Have you been injured because of someone else? Read these 4 things you need to know about personal injuries, then call our Phoenix lawyers.
1. Steps to Filing a Lawsuit
Personal injury law is no different here in Arizona, Phoenix particularly. There’s a couple of steps. If there’s an insurance company involved, a good law firm will always try to get the matter resolved before pursuing litigation. We do that in a series of demand letters speaking back and forth with the insurance company or the in-house counsel or retained counsel of the party that’s at fault in the matter. If we’re unsuccessful at resolving the matter prior to litigation via means of insurance or with the opposing parties council, then you file the matter in court. That starts with again gathering all of the evidence, getting all of the medical records, all of the medical bills, witness statements and whatnot that is going to be required to litigate the case. You always want to go into the case knowing that you have everything that you need to prove your case based on the burden which is the preponderance of the evidence.
Then, after you get all of your evidence gathered, the attorneys draft a complaint. They’ll go over that complaint with you. That’s the lawsuit itself. We use the term complaint in court. That’s the lawsuit itself. Then at that point, that complaint is filed in state court here or in district court here or the appropriate venue. Then that complaint is served on the other party. If they’re served within the state, they have 20 days to respond. If they’re served with a complaint outside of the state, generally they have 30 days to respond or there’s a thing called a waiver of service that they can sign that would give them 60 days to respond to the lawsuit under the Arizona rules.
After they respond to the lawsuit, then that’s when the action really starts to take a hold. You get a scheduling order in place and we determine when depositions have to be done by and when disclosures have to be completed by, if there are going to be experts involved if it’s a car accident, when do we have to tell them who our experts is and when they have to be deposed. There’s a number of things related to evidentiary exchanges that have to take place. Then at some point down the road, there is a trial date set. In the middle of all of that, at some point, parties agree to go to some type of alternative dispute resolution, ADR, mediation of some kind to try to get the matter resolved again. Throughout the whole process, you’re looking for ways to resolve the case.
Here in Arizona, there’s a particular rule— rule 68 as we call it— that offers an opportunity for a party to submit what we call an offer of judgment to the other side, which in effect says, “Listen, we’ll settle this right now if you let us put a judgment in for this case for X dollar amount.” If they don’t accept that offer of judgment within the timeframe prescribed by the law and you go to trial and you are successful and get awarded the amount that you offered them to put for the offer of judgment, then they could be responsible for your attorney fees. That’s a tool that we use to force someone to show we’re spending a lot of money litigating this case. You can take this now but if we win later on, you will be responsible for all of these attorney fees.
That’s one of the steps in the process. You’ll sit with a lawyer. They’ll determine when it’s a good time to issue an offer of judgment and hopefully resolve the case. There’s a number of steps in there. Ultimately, there is a trial and a verdict is given by a jury in determining whether you win or not. These are all steps that one of the attorneys will sit with you and go over with because there are a number of steps that we walk with you all along the way with and make sure that you apprise as to the status of your case along the way.
2. Case Value
Emotional damages and whatnot, there it a myriad of damages that can be and bills and whatnot. There is a whole analysis that we’ll go through with you. One of our attorneys will sit down with you and go over what the actual value of your case is. We’ll offset that with bills that have to be paid and how much what you will end up getting as a result of your personal injury case.
You want to be very upfront with your lawyer. Give all of the bills, all of the medical records that are necessary. Discuss honestly with them treatment that you’ve had and treatment that you think you’re going to need in the future and how has this impacted your home, any loss of pay, loss of income, that the property damage related to the loss of a vehicle if it’s a car accident. There’s a number of things when you sit down with a lawyer, come up with a number that we feel that is reflective and that is a fair amount for the injuries that you have sustained and then we pursue that number either through a pretrial demand offers or through litigation and trying the case in court.
3. Giving a Recorded Statement
One of the main things that they’re going to want to do is get a recorded statement from you. Please understand that this recorded statement is not for your benefit at all. It is for their benefit early on while you’re still under the stress of the incident and different things to solidify facts in order for them to attempt to deny your claim.
Should you give a recorded statement? The answer is unequivocally, absolutely not. Never ever, ever give a recorded statement to an insurance company before you talk to a lawyer regarding what has happened to you. Talk to a lawyer first. Call our office. It doesn’t matter if it’s after hours, on the weekend— call our office. Speak with one of our attorneys first, one of our staff people before you give a recorded statement. Please be assured that they’re going to use this recorded statement against you at some point, even if you know that you are not at fault. It’s not a good idea to just immediately offer up a recorded statement because there could be other things under the law that they use to mitigate their responsibility in taking care of the claims of your accident, even with your own insurance company. Again, these folks want your money but they’re not really willing to give up a lot of theirs.
At some point, will you have to give them a statement of what happened in the case? Absolutely. They’ll threaten you with things saying we’re not going to pursue your claim. We’re going to close your case if you don’t give us a recorded statement. All of that is false. They have an obligation to pursue your claim but you have a right to talk to a lawyer first. Whether it’s on the weekend, after hours, in the middle of the night, pick up the phone.
4. Paying Medical Bills
Regarding your medical bills as it relates to a personal injury matter, you get in a car accident and you have to go to the emergency room, you had to be flown the helicopter to a hospital, and you’ve had all of these chiropractic treatments or surgery, etc. Your health insurance has paid for these things. There are a couple of things in Arizona that can happen. First of all, medical providers, hospitals, they can file what we call medical leins. They’re recorded with the county. If they file a medical lein, whenever the proceeds come in for your case, we’re obligated to pay these leins first before dispersing any compensatory funds to you or settlement funds to you as it relates to your personal injury claim. AHCCCS, or the government insurance company, they have what we call statutory leins. They are leins that are automatic by statute. We have to call these folks and deal with them regarding the bill that they’ve paid in response to your medical care.
There’s a negotiation that happens in there. We talk to these folks and get these bills down to make sure that there is some recovery for you and then we go on from there. Will you end up having to pay for these medical bills, etc? The short answer is, yes, unless they file no claim and they’re not interested in being reimbursed or compensated and a lot of insurance companies won’t sometimes. There’s a variable there, could be, maybe not be, but we’d have to look at each individual bill, each individual claim for treatment that you’ve received. We’ll walkthrough. We’ll get them negotiated down to their lowest amount to make sure that we maximize the amount of money that you, the injured party, takes home as a result.
Make sure you gather up all of your medical bills, not just the bills but the records as well because if this goes to trial, we’re going to need both the bills and the records. The bills show the economic impact. The records show the actual injury. You’ll need both of them to craft up a good demand and make a good claim for damages in the trial.
Have you or a loved one been injured because of someone else and have questions about 4 things you need to know about personal injuries? Contact experienced Phoenix Personal Injury Attorneys at Smith & Green today for a legal consultation.
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