When I first visit with Clients, they usually want to know what happens when they hire an attorney. What’s the process? What are the fees? How long does it take? How will they pay their medical bills? These are all great questions.
So I put together a quick overview of the entire process to help give you a feel of what you can expect if you hire an attorney. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding articles to expand on each step in the process, so be sure to check back.
Step 1: Free Evaluation
First thing you want to do is meet with an Attorney you think you might want to represent you. This can happen by phone, by video conference or in person. The attorney will ask you simple questions about your case, explain what kind of damages you are entitled to recover, answer any of your questions about the legal process, and explain how a ‘contingency legal fee’ works.
Step 2: Hire – ‘Retaining’ – an Attorney
Once you’ve found an attorney you want to hire, you sign an agreement called a ‘Retainer.’ This simple agreement lists what he or she will be obligated to do in your behalf, and what his or her legal fee will be.
Step 3: A Letter of Representation
First step for your newly hired attorney is to notify the ‘At Fault’ insurance company that he or she is representing you. This is called a ‘letter of representation.’ The ‘at fault’ party is usually referred to as the ‘Defendant.’
Step 4: Gathering Medical Records
Next your attorney will work with you to gather all your medical records and bills. Often, if you need help finding the right doctor, an experienced attorney can make recommendations.
Step 5: Working with Creditors
If you are being harassed by creditors, your attorney can contact the creditors and work out an agreement with them so they stop calling and writing you until the case is resolved.
Step 6: Demand Letter
When you’ve completed your medical treatment, your attorney will prepare a ‘Demand Letter.’ This typically includes:
- a statement of the facts of the accident
- an explanation of why the defendant was negligent and liable for damages,
- a summary of your treatment,
- an itemization of your medical bills,
- a discussion of damages you are entitled to recover,
- and a demand for a specific amount of settle your claim.
A complete set of your medical records and bills will be sent with the demand letter, which is usually referred to as the ‘demand package.’
Step 7: Negotiate a Settlement
Your attorney will aggressively negotiate with the claim representative for the defendant’s insurance company to settle your claim for the highest amount possible. He or she will keep you advised of each step of the negotiating process, and will not agree to any final settlement without your approval.
Step 8: Release
If a settlement is reached, your attorney will process all the settlement documents, including the formal ‘Release’ you have to sign. The Release sets forth the amount you will receive in exchange for releasing the Defendant from any further liability for damages.
Step 9: File Suit
If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will file a lawsuit for you. An experienced attorney can settle 90% of all cases he or she is retained to handle, for the top dollar amount, without needing a lawsuit.
Step 10: Mediation
After filing suit, your attorney will attempt to resolve your claim through ‘mediation,’ which is an informal process where both sides come together with a 3rd party acting as an impartial arbiter. This process is non-binding, but often helps get the case settled.
Step 11: Preparing for Trial
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will guide you through the process. I’ll go into more detail on this in another post, but it involves answering written questions from the defendant’s attorney called ‘Discovery,’ and undergoing a ‘deposition’ where the defendant’s attorney will ask you questions about your case. Your attorney would represent you at the deposition.
This is just a quick overview of the process, but hopefully it helps answer some of the basic questions you have about the legal process. One of the easiest things to do is have a simple evaluation with an attorney. This is a very casual conversation, where you can ask questions and get answers, and determine if submitting a claim is a good idea for you.
To schedule a free evaluation with Montgomery Dowdle, simply click the link here, and someone will reach out to you. If you have any questions about your case, please call or email us.