Many clients come to me and want to know how long it takes an injury lawyer to handle a case. The answer is that it depends on the case. I generally classify cases into three categories For Class I cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death cases, the time line is not predictable. Class II injuries involve a car accident that results in fractures, ligament tears, surgeries and other major injuries. Class III cases are injuries that involve strains and sprains or other soft tissue injuries that the client is able to make a full recovery from.
For Class II and III injuries much will depend on how long the medical care continues but the following is a general outline of what to expect.
In the first days after the car accident or injury there are a few key items to remember. As I put in the list of Georgia car accident dos and don’ts, you do not have any obligation to talk to the other driver’s insurance company nor do you have to give them a recorded statement. Recently I had a client tell me that the State Farm adjuster called them the day after the crash and advised them that the property damage would not be paid unless the statement were given. Just ignore threats like that. I regularly give free advice on how to handle your Georgia property damage claims and that is one of the reasons why you should seek legal advice.
Many clients want to know what to do about their medical care after a crash. If you have health insurance, follow the referral made by the hospital or contact your health insurance company for a referral. If you have medical payments insurance on your policy, follow the hospitals referral. If you do not have health insurance or medpay, then your options are much more limited. For fractures and major medical issues, hospital billing departments will sometimes allow you to apply for emergency medicaid coverage that will allow you to get the emergency care needed to stabilize the injury.
Many clients call and ask me to refer them to a doctor or chiropractor. Although I have developed strong relationships with some medical doctors, I will only make the introduction if the injury is severe and the client has no other options. The client should make their own treatment decisions for any other type of medical care.
Getting to the proper medical doctor is the most critical step in the early going of any case. While the client is receiving the medical care, I am sending letters to the other driver’s insurance company to determine how much insurance coverage is in place. I am also sending letters to your own insurance company to determine whether there is Georgia underinsured motorist insurance to help you make the full recovery provided for by law. We secure photographs of the vehicles involved, we secure the 911 tapes to locate witnesses and we acquire the dash cam from the investigating police officer. For tractor trailer collision cases we are also sending out spoliation letters to preserve the records required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations. The preservation of evidence is the primary focus for the lawyer in the first few weeks.
Once the evidence is locked down and witnesses have been interviewed, then the amount of time that will go by before the demand to the insurance company is ready depends upon the client’s medical condition. Once medical care has ceased, I begin to gather the medical records and bills and the lost wages documentation. Once they come in, it generally takes 7 days for me to draft the demand to the insurance company. We meet with the client and go through the demand package in detail. Once the <a demand package goes out, it takes the insurance adjuster 30 days to look the material over and then the offer and counter-demand process begins.
Whether the case settles after that depends on the insurance company and the nature of the case. If the offers don’t reach the value range I establish with the client, then I recommend that the client allow me to file suit. The complexity of the case is truly what determines how long it takes to get through the litigation process. For simple car accident cases it usually takes 8-12 months to reach a jury trial. For more complicated cases or in cases pending in counties with crowded dockets it can take a year and half. In a case we recently tried involving a Dekalb County car accident, we filed the lawsuit in January 2008 and the case was tried in February 2009.