If you have been injured in an accident, you should understand your rights and options. The most frequent questions we hear from our clients is: (1) What does pursuing an injury claim entail, and; (2) How long it will take for their claim to settle. Because there are many factors involved in the settlement of an injury claim that could affect the time it takes to be resolved, we at Lebovitz Law Group are here to answer any questions you have, and in the interim, provide a generic outline of the process and timing of an Arizona personal injury settlement.
The Process of Settling a Personal Injury Claim in Arizona
1.Reporting the incident and your injuries (we recommend that, where and when possible, you retain legal counsel and let your attorney put the responsible parties on notice of your injury)
(a) Motor Vehicle Collision:
- Try and take photos of the damaged vehicles before they are moved (so as to capture the angle and point of impact between the vehicles)
- Try and procure the names and contact information of all witnesses
- Exchange insurance information with other involved drivers
- Call Police
- Do not admit fault at the scene
- Take photos of the condition that caused your injuries (preferably before any repair or remediation)
- Try and procure the names and contact information of all witnesses
- Report the incident and any injuries to the property manager(s)
- Ask to make an Incident report and ask for a copy of the completed incident report.
- Ask for liability insurance information
- Take photos of the defective product
- Do not initiate any repair of the defect
- Investigate if any recalls of the product (for something related to the defect that caused your injuries)
- Investigate/ascertain the chain of commerce for the defective product, from Manufacturer(s) to Distributor(s) to Retailer(s)
- Identify the dog(s) (by breed, color, name, etc)
- Take photos of the dog if possible
- Identify dog owner(s) by name, location (address), and phone
- Ascertain if dog owners live in a house or apartment
- Ascertain if dog owners have homeowners’ or renter’s insurance
- Take photos of your injuries
2.Filing A Claim: Involves ascertaining applicable insurance that might cover the tortfeasors/defendant’s negligence. Once ascertaining coverage, we contact that carrier and open a claim. They will either accept liability (this usually means they’ve already spoken to their insured, who admitted fault), deny liability (this usually means their insured denies any fault and in fact likely blames you), or they are still investigating (they either haven’t yet spoken to their insured, or that because their insured denies any fault, they need to investigate further. This might entail speaking to independent witnesses, inspecting accident scenes or defective products, etc). While the at-fault carrier is investigating liability, the injured party is usually undergoing medical treatment of their injuries.
3.Investigation: The injured party has the burden of proving (a) The at-fault party owed/had a duty of care to the injured party (stop for a red light, keep premises safe, etc), (b) The at-fault party “breached” that duty of care, and (c) the injured part was injured as a result the breach. Towards that end, if a claim is disputed, we will investigate the facts and evidence in more depth. This might entail contacting witnesses, looking for surveillance video, retaining private investigators or other specialists (like accident reconstructionists, biomechanical engineers, medical experts, construction law/coding experts, etc).
4.Treatment: Unless there are concerns about there not being enough “coverage” to fully compensate an injured party, we usually wait until the injured party completes their accident related care. They are usually released from care as either returning to their pre-accident condition, or alternatively, having reached maximum medical improvement (meaning they’re not quite back to their pre-accident condition, but they’ve gotten as good as can be expected from a medical standpoint. Although every case is different, most soft tissue type injuries (whiplash, spinal sprain/strains, etc) resolve within three months (although some resolve sooner and some later). Objective injuries (fractures, herniated spinal discs, joint injuries, etc) can often take considerably longer.etc).
5.Valuing The Case For Settlement Purposes: Once our client has completed their medical care, we order all of their accident-related medical records and bills, as well as compiling all other supporting documentation in order to put together a “settlement demand” packet with an “initial demand.” The initial demand is usually considerably higher than what we believe your case to be. We base our estimate of the value of your case on a number of variables/factors, such as (a) severity of the collision and damage done to the involved vehicles (if an MVA), (b) a person’s diagnosed injuries, a person’s treatment in terms of modalities, frequency and duration of their treatment, (c) the treating doctors’ prognosis upon release from treatment, (d) the cost of the medical care (what the providers charged), (e) any out of pocket expenses (lost wages, etc), (f) pain & suffering (all the aggravation experienced as a result of the injuries). By the way, if a law firm advertises they can estimate the value of your case at intake (before you’ve undergone any medical treatment), ask where they got their crystal ball.
6.Settlement Negotiations: Once the settlement demand packet is complete, we review it with our client, put a value on the case and submit it to the adverse carrier. We usually allow them two weeks to review before we begin following up for an initial offer. If a client’s injuries were complicated, we might allow up to thirty days for the adverse carrier to complete their evaluation. Once they make an initial offer, we communicate with our client and get authority to make a counter settlement proposal. We usually go back and forth a number of times before procuring their absolute top offer, which we then review with our client along with our recommendations as to whether they should accept and settle or reject and litigate. If our client wants to settle, it usually takes up to another thirty days before our client received their net in-pocket recovery (after paying their attorney fees, costs, and medical bills/liens). Between treating and settlement negotiations, the “average” whiplash case takes six to eight months from date of loss/intake through to settlement and distribution of settlement proceeds.
7. Cases are generally litigated for one of two reasons. Either the at-fault party denies fault (in whole or part), or doesn’t offer sufficient value for the claim. If our clients want to litigate, we will thereafter file suit (sue the at-fault individuals/entities) and either certify our client’s claim for arbitration or trial.
8.Arbitration: When we file suit and certify a case for arbitration, we certify the claim’s value does not likely exceed $50,000.00. A judge randomly appoints “an arbitrator” to preside over, hear, and rule of your case. The arbitrator is a licensed attorney but because their appointment is “random,” they will likely not have any experience in the field of personal injury. Arbitration hearings are usually held in a conference room where the arbitrator practices law, are usually completed within a few hours as the medical records and bills are admissible without having to call a medical provider live to explain the treatment and billing. An arbitration hearing usually occurs within six months of filing suit
9.Trial: When we file suit and certify a case for trial, we assert the value of the claim exceeds $50,000.00. A trial takes place in a courtroom, in front of a jury. Because most jurors lack any legal or medical training, your medical providers 9and any other experts) are usually brought into the courtroom to testify live in an attempt to educate the jury. Whereas an arbitration hearing usually takes two to three hours, a jury trial usually takes two to three days. Typically, at least one year passes from the date of an incident/injury until one begins a trial
10.Statute of Limitations: Personal Injury claims (torts) are usually subject to a two-year statute of limitations, which means you have two years from the date of loss to either reach a settlement agreement or file suit. There are some exceptions to the “two-year” statute of limitations (SOL). Claims against State governmental entities, cities, and/or municipalities require “serving” the alleged at-fault parties with a detailed Notice of Claim within 180 days of the incident, after which a lawsuit must be filed within a year of the incident. Strict Liability Dog Bite claims have one-year SOL. There are other exceptions as well.
Contact the Lebovitz Law Group Today!
If you have been injured in an accident and have questions about the settlement process or need help filing a claim, contact the Lebovitz Law Group. We are here to answer your questions and help you with any legal aspects of your personal injury claim. Don’t rely on the insurance company to represent your best interests. We will be by your side every step of the way and serve as a much-needed advocate throughout the claims process. Call us today!