the accident causing the injured party injuries. It is at this point that the attorney should again attempt to settle your claim; as everyone knows what the jury will hear at trial. Sometimes the tortfeasor’s insurance company will want to mediate in an attempt to settle the case.

The trial

Once both sides know they cannot settle the case, the last step to getting to a monetary award is the trial. This is where the cost of litigation becomes evident. You have to pay for experts to give testimony at trial. This includes engineers for accident reconstruction, doctors for testimony about the injuries and diagnosis and prognosis about the future medical condition of the injured party. It is at trial, after the jury is selected, that 97% of cases settle. The cost of experts can run as high as $10,000 for a doctor’s testimony or accident reconstruction or if the injuries are severe enough, a life planner and economist are hired to show to the jury what medical and treatment costs. The injured party will have to go through the rest of their life. This will ensure the injured parties’ attorney the best chance to get the highest monetary award for their client. The jury will set the amount of money to be awarded to the injured party.

We hope this gives you a road map of what you and your attorney must do to receive the highest monetary award from the jury.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, call the Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or contact us at djrobolaw@aol.com or on our website of White-Plains-Personal-Injury Lawyer