The answer is simple, but to understand importance of the work they do, and the value they bring to their clients, you must understand a little more about the process of handling personal injury claims. It is no cake walk, even for experienced personal injury attorneys.
Notifying Insurance Companies and Establishing Communications Between the Parties
A personal injury attorney will notify the insurance providers of the claim for injuries and that the injured party is represented by counsel. This is true whether it is a motor vehicle accident, boating accident, commercial vehicle accident, or even slip-and-fall. These providers must be provided “notice” of the claims being made by the injured parties that were caused by their insured. In addition to notifying the at-fault parties insurer, the injured party will need to notify their own insurer of the possibility of any claims under their own UM/UIM in the event that the other party has no insurance or carries insufficient coverage to pay for the damages that have been suffered.
Proper Assessment of Damages
Next, a personal injury attorney will put the injured party’s case together. This happens by analyzing the damages that the injured party actually sustained as a result of the accident. This includes any number of factors, such as: medical costs, recovery, rehabilitation, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and any other theory of recovery that may apply to the situation of the particular injured party. A personal injury attorney will take all these factors into account when the time comes to approach the insurance company with a settlement demand.
Dealing With Insurance Companies, Medical Providers, Health Insurers, etc…
Third, a personal injury attorney deals with the insurance company throughout the claims process, as well as the medical providers to insure that once the claim is settled, or a judgment is entered in favor of the injured party, that the providers who hold liens against the injured party’s recovery are covered by any settlement. This stage typically includes requesting medical records and bills from providers, sending medical records and bills to insurance providers, negotiating over damages amounts with the insurance company and working towards a settlement figure that covers the injured parties costs while also getting them a settlement in the end.
This also includes obtaining information from the medical providers and health insurance companies as to their bills outstanding. The attorney will need to keep close track of the liens against the injured party. This is not necessarily done to protect the interest of the medical providers so much as it is meant to protect the interests of the injured party once settlement dollars have been recovered. The attorney will need to figure out the priority of each claim and how to allocate settlement dollars for each lien.
Filing Suit Against the At-Fault Party
If no just resolution of the claims have be made with the insurance company, then the personal injury attorney will file suit against the at-fault party. The insurance company will hire an attorney to represent the at-fault party and litigation will ensue. This comes with all of the usual aspects of litigation: discovery, depositions, mediation, pre-trial hearings and motions, and normal back-and-forth between the parties until either a settlement is made or trial occurs. Litigation is time-consuming, costly, and complex, that is why most claims are settled prior to the filing of a lawsuit. However, sometimes the issues are highly contested by both parties and litigation is the only recourse.
No Resolution? Onto Trial!
Next comes trial. If no settlement occurs after a lawsuit is filed and all pre-trial matters have concluded (discovery, pre-trial motions and hearings, depositions and mediation), then comes trial and all that comes with that. The whole “kit and caboodle”.
Settling All Claims Against the Injured Party’s Recovery
As noted above, a personal injury attorney will, assuming a settlement is obtained or judgment is awarded, take all necessary steps to ensure that lien holders, such as medical providers and health insurance companies are paid. This is where personal injury attorneys enter into formal negotiations with each lien holder the injured party has in order to settle the liens against the injured party. These “lien-holders” are typically medical providers, emergency services providers (ambulance, Careflite), and health insurers who provided initial coverage of injuries to pay providers.
A personal injury attorney will then assess which claims hold priority over the others and which must be paid first. The attorney will also negotiate with the lien holders to reduce the amount of the lien. The lower the lien amounts the more recovery for the injured party. This doesn’t mean any additional money for the attorney. That is important to remember. The central goal of these negotiations is to maximize settlement dollars for the injured party.
Once the lien holders are all paid what they can be paid (in Texas, it is typically only up to 1/3 of the injured party’s recovery amount), then the personal injury attorney will distribute the check to the injured party or their representatives and the case is closed.
What Happens When The Injured Party Does Not Have An Attorney?
The insurance company is not your friend, and just like any other for-profit business, they have a bottom-line to protect. In situations where the injured party goes it alone, the insurance company typically handles everything, some even go so far as to control which type of care is allowed, and whether coverage will be allowed under the policy.
Essentially the insurance tells the injured party what their claim is worth (and why wouldn’t you believe them?!). Because of this, there is very little negotiation. The insurance company is in a stronger bargaining position. They are the more experienced party, and they hold all the money. But it is also psychological. Once one party establishes control or takes charge of a situation, the other party tends to relinquish bargaining power and follow suit. This is age-old negotiation technique and the insurance companies do it better than anybody. This leads to smaller recovery than what the injured party would have gotten had they hired an attorney (even after attorney’s fees are added in!). This is because these types of settlement often lead to insufficient recovery (recovery that does not cover all of the past or future medical expenses), or recovery that only covers that injured party’s medical expenses but does not provide them anything more than nominal recovery for pain and suffering (a couple hundred bucks for your “trouble”).
That being said, being taken advantage of by the insurance company as described above is not right, and that is why personal injury attorney’s are so valuable. Personal injury attorney’s assert and protect the rights of injured people and their family. Personal injury attorney’s maximize recovery and minimize cost to the injured party, the REAL innocent party.
About Our Firm:
Guest and Gray, P.C. is an experienced litigation team serving all North Texas counties. We are the largest and highest rated law firm in Rockwall and Kaufman County. We regularly pursue and defend various civil litigation claims and personal injury claims. Our practice is quickly growing with offices now located in Dallas, Rockwall and our main office in Forney to provide convenience to our clients. We are longtime faces in our community and we love what we do. We seek to provide an air of calm and confidence for our clients during a difficult time. We believe that makes us a little bit different from everybody else, and we like it that way.
For more information, or if you are seeking legal advice, give us a call at (972) 564-4644.