Steps in a Typical Auto Accident Claim

Posted by: on Wed, May 15, 2013

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Steps in a Typical Auto Accident Claim

1. Notice of Representation Letter to Insurance Company of Potential Defendant

After you retain counsel at Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright to recover damages for your injuries sustained in an accident, we will notify the insurance company of the driver at fault that you have retained counsel. In addition, we may send a Letter of Representation (LOR) to the defendant entity, such as a hotel/casino, if it is a slip and fall case or premises liability matter. The main purpose of sending a Letter of Representation is to prevent the insurance company from sending you letters or calling you (to obtain a statement against your best interests or try to settle the case as cheaply as possibly). All communications relating to your case should go through our office from this point forward. If you are contacted by an insurance company or insurance adjuster or investigator, don’t talk to them, just give them our name and telephone number. The second purpose of the LOR is to place defendants on notice that they are not to destroy any relevant evidence or perform any repairs until after we have had an opportunity to inspect and photograph the vehicle or scene of the accident. This is sometimes referred to as a spoliation letter (meaning do not destroy or tamper with the evidence). We have posted on our site various examples of LORs and spoliation letters.

2. Gathering of Facts Relevant to Accident

While you are being treated by doctors, surgeons, therapists and chiropractors etc. for the physical injuries you sustained in the accident, we at Albright Stoddard will be gathering up all of the relevant facts surrounding the accident. We will gather the names and contact information of key witnesses, police reports, accident reports, information on the other driver, photographs and medical records of your medical treatment, etc. When your medical treatment is done and you have stabilized enough to settle the case, we will gather up the medical records and invoices from all of your various health care providers. We also will seek the information relevant to the defendant’s insurance policy. We will ascertain if there are other policies available, such as umbrella policies, or other coverage such as underinsured claims on your own policy. In Nevada, statutory law allows the law firm for the plaintiff or injured party to obtain the policy limits of the other driver in exchange for providing your medical records.

3. Settlement Demand Package for Carrier

When all of your records and medical bills have been obtained, we will then be able to make a complete evaluation of your injuries and damages. These will be assembled and included in a demand package to the opposing party’s insurance company. We will demand a settlement amount that includes future medical expenses, as well as past and future pain and suffering, depending on the nature of the injury and if permanent injuries were inflicted that cannot be totally resolved.

4. What is the value of my case?

The short answer, probably not as much as you think. Television and other news media tend to exaggerate what people recover for accident cases. For example, a firm may publish the highest settlement they have ever received, which may equal but a small percentage or fraction of their average settlement amounts. It is also not newsworthy when a person recovers a reasonable amount in a settlement or verdict. Additionally, many settlement agreements contain confidentiality clauses which prohibit any disclosure of the amount paid to the victim. It is also common for friends, family or co-workers to give their opinions about what your claim is worth. This information is usually misleading and can be very frustrating because it creates unrealistic expectations about what your claim is really worth, and what you can reasonably anticipate to receive from the carrier on the other side.

5. Negotiating a Possible Settlement with the Claims Adjuster

After the insurance company receives our settlement demand package, it will be evaluated by an insurance adjuster. Adjusters have a certain amount of authority to settle claims. If the amount of the claim is higher than their authority, they must go to a supervisor with more authority. This entire process may take several months to complete, with ongoing negotiations and offers and counter-offers. Remember the insurance adjuster is trying to settle as quickly and as cheaply as possible, because the insurance company is in the business to make money and pay as little or nothing if possible (by denying liability altogether).

6. Settle or Take the Case to Trial

It is entirely your decision whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. Your attorney has an obligation to convey all settlement offers to you directly. At Albright Stoddard, we will discuss with you the advantages and disadvantages of any settlement offer received and the various ramifications of acceptance or denial. You will decide whether to accept the offer or go forward with litigation and prepare for trial after weighing all the pros and cons. You must also consider how much your time is worth. A lawsuit can take years to take to trial, and even if you win, the other side can then appeal the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court (or Ninth Circuit, if in Federal Court), adding a couple more years to the process. You will need to assist in the discovery process and provide deposition testimony. You will need to be cross examined at trial and may be followed and video-taped by private investigators. You also have to consider that a jury might award less money than the settlement offer or no money at all. Further, the added cost of litigation may reduce the amount of money received, particularly if expert witnesses are involved with their high fees. Sometimes the best settlement is where both sides feel they gave up something for the mutually acceptable compromise reached.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident of any type, due to the carelessness of another person, you should retain counsel immediately. There is no obligation and all cases are taken on contingency basis, meaning there are no attorney’s fees until we recover a settlement in your favor. Call Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright now at 702-384-7111, or email us at gma@albrightstoddard.com.

About the Authors: The law firm of Albright, Stoddard, Warnick & Albright is an A-V Rated Nevada-based full-service law firm having attorneys licensed in Nevada, California and Utah. The National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys named Mark Albright as one of the Top 10 Personal Pnjury attorneys in Nevada in 2014. Our firm’s practice includes a strong emphasis on personal injury accidents. Call us at 702-384-7111.

Note: This article, and any other information you obtain at this website, is not offered as legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as such, nor is it a solicitation for legal services. Only a licensed attorney can advise you with respect to your specific legal needs. We welcome your contacting our firm to discuss such representation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.