In our office, we do settle several personal injury cases without going to trial. Going to trial means that we are at the end of the case and we are going to trial. We have a case right now from a car accident that will go to trial in about four months and we have our expert witnesses lined up and every T crossed and I dotted, but most of the time, the insurance companies do settle and they pay out before we get to trial. The reason being, if you do a good job in the case, you can show the insurance companies that you were right and that most likely you were going to win, because all the evidence suggests so and it is in the favor of your client.
As long as you are able to do that, the chances of settling are extremely high. The insurance companies do not want to lose any more than they already have. They know your claim is legitimate and they know they are going to have to pay anyway. It is cheaper for them to simply pay out than it is to hire an attorney and fight and then possibly pay more. That is why most cases settle.
How Should Someone Deal With The Other Party’s Insurance In A Personal Injury Claim?
First of all, you should never just speak with an insurance adjuster in a personal injury matter without your attorney present. The reason for that is because the legal terminology can be overwhelming. They do not have the understanding of the legal terms and sometimes in court they think they understand the concept when in fact they do not. The untrained person who has not gone to law school and never been involved in these types of cases can really harm themselves by trying to do the right thing by thinking they are being helpful when in reality, they are hurting themselves and their claim.
Oftentimes, emotions will play a role and people will think they are saying one thing when in reality they are saying something else. There are people who have the personality of being apologetic. There are people who are brought up to be very courteous and kind to others and so they try and reflect that even though they have been harmed. They will try and do things to downplay their injuries when in fact they should not be doing that at all, because that will hurt them in the future. They should never speak with an insurance adjuster. They must assume that it will always be recorded and some words can be twisted.
How Important Are Evidence And Witnesses In A Personal Injury Claim?
Evidence and witnesses are very important. The elements of a negligence case are what we call negligence, duty, breach, causation, and damages. If you are missing any one of these elements, if you cannot prove any one of these things, you do not have a case. Let me give you an example. You could have a great amount of damages, really someone who is seriously injured, but if you cannot show that the person you are suing caused those damages, you are not going to be able to recover. You have to be able to prove every single element. Evidence plays a huge role in every case, because if we do not have, for example, the medical records, the ability to show that you were injured and what that damages costs, or what the value of that damage was, it is going to be hard to recover that amount.
That is one of the reasons we have in our firm a few years ago put out what I call an accident intake form. You put this in your glove box and it basically says, “What to do if you’re in a car accident”, and it basically has a few steps and has a place where you can fill out all pertinent information. One of the steps is to get out your Smartphone and start taking pictures of everything if you are able to. If it is not an accident that caused the 911 system to be notified then if possible, take pictures. When I say take pictures of everything, even the sky, because we want to know what kind of weather there was that day. We want to know what the damages look like, we want to know everything.
The more evidence we have, the much better we are going to be able to do in evaluating your case and getting you either a great settlement or a great award at a trial.
Do You Advise Your Clients To Keep A Journal Of Events Following An Accident?
Yes, keep a journal. It is really important to keep a diary or a journal when you are going through the process. Memory fades over time, and journaling will help. This case that I was telling you about that we are going to go to trial in about four months, that injury happened three years ago. When you are on the stand and testifying, you are just not going to remember all of the details about the accident, your injuries, how you felt through this entire process, because by the time we actually go to trial, it will have been generally years later. If it is years later, you really will not remember the details if you do not write them down.
The other reason is when we actually do settlements; we need those details, because we want to adequately represent you. If we do not have your daily notes or your diary entries, it is going to be hard to show your frustration, and it is going to be hard to say “Okay”. This person went bowling every Thursday night. How did they feel because they weren’t able to go bowling because their hand was injured?” The more specific details we have, relying to the injured parry, the better off we are going to be in obtaining a higher damage award either through settlement or through trial.
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8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
Telephone: (801) 676-5506