1) Perry Hicks and his staff will begin to gather all the facts and information about your case. Medical records and medical bills and other documents will be ordered. Your file will begin to grow.
2) If the responsible party's insurance carrier information is known, we will contact them and advise them that we represent you in this matter and put them on notice of your claim. If not, the person or company that injured you will be contacted, usually by registered mail letter and put on notice of your claim. They will be instructed to have their insurance company or representative get in touch with us in a reasonable amount of time, usually between 14 and 28 days.
3) Once the insurance carrier is in touch with us, your file will be expanded to include every pertinent fact, document and record necessary to validate your claim. These will be comprehensively and professionally assembled and presented to the insurance carrier’s adjuster. This process often takes many months, and it is important that it be thorough.
4) What do we have to show them on your behalf? Your personal injury case has TWO PARTS, both of which must be thoroughly prepared in order to maximize your recovery.
- First is Liability or Wrongdoing. We must show that the party that hurt you was at fault and that the party’s conduct or actions were negligent and/or reckless.
Second are Damages. We must be able to prove your damages and document or justify everything that is claimed. These include your medical bills, lost wages, lost companionship, pain and suffering, disfigurement, scarring, permanent injury as well as disruption and compromise of lifestyle. The expertise and creativity of the Law Offices of Perry Hicks, P.C. is very important in this process.
5) Once your case, in its entirety, is presented to the other side’s insurance carrier, they will review it and quite often, negotiations will begin as to what a proper value is for the case. We always discuss the value of your case with you and present a demand for money damages that is HIGHER than our studied appraisal of your case because, since the beginning of time, no insurance carrier has ever done anything but offer a sum that is LOWER than their valuation of your case. Thus begins the back and forth negotiations to place a fair value of your injuries.
6) Most cases get settled, but the process takes time . The case cannot be settled piecemeal, so we ask for your help and your patience. We confer with you, keep you posted with what’s going on and seek your input and comment.
7) An important note about communication between our clients and us. In our office, we always ask our clients to call us with whatever is on their minds. We need and want to know what you are thinking. Often, your thoughts help us create new or stronger approaches on your behalf. It may take a day or two (hopefully not!) before we can get back to you but we always will. Our telephones are usually answered 24/7.
8) Also, an important note about ‘smaller’ case: We handle these too and do so enthusiastically. As with all of our clients, we are open, honest and candid with clients who have smaller cases. If there is a way to help, we want to do it. But, we do not lead our friends and clients down “The Primrose Path” and have them believe that we can make “a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”; We simply will not over-promise, over-sell or over-hype any client’s case or prospects.
9) Once your case is settled, the money will be sent, your fees and expenses will be paid, any outstanding medical bills, liens and the like will be taken care of or addressed and you will receive the net proceeds, always in the form of our office’s Trust Account check. Almost always (please consult with your tax representative), this money is TAX FREE. You do not pay taxes on proceeds received from physical injury unless it is compensation for lost wages. You will sign documents, called Releases, that signify you are dropping your pursuit of your claim in return for the money received.
10) Then, the case is over and while we hope you will stay in touch with us and refer others to us, we earnestly hope we never have to help you again on an injury claim. We want you to be safe and stay safe out there!
11) BUT, what if the insurance company doesn’t want to resolve your case or wants to stall and stall or declares that they don’t think your case has the value we feel it has. In that case, we proceed to a very formal action.
12) We file a lawsuit in the proper courthouse and serve it on the offending parties. In those papers will be contained our specific allegations of wrongdoing against the negligent and/or offending parties along with our claim for recovery and payment of money damages and a request for a Jury Trial.
13) From the time of filing the suit, and if the matter proceeds to trial, you can generally expect a year to two years before the matter ends up in trial. What happens along the way?
14) Generally, the lawsuit-called a COMPLAINT-is responded to by a lawyer representing the interests of the party sued and their insurance carrier. This is called the ANSWER. It is usually received with 30 to 60 days of the filing of the COMPLAINT .
15) After the ANSWER is received, there is generally a Five Part Process that takes place over time that leads to the courthouse. Now, cases do get settled at many points along the way, but usually, most if not all of these Five Parts have to be completed before there can be resolution before trial.
16) Part One: WRITTEN DISCOVERY: Each side sends written questions and requests for production of documents, records, photographs and the like to the other side. These are answered and returned and obviously, studied and analysed. This process generally takes around 120-180 days.
17) Part Two: DEPOSITIONS OF PARTIES AND FACT WITNESSES: A deposition is a sworn statement, taken down and transcribed by a Court Reporter, that is comprised of questions and answers between lawyers and parties and other witnesses. Almost all depositions take place in a lawyer’s office but they are assigned the same solemnity as though they were being held in a courthouse with a Judge presiding. They are very, very important and when your deposition is to be taken, your lawyer will prepare you for what to expect. Besides the parties to the lawsuit being questioned, such others as police, treating doctors and witnesses to events get deposed.
18) Part Three: DEPOSITIONS OF EXPERTS: Sometimes a case warrants the investigation and participation of Expert Witnesses. Such Expert Witnesses might be doctors who have been asked to independently review one side or another’s position, highway engineers, accident reconstructionists, care planners, mechanical engineers, biomechanical engineers or even auto mechanics.
19) Part Four: GENERAL and SPECIFIC HOUSEKEEPING: All cases, once they get to this stage, have loose ends, things that need to be further explored, addressed, investigated, looked into. This may entail a few more depositions, conferences, some more analysis or something else. Each case is different and each case always needs some “tightening up” at this time.
20) Part Five: (This may or may not be available on your case as they are voluntary.) ADR or ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION. Most of the time, this is in the form of MEDIATION. By this time, each side has a pretty good idea of what the case is about, what the positions of each side are, how strong or weak liability is, the scope of damages claimed and other factors such as backgrounds of parties, strength and/or weakness of various witnesses and many, many other intangible factors. Usually, both sides agree upon an impartial, effective and neutral third party with whom all parties and lawyers gather and together, there is a joined effort at negotiation and settlement of the case. This kind of meeting usually takes about a day and involves each side laying out its positions and then the mediator working with both sides, back and forth, trying to bring the sides together. Mediations are extremely helpful exercises and are usually successful.
21) But, what if all of this DOES NOT get your case resolved and settled? Then, we go to the courthouse and have a TRIAL. A trial is what you see on TV but generally, it’s much more dignified, more formal, surely much longer than an hour in prime time and there are no commercials. It is an intricate yet straightforward presentation of your case and the presentation of the other side’s case to a jury before a presiding judge. We will discuss jury trials in a future post.