Personal Injury Case Process

One of the most common questions we hear from people interested in pursuing a personal injury case is, “So, how does this whole process work?” Most people are not familiar with how legal claims work, either because they have never been involved in a legal case before or simply because the process and procedure of the law is complicated, to say the least.

We understand that it is important for you to know what to expect when you decide to pursue a personal injury case. Although no two cases are the same, we have outlined a typical case process to guide you through a typical case. We evaluate each case extensively. Every client is thoroughly briefed and expectations are set up front.

If you need a personal injury attorney in Leesburg, Loudoun County, or the surrounding areas in Virginia, contact our office today to get in touch with a lawyer.

 1. Case Intake and Consultation

Each case begins with us listening to you. When you call our office, you will speak with one of the legal assistants at our firm about your case. The legal assistant will write down all the details about your case for the attorneys in the firm to review and evaluate. If the firm feels that your case has merit, we will schedule a consultation with an attorney in our firm. This initial consultation is free- it is an important meeting in which the attorney is able to gather information about your case, and also a time for you to get a feel for our firm and ask any questions you may have about your case. This consultation generally takes from one to two hours and usually takes place in our office.

2.  Retainer & Authorizations

After this consultation, our firm will send you a Retainer and Authorizations. These documents are usually mailed to you within one day of your consultation. The reason we mail the Retainer is that we want you to have time to review the documents and consider all options before signing it. We know that most people do not want to be pressured into signing anything during the first office visit, and we respect your right to make your own choices about representation in your case. Should you choose to sign the Retainer, you would then sign the Authorizations, which will allow us to collect your medical records and any other documents we will need to “work up” your case.

3.  Case Work Up

Once we receive your signed Retainer and Authorizations, we will open a file for your case. The first thing we do is send out letters of representation to any insurance carriers involved in your case. Once the insurance carriers have received the letter of representation from our firm, they will no longer be in contact with you; all contact with insurance adjusters will go through our office.

4.  Investigation

After we have opened your file, we begin a process of investigating the details of your case. The investigation typically can be thought of in two parts- the liability for your accident and the damages that have been caused by the accident. To investigate the liability aspect, we request the Accident Report prepared by the investigating officer at the scene, if the police were called. We will work together with you to get photographs of the accident scene and track down any witnesses who might be able to offer an objective testimony of what happened.

The process of investigating the damages aspect of your case is much more lengthy and complex. Damages include many things: your medical injuries and bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions and other items prescribed by your doctors, and the pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of your injuries.

The process of collecting your medical records and bills is relatively straight-forward, although the time it takes to complete this process varies greatly. Most of our clients are still in treatment when they begin their case, and collecting and analyzing medical records and documentation is a continuing process. Without this information, we would not be able to effectively and successfully present your claim to the insurance carrier.

In addition to collecting documentation of your injuries and medical treatment, we will also keep in close contact with you to document and understand all the intangible damages you are suffering. We know that being injured involves so much more than the injury itself- we know you are often in pain, unable to do the daily activities you normally take for granted, and that many areas of your life have been affected by the accident.

How long the investigation stage of your case lasts depends on numerous factors, not the least of which is the length of time it takes you to heal.  We do not want to rush your case through- it is our policy to take as much time as needed to do a thorough job of preparing your case. If you are looking to settle your case as fast as possible, regardless of amount, we are not the right firm for you. We aim to get you the highest possible value for your case, even if that means taking the extra time to prepare your case.

5.  Demand

Once you have finished treatment for your injuries and we know the extent of the damages caused by those injuries, we will prepare a Demand Package to send to the insurance carrier. This Demand Package is a bound volume including a detailed letter from the attorney to the insurance adjuster outlining the liability and damages of your accident. Attached to this letter will be a complete set of your medical records and bills, and any other supporting documentation for your claim. With our Demand Packages, we take extra effort to make sure the insurance company knows we take your case seriously and are prepared, if necessary, to go to trial.

The amount of money we demand in your case will be discussed with you and must be approved/authorized by you prior to our sending the package. This amount varies in every case, but is usually based upon the amount of medical expenses you have incurred, any wages you have lost, and any other damages you may claim, whether quantifiable (out of pocket expenses) or unquantifiable (pain and suffering).

6.  Negotiation

Once the insurance adjuster receives our Demand Package, he or she evaluates your claim with the assistance of medical staff at the insurance company. This process of evaluation usually takes at least a month and varies depending on the complexity of the medical issues. After the adjuster has completed the initial evaluation, he or she will contact our firm to discuss the possibility of settlement. The path of your case is usually determined from this point. If the insurance company accepts liability for your accident, the adjuster may make an initial offer on your case or may request additional information. The adjuster and the attorney will then begin a process of negotiation in which we seek to secure the highest possible settlement on your case. We don’t do this alone, however- you are involved in this process every step of the way. We never make a demand or accept an offer without consulting with you beforehand. We recognize that this is your case and that you have the ultimate say in the outcome.

7.  Litigation

If the insurance company denies liability or does not reach an acceptable settlement amount, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in your case. Filing a lawsuit does several things: first, it stops the “statute of limitations” in your case and gives us more time to try to settle your case. Once we have filed suit in your case, we have one year to serve the lawsuit on the defendant. Sometimes it is beneficial to file suit and then use that extra time to attempt to move negotiations forward. However, once the lawsuit is served, a series of deadlines come into play. The defendant, by way of their insurance company’s staff counsel, will file an Answer to the Complaint we have filed, and then the process of Discovery will begin.

8.  Discovery

Discovery, in simplest terms, is the process of both the plaintiff and defendant requesting and producing information relevant to the lawsuit. Under the law, there are certain things that we are required to produce to defense counsel, including answers to questions about the accident, past medical issues, and current treatment. We will also be required to produce documents including medical records (both before and since the accident), tax forms to verify any claim we make for lost wages, and other documentation. As we are producing this information, we will also request information from the defendant as well, including their account of the accident.

9.  Depositions

At some point during the discovery process, depositions may take place. Both the plaintiff and the defendant have the right to take the deposition of anyone that may have information relevant to the case. A deposition is testimony given under oath. The testimony that is given is recorded by a court reporter and can be used at trial.

If the defense counsel requests your deposition, the deposition will most likely occur at our office or the office of defense counsel. The attorney will meet with you prior to your deposition to explain the process as well as give you an idea of the kinds of questions the defense attorney is likely to ask you. The attorney will be available to answer any of your questions and address your concerns before the deposition. On the day of the deposition, you will come to our office and will sit at a table along with your attorney, the defendant, the defense attorney, and the court reporter. The defense attorney will ask you questions and you will answer them on the record. Afterwards, your attorney will ask you questions in order to clarify any of your previous answers or get additional information on the record.

Although a deposition may seem intimidating, rest assured that we will be with you every step of the way to address your questions and concerns. If you are well-prepared and truthful, you will have nothing to worry about. Many of our clients tell us that the deposition was not nearly as stressful or intimidating as they expected. The important thing is that you feel prepared.

10.  Mediation/Arbitration

Mediation and Arbitration are alternative ways of settling your case without going to trial. Since jury trials are often risky for many reasons, Mediation and Arbitration are attractive choices for getting a good value on your case. Mediation is a conference with you, your attorney, the defendant, and the defense attorney in front of a retired judge. Mediation is in many ways similar to a condensed trial. Both sides present their evidence and the mediator works with everyone to encourage compromise and bring resolution. Mediation is non-binding, meaning that at the end of the day, if we cannot reach an acceptable resolution, we can walk away and proceed with litigation and trial. Arbitration is the same as Mediation, except that it is binding, meaning that after both sides have presented evidence, the arbitrator makes a decision on the value of the case to bring the matter to a close.  If you agree to have your case resolved by Arbitration, then you must accept the arbitrator’s decision.

11.  Trial

If your case cannot be settled through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, it may be necessary to go to trial and have your case heard before a judge and a jury. Trials are typically set approximately one year after the lawsuit has been served on the defendant. Once a trial date is set, the Court issues a Scheduling Order which sets forth all the deadlines for filing certain pleadings and discovery in your case. During this time, the attorney will work closely with you to prepare all the documentation needed to comply with the Scheduling Order. When trial approaches, the attorney will meet with you to discuss the logistics of trial, such as the witnesses who may be called, exhibits that may be used, and the way the trial will proceed.

On the day of trial, you and the attorney will go to court and present evidence to the jury to support your case. The evidence we will use usually consists of expert witnesses such as your doctors, lay witnesses such as friends, family, and co-workers, medical illustrations, exhibits, and your testimony. After we have finished presenting our evidence, the defense counsel will have an opportunity to present evidence as well. After all evidence has been presented, both attorneys will make closing statements and the judge will give the jury instructions on the law applicable to your case. The jury will deliberate and then deliver a verdict.

12.  Disbursement

After a settlement amount has been agreed upon, the insurance carrier will mail a check for the total amount of the settlement to our firm. This check will be made payable to you and our firm. We will deposit this check in our Trust Account and prepare a disbursement sheet outlining the expenses to be written out of the settlement. The legal assistant or attorney will review the disbursement sheet with you and answer any questions you might have. Once you are satisfied with the disbursement, we will write checks out of the settlement in the Trust Account to pay for attorney fees, costs advanced, any liens or medical bills, and a check to you for your settlement proceeds.