What Do I Need to Know If I Want to Pursue a Personal Injury Claim in California?
At Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, we have been successfully representing personal injury victims in Los Angeles and throughout California for over 25 years. The following is some of the advice we give to our clients:
- Insurance companies do not pay money willingly! The insurance company can be expected to thoroughly investigate the facts of the accident, the claim for medical treatment, and any past injuries or claims. The insurance company will obtain copies of all past medical records.
- The insurance company may hire a private investigator to take movies of any physical activity that you may engage in. The insurance company will also attempt to monitor any and all social media activity and will use any posts that show you engaging in physical activity or taking trips during periods where you claim to be injured. For this reason, we would ask you to make no mention of the incident or anything about this process and to keep posts that could undermine your credibility OFF social media entirely!
- It will help your case to tell me about any PRIOR injury or PRIOR pain to any parts of your body. Many good cases are lost by the injured person concealing or forgetting a previous injury.
- You should be sure to furnish me with the names and addresses of all doctors who have treated you in the past. Particular attention should be given to all doctors in the local area, where it will be easy for the defense to obtain full copies of the medical records.
- Insurance companies keep a record of any and all claims against any insurance company. The insurance company is sure to find out if you have ever made a previous claim. For this reason, I need to know if you have ever made a prior claim for personal injury or workers compensation involving the same or similar body parts that you are claiming to be injured in this incident.
- Tell your doctor ALL of your complaints. The doctor's records can only be as complete as the information you give him. If you don't tell him about an ache or pain, he will not put it in his records.
- Keep track of all prescriptions and medicines you take. Save the receipts and send them to me at the completion of treatment.
- Keep a day to day diary of all of your complaints and how this affects your day to day activities like personal hygiene, cleaning the house, shopping, or any physical activities that you were able to engage in prior to the incident but, which are now limited.
- Some day it may be necessary to have friends, neighbors or co-workers testify regarding your disability and pain and suffering; therefore, start thinking about the witnesses you may need. Write their names and addresses for possible future reference.
- Keep me informed of anything that, in any way, might affect your case. Certainly nothing concerning this case, should be signed without first consulting me. Applications for insurance benefits, reports to the State, any change in doctors, returning to work, any change in treatment, etc. should be reported to me promptly. Disability or unemployment applications should first be checked with me.
- Keep my office advised of any vacation times when you may not be available for a long period of time. An emergency telephone number and an alternate way of reaching you must be in my file at all times. Please also inform me IMMEDIATELY if your address or phone number changes so that I know how to get in touch with you.
- If you have other insurance and need help submitting a claim, our office will be happy to help you fill out the claims forms.
- It sometimes takes many months to settle a claim. In fact, it is dangerous to settle certain types of claims too soon because it often takes a long time for serious injuries to become evident.
- If you have any type of medical insurance, be sure to provide claims forms to each doctor or hospital providing services to you. If you have co-payments or deductibles, it is your responsibility to pay these upon receipt. They will not forego payment until the end of the case.
- If your accident was a motor vehicle accident and you will be renting a vehicle while yours is being repaired (or totaled) you should be aware of the "excess" insurance charges that most rental companies try to get you to buy. In general, this extra insurance is not a good idea. In many cases, you don't need it at all because your own car insurance or your credit card already provides insurance coverage for free. If you have questions on this issue, call our office.
- DO NOT TALK WITH ANYONE UNLESS WE ARE PRESENT AND APPROVE! This includes anyone from your insurance company or the other party's insurance company or anyone claiming to be an attorney or insurance representative for any party. If they ask for you to give a "recorded statement", do NOT agree unless we approve and we are present during the giving of any such statement.
- PLEASE BE PATIENT: This is not an overnight process it will take many months (at a minimum) to sometimes a year or more to resolve your case. During that timeframe, we are constantly working on your file but, we will NOT have daily or weekly updates. We will always attempt to respond to emails and calls, if at all possible, within 48 hours and, oftentimes sooner but, we will not be able to instantly respond to every request. We will strive to keep you updated but, we will NOT have daily or even weekly updates as your case will not usually develop on that type of timeline.
- Please keep an open mind about case value. We always want to obtain the highest value possible for our clients but, one of our main job's is to analyze your particular claim based upon your unique set of facts. We promise to give you and HONEST evaluation of case value based upon our years of experience in prosecuting and litigating personal injury claims. We only ask that you listen to our advice and know that we are in this together to obtain the best result for your, particular claim.
ESTIMATED TIMELINE: From the time you retain our services it usually takes several weeks (at a minimum) to do preliminary legwork like obtaining police reports and initial medical records and opening insurance claims. We will make every attempt to assist you with starting medical treatment usually within a week to 10 days of being retained but, it may take longer depending upon the type of treatment you need and other factors. We cannot obtain the final medical records and bills until you have completed your treatment. This often takes several months at a minimum. Once you have completed treatment, call our office and let us know so that we can request this documentation. Response time to these requests is usually a few weeks (sometimes longer). Once the final records and bills are received, it usually takes a few weeks (sometimes longer) to review these and draft a settlement demand package. The normal timeframe once a settlement demand is sent out is about 30-60 days for a response. At that time, we will call to discuss your options which include settlement of your claim or the filing a lawsuit. If the claim is settled ALL medical liens must be resolved before we can disburse any money. We will always attempt to negotiate reductions to the liens so that you can net as much money as possible and this process can take at a minimum a few weeks to many months (if you have any charges that have gone through public subsidized health insurance plans like Medi-Cal or Medicare). If we have to file a lawsuit, the timeline becomes much longer but, we will go over that process if and when it arsises.