It can be difficult to know where to turn after you are hit by a car while walking. At a time when bills are piling up, and there’s no money coming in, you may be tempted to simply accept an insurance company’s offer and try to get on with your life. Before you do, however, there are a few things you should know about pursuing rightful compensation—and the risks of accepting less than you are owed.
A General Timeline of Your Pedestrian Injury Case
In your first meeting with me, I conduct a thorough interview to determine how the crash happened, who was there, whether you received medical care as a result of the incident, whether the police were called, your past medical history, and what you have been through since the collision. This conversation is completely free, and I will meet you wherever is most convenient for you.
If you decide to hire me as your attorney, I will proceed with the next steps in your case. You only need to provide me with the information I need to press your claim. Otherwise, you can focus on your recovery while I get to work on securing compensation for you.
Every injury case is different, but the steps in a personal injury case typically include:
- Investigation. As your legal representative, I will conduct my own investigation into the crash. I may use police reports, photos, surveillance camera footage, witness statements, and any other relevant information to get a full picture of what happened. In order to calculate your losses, I will need to know any and all places you were given medical treatment for your injury, as well as how much time you have missed from work. This usually involves gathering receipts, medical bills, emails, wage statements, insurance policies, and other proof of costs incurred because of the injury. If you are struggling with the costs of care, I can help you continue to get the medical treatment you need while your case is pending.
- Demand. It may not be necessary to file a lawsuit to get proper payment from an insurance company. After I determine the liable party, I will file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company (called a demand) explaining why their driver is at fault, what your injuries are based on your medical records, and the amount you are requesting as compensation. Once the insurer receives our demand letter, they will assign a claims adjuster to investigate the incident and negotiate a settlement. If an offer is made in response to your demand, you and I will carefully go over past and future costs to determine whether to accept. If you decide to refuse the offer, we can make a counteroffer to negotiate a higher settlement. Settlement negotiations may go back and forth as long as your case is active.
- Complaint. If settlement negotiations stall, I will prepare to file a lawsuit with the court, called a complaint. Filing suit shows the insurer that you are not going to let the matter drop, placing pressure on them to offer you a fair settlement. Once the lawsuit is filed, and the notice of legal action is served on the defendant, the litigation process has begun.
- Discovery. Next, each party in the case will investigate the other side’s legal claims and potential defenses that could be used against them. This process is known as discovery and can include written questions between parties, exchanging copies of physical evidence (such as photographs), and an independent medical exam (IME). Despite its name, the IME is anything but independent. It’s requested and paid for by the insurance company defending against your claim. The insurer’s doctor will assess your injuries and report back to the insurance company with their findings. I will prepare you for this examination and can accompany you to the appointment if you wish.
- Depositions. Depositions are a necessary part of the discovery process and serve as an informal version of the testimony you would provide in court. After you are sworn in, the insurer’s attorney will ask you questions, and your responses will be recorded by a court reporter. These statements can be used at trial, so you and I will both attend the deposition so I can interject on your behalf. I will also prepare you for the types of questions you might be asked and other factors so that you can give your best possible testimony.
- Defenses. Insurance companies may use a variety of defenses to deny you fair payment (or any payment) for your injuries. The most common ways include claiming that your injuries weren’t caused by the crash or that your actions made you completely or partially negligent in the collision. It’s my job to anticipate the defense’s arguments and be ready to refute them. For example, the insurer may claim that you were crossing the road illegally or not paying attention when you were struck by a car. I have comprehensive knowledge of pedestrian traffic statutes and can defend against any unreasonable claims that you were breaking the law. I also know that a pedestrian’s negligence does not relieve drivers of the responsibility of safe driving and that drivers have a greater duty of care to pedestrians due to their ability to cause severe injury.
- Mediation. Once discovery is complete, attorneys from both sides may resume negotiations based on the information collected and the strength of each party’s position should the case go to trial. If we cannot reach a settlement agreement, we may enter pre-trial mediation. In mediation, you and I will present our side of the case to a neutral third party, and the insurance company’s lawyer will argue their side of the case. Once the mediator has heard all arguments, they will offer an opinion on who is at fault and how the case should be resolved. Either party can refuse to accept the mediator’s decision, or they can agree on a settlement.
- Trial. If a settlement cannot be reached during mediation, the case will move on to trial. Trial offers the possibility of greater damages, but you also run the risk of receiving no compensation at all if the jury rules against you. The uncertainty of trial is the reason so many cases settle out of court, and I can use this fact to nudge the insurer closer to an amount that compensates you fairly.