How Do Personal Injury Settlements Work?

Most people have no idea what happens if you get in a wreck or experience a personal injury, but it’s important to understand how the process works in case you need to navigate it. 

One of the most frequently asked questions that I hear, and I see asked on the internet regarding personal injury is “How do personal injury settlements work?”

Paying Medical Bills with Your Own Car Insurance

Here’s a quick example from someone I recently interacted with. A woman was recently hit in a minor car wreck, and she had been sending her chiropractic and massage therapy bills to her insurance company. 

However, she eventually ran out of coverage after she exceeded her medical payment limit of approximately $5,000. She was still experiencing pain from the accident, so she needed to continue her treatments. In order to continue, she decided to send her bills to the other party’s insurance company. However, their insurance company was not willing to pay.

Dealing With the Other Party’s Insurance Company

In most states, including Texas, Colorado, and Louisiana where I’m licensed, the other party’s insurance adjuster will not want to start paying for your medical bills. Instead, they will ask you to wait until you’ve completely finished your treatments, which you pay for yourself, and then send them all of your bills.

At this time, the other party’s insurance company will make you an offer and ask you to accept it as the full settlement. In order to receive the check, you will have to sign a release, releasing the person who hit you from any claims that could have been made for the accident.

One of the questions I hear most often is “How do I know when I need a lawyer?” It’s a valid question. Depending on the emotional distress and physical pain that results from a personal injury, sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether or not you should hire a lawyer.

Whether you or a loved one are stuck with medical bills after a car accident or you've experienced bodily injuries from a catastrophic event, here are the various situations you may encounter and how to determine if you should consult a lawyer.

Hiring a Lawyer for Small Personal Injury Cases

If you're involved in a small case where there isn't much damage to a vehicle or pain and suffering resulting in medical expenses, you likely don't need to consult a lawyer. In these cases, your insurance coverage will likely take care of your medical bills and other needs.

Additionally, if you're experiencing a situation where you have medium injuries, a few thousand dollars of medical expenses, and you've experienced a few months of pain but are actively healing, you likely do not need to hire a lawyer. Because you're actively healing and have checked with a doctor to verify that you don't have any long-term injuries, you probably don't need a lawyer to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

Should I Represent Myself in Court?

If you are in a situation where you do have to go to court, there are a few reasons why it's wise to hire a lawyer.

First, the bigger the case, the more you will need help from someone who understands legal matters. If the opposing side, usually the insurance company, has a lawyer, it is especially important that you have legal representation to help you.

Because the law is complicated, there may be parts of personal injury law, evidence, and court proceedings that you do not understand. If you take the stand and testify on your own behalf, you may unknowingly make claims that are inadmissible in court. It is then the opposing lawyer's job to object, and it is the court's job to rule fairly, not to educate you on the law and court proceedings.

To put it plainly, without legal representation you will find it difficult to make a case for yourself, especially when you are faced with an opposing attorney who has been trained in personal injury law and court proceedings.

When Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Case?

The general rule of thumb is the bigger the case, the more you will need a lawyer. If you have to take your personal injury claim to court, where you may have to take the stand and explain your situation, you are better off having legal representation to guide you so that you don't have to figure out the law for yourself.

If you've been involved in an accident and are wondering if you should find a lawyer, I would love to hear from you. I've been a personal injury attorney for over 30 years and have helped clients retrieve over $100 million after they've experienced personal injuries.

If you're facing a personal injury case and need help determining if you need a lawyer for your situation, you can call me at 720-805-1193. It won't cost you anything to call, and I would love to talk and see how I can help you get the help and protection you deserve.

What is the Timeline of an Injury Claim

Imagine that you’ve been involved in a fairly serious car accident, and you come to my office right away. Instead of dealing with the insurance company, you would rather have legal representation from the beginning.

To be clear, I usually only take a case if I truly believe the person will have a greater benefit from my involvement than trying to work with the insurance company themselves. In this scenario, imagine you have serious whiplash, and as a result, you can’t sleep or go to work for a few weeks, because you can’t turn your head.

Once you start treatment, you begin seeing a chiropractor and you begin healing, though you’re still experiencing some pain and are taking Tylenol or Advil to help you sleep. Once you go to a doctor and the doctor clears you and says that you’re healing, you continue seeing a chiropractor for a few more weeks until you feel that you’re healed. At this point, you’ve built up a list of medical bills, and it’s time to work with your attorney to get them resolved.

Sending a Demand Letter to the Insurance Company

Once you are well into the healing process and are ready to resolve your medical bills, it’s time to send a demand letter to the insurance company. A demand letter lays out all of the medical bills and medical records because the insurance company will want to see everything documented.

Additionally, you will include documentation of any lost wages as a result of the personal injury. The demand letter will also detail how the injury has changed your life. For instance, if you are self-employed and it kept you from completing projects, the demand letter will explain this. The demand letter can also explain how the injury impacted your ability to take part in hobbies or activities that you enjoy, such as reading, biking, or lifting weights. 

One of the most important details of a personal injury case is evidence of pain and suffering, beyond simple medical bills. So, it’s important to be specific in a demand letter. 

Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement with Insurance

Just because you send a demand letter, that doesn’t mean that the insurance company will pay all or even most of your medical bills. Imagine in our scenario that the insurance company adjuster isn’t interested in giving you the $20,000 our medical bills and lost wages added up to. Instead, they are only interested in giving you $5,000. This is where a lawsuit begins.

When we file a lawsuit, it can take a significant amount of time for the insurance company to be served. This process involves taking a document to the courthouse and filing it with the court. After the person who hit you and their insurance company have been served, they have a set amount of time to respond. This entire process can take a month to two months. Unfortunately, personal injury cases that go to trial can take years to clear, because even if the jury rules in your favor, the insurance company can appeal and disagree with the ruling. If that happens, the case can continue going to higher courts.

In other situations, cases are settled in just a few weeks if the insurance company agrees to settle. It all depends on the facts of the case and how the insurance company wants to proceed. 

If you’ve been in an accident that has resulted in a personal injury, the most important factor is making sure that you’re healing the correct way. Together, our goal is to make sure you get the compensation you deserve so that your medical bills are covered, and you can hopefully make a return to full health.

If you’ve been injured, the only way to know your options is to talk to someone who has experience with these kinds of cases and knows how they work. 

I’ve worked as a personal injury attorney for over 30 years and have recovered over $100 million for my clients. If you need help navigating a personal injury claim and finding out what kind of compensation you’re entitled to, give me a call at 720-805-1193. 

There’s no cost for a consultation because I think one of my duties as a lawyer is to answer people's questions and try to help them resolve things if they can without a lawyer. So, if you have questions, give me a call, and let’s see how we can get you back to full health.

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