Obtaining Accident Information At The Scene
The first part of a personal injury claim starts at the scene of the accident. Information critical to the case needs to be documented right away. The name of the other driver(s) involved, their insurance policies, their license plate numbers, addresses, and the make and model of their vehicles are necessary information to identify the applicable insurance policy and to verify that those other drivers were involved in the accident. Most people now have phones with cameras that can be used to take a photo of the other driver’s license plate, driver’s license, insurance card, and registration. If the police or highway patrol is called to the accident scene, they will usually obtain this information. Please be aware, however, that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced that they will no longer respond to “minor” car accidents or accidents involving no injuries at the scene. Also, note that neither the police nor highway patrol respond to accidents that occur on private property, such as parking lots or private streets. Names and contact information of witnesses should also be obtained, even if you think you have a “slam dunk” case. Witnesses can identify not only who is at fault but can also provide critical information as to how bad an accident was (i.e., how much force or great the impact was). Photos of the cars involved, the accident scene, and any skid marks should also be taken. If the victim has any visible injuries, such as scratches or bruises, photos of those should also be taken. Seeking medical treatment for any injuries should be done as soon as possible, as insurance companies tend to argue that a delay in treatment evidences lack of an injury. The victim should also consult with an attorney as soon as possible; the attorney can assist in obtaining missing information or evidence timely, get the property damage taken care of, prevent the insurance company from making unreasonable settlement offers, and, if you have no health insurance, help the victim find a medical provider who can provide treatment without up front payment.
Notifying the Insurance Company
The next part is the submission of a claim with the auto insurance company for the at-fault party or, in some cases, with your insurance company. We notify the insurance company that the personal injury victim has a claim and has an attorney. This prevents the insurance company from contacting the personal injury victim and trying to obtain incriminating information or trying to settle for an unreasonably low amount.
Documenting the Victim’s Injuries and Other Damages
Even though there is no lawsuit yet, a victim’s injuries and damages must be documented. Injuries are documented through medical records. This is why it is important to keep track of the healthcare providers. Once the injured victim has completed treatment, we will request all of the medical records and bills from the healthcare providers. If the accident victim had to miss work, we will obtain documentation, usually from the employer, showing how much time was missed and the income that would have been earned. Even those injured victims who used vacation time or sick leave or pay can still receive compensation for that missed work time. The length of time to obtain this documentation could be a lengthy process, depending on how busy the healthcare providers are. Some healthcare facilities can provide the records within a week; some can take as much as a month, if not more.
Submitting the Demand and Negotiating the Claim
Once the personal injury victim has completed treatment or the full extent of the injuries and other damages have been documented, the attorneys will prepare a demand that details all of the injuries, the medical bills incurred, medical bills expected to be incurred in the future, pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of life, and wage loss sustained by the accident victim. In consultation with the claimant, the attorney will demand a specific amount from the insurance company, an amount sufficient to compensate the injured victim for all of his damages. The accident victim’s medical records and other documents evidencing the victim’s damages accompany the demand. After the insurance company has reviewed the demand and accompanying documents, it will make an offer. Typically, the insurance company’s first offer will be much lower than what was demanded and does not fully compensate the victim for their injuries. A good Las Vegas personal injury attorney will know and will argue the points and the evidence that demonstrates the extent of the victim’s injuries. An experienced personal injury trial attorney will argue to the insurance company how much a jury would award if the case proceeds to a lawsuit and a trial. An experienced personal injury trial attorney may not need to file a lawsuit to obtain the best compensation, as insurance companies may want to avoid a lawsuit that will cost them more money in attorneys’ fees and costs. In some cases, insurance companies refuse to settle, and compensation can only be obtained through a lawsuit, arbitration, or trial. The Las Vegas personal injury attorneys of Mazzeo Law are experienced trial attorneys, with many wins in front of arbitrators, judges, and juries.
Benefits and Importance of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
While the process of filing a personal injury claim may seem simple, it’s not in most cases. Although accident victims have obtained settlements from insurance companies without an attorney, insurance companies in many cases do not offer full compensation for a victim’s damages without an attorney, particularly if you are dealing with another driver’s insurance company and not yours. Remember, it is not the job of the other driver’s insurance company to protect you or to ensure you get the maximum compensation you are entitled to. Their primary job is to protect their insured, and if you are not paying that insurance company’s premiums, you are not the insured. So, if the other driver says its not their fault, that driver’s insurance company may take their side, regardless of who was cited as at fault for an accident or other evidence. Also, an insurance company may claim an accident is not as “bad” as you claim or that you are not as injured as you claim. Insurance companies do have certain obligations to non-insured seeking compensation but those obligations do not include making sure that a non-insured claimant obtains the maximum they are entitled to. Within their general statutory obligations, insurance companies will evaluate your claim and offer the lowest possible or interpret the victim’s documentations in a way that minimizes the compensation due to the victim, knowing that a person without an attorney will unlikely file a lawsuit to enforce the victim’s rights. Then, of course, there are insurance companies that more blatantly ignore their obligations to non-insured claimants. Also, in Nevada, only an insured can sue their insurance company. Meaning, if you were injured in a car accident that was not your fault and the negligent driver’s insurance company failed to properly compensate you or breached their obligations to you, you cannot sue that negligent driver’s insurance company. Regardless of whether you’re dealing with your insurance company (first-party claim) or a negligent driver’s (third-party claim), the personal injury attorneys of Mazzeo Law will be able to get you more compensation than you could on your own.