Personal Injury claims legal process a personal injury attorney goes through for car accidentsIf you were injured in a car crash in Massachusetts you should have an undestanding of the process and time required to reach a settlement in your car accident case. There’s no specific time set to settle an injury claim from a car accident. The time it takes for a Massachusetts personal injury and accident lawyer to settle a car accident case, generally, depends on many circumstances and an understanding of the process of a personal injury claim.

Every accident case is different. Each case presents various issues to be considered before reaching a settlement. An experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer will be able to explain the process and a reasonable expectation of when your case may settle. Below is a summary of the process and a general outline of the time it takes to reach a settlement.

The Massachusetts Personal Injury Claim Process

After someone is injured in a car accident in Massachusetts, they usually seek medical treatment right away. Some are taken by ambulance from the accident scene while others may seek treatment shortly thereafter. This really depends on the severity of the injuries. The extent of their injuries typically governs the time and treatment necessary to address their injuries.

Accident victims then usually hire a Massachusetts injury attorney to help them with their case. An experienced, local car accident lawyer will get to work right away on their client’s accident claim. This requires a few initial actions. Then the attorney will closely monitor the case and proceed toward taking the necessary steps toward reaching a settlement.

Below, I will discuss the steps our Framingham car accident attorneys take after being hired to help our clients obtain full and fair financial compensation for their injuries and losses.

Investigation and Notice of the Injury Claim

Once you hire our experienced car accident attorneys, we will begin by investigating the accident. This typically involves obtaining copies of any available Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crash Police Reports, visiting the accident scene, and speaking to any witnesses as well as other investigatory steps. This is very important because for an accident victim to be eligible for compensation, they must satisfy their burden of proof that the other driver was at fault for causing the crash and their injuries. In other words, you must be able to establish that the other driver was negligent, and their negligence caused your injuries.

Our attorneys will then put the auto insurance companies on notice of the bodily injury claim and our law firm’s representation you as the injured party. The other/at-fault driver’s auto insurance carrier will be put on notice of the bodily injury claim and we will request the limits of bodily injury coverage. This notice will commence the bodily injury claim’s process.

Likewise, your auto insurance carrier will also be place on notice of a claim for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits and any potential underinsured motor vehicle claim. This will commence the PIP claim and make arrangements for the payment of your medical bills and any lost wages.

The auto insurance companies will also usually investigate the accident. The reason for the investigation is to determine the nature and cause of the accident. In rather straightforward car crashes (e.g., a rear-end collision) the determination of fault is simple. However, other crashes may require more detailed investigations to determine fault. For the purpose of this article, I will discuss a car accident case where fault is not an issue.

The Injury Treatment Process

As a general rule of thumb, you would not want to try to settle your car accident case until you have fully recovered from your injuries or reached a maximum medical improvement. This is because you will not be able to fully evaluate your accident case until you have completed your treatment.

The value of a Massachusetts injury case usually begins with determining the amount of medical bills incurred for treatment related to your injuries. Valuing your case prior to completing treatment will not allow you to factor all medical bills into consideration of a fair amount of compensation. Of course, there are always exceptions to this general rule, which is why you should discuss the specifics of your case with your attorney.  

The Resolution Phase of Your Massachusetts Accident Case

Once you have completed treatment, your injury claim will proceed to the next step of a Massachusetts accident case, which is the resolution phase.

The Records and Bill Retrieval Process

After treatment has been completed, our office will order and obtain true and attested copies of all your medical records and medical bills from your treating physicians related to the treatment of your injuries. Some of the records will have previously been obtained, but most of the records and bills will need to be ordered once you have finished treatment. It usually takes approximately 30 days or so to obtain all the records and bills.

In accidents that resulted in severe injuries, a medical narrative report may be necessary. This is a specialized medical report from an expert physician who will detail the injuries you suffered and form opinions as to your prognosis and any potential permanent disability or impairment. This is often necessary for clients who had surgery to treat their injuries suffered in a car crash. The physician hired to prepare a medical narrative report will need to review all of your medical records and usually must examine you to appropriately prepare the narrative report. Depending on the availability of the doctor, this can sometimes take a few weeks or a couple of months.  

Other Documents to be Obtained During the Settlement Process

In the meantime, our office will obtain any outstanding balances due to any medical providers for treatment or any liens placed on your personal injury file. Don’t forget about health insurance liens or claims for reimbursement. Our office will obtain an itemized summary of health insurance liens that must be factored into the settlement so you will have a clear understanding of the net settlement proceeds you would receive from your settlement.

If you have health insurance, such as MassHealth, Medicare, or a private health insurance company, they will have a right to be reimbursed for any payments they made for the treatment you required for the injuries you suffered in the crash. Obtaining these in advance will help streamline the settlement process and ensure you receive your settlement proceeds in a timely manner.

Preparation and Service of the Demand for Settlement

Once all the related medical records, bills, and the narrative report, if necessary, are obtained, we will begin drafting and preparing a demand for settlement. A demand for settlement is your opportunity to present your car accident case to the bodily injury insurance carrier.

The demand for settlement will detail the facts and circumstances of the how the accident occurred and thoroughly outline the injuries you suffered, the medical treatment required, and make a specific demand for an amount of financial compensation. The amount demanded is typically higher than what would be accepted to settle the injury claim to allow room for negotiations.

The Settlement Negotiations Process

Once the bodily injury insurance carrier has received the demand for settlement, they typically take approximately 30 days to review and evaluate your claim. Once their evaluation process is completed, they will respond with an initial offer of settlement. Just like we demand more than what would be accepted to settle a case, the insurance company usually offers less than what they would pay to settle a case. This allows them room to negotiate, which is why we always recommend an accident victim never accept the first offer of settlement from an insurance company.

The negotiation process can sometimes take a few phone calls or, other times, can go on for weeks. We usually go back and forth a few times reducing our demand and they increase their settlement offer until we reach an agreement on a fair amount of compensation that will satisfy you.

The Settlement Documents Necessary to Finalize your Settlement

Following successful negotiations, the agreed upon settlement must be memorialized and put in writing. The document that must be signed to settle your car accident claim is usually referred to as a Release of Claims or Settlement Agreement.

This Release will detail the amount of the settlement being paid and that you are releasing the at-fault party and their insurance company from any further responsibility for your injuries and losses. The execution of the Release would prohibit you from pursuing any further claims related to the accident.

Once the Release is executed and the final lien amounts have been determined, the bodily injury insurance carrier will issue the settlement check. It usually takes a few weeks for the check to be received by our office.

Once the check is received, it is deposited into our Client Trust Fund account and the attorney’s fee, expense reimbursement, lien payments, and settlement proceeds will be disbursed once the settlement check has cleared. This usually only takes a couple of days and the case will then be completely closed.

Settling Out or Going to Court in Framingham, Massachusetts

While this is a summary of the general car accident process of a basic injury claim, sometimes there are disputes as to who caused the crash or whether the injures are directly related to the accident. When those issues are raised, an accident claim may need to be pursued in court by way of a personal injury lawsuit. While most accident cases in Massachusetts are resolved by settlement, a lawsuit takes much longer to resolve.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to consult with an experienced Massachusetts car accident attorney. Our Framingham injury lawyers help accident victims throughout Massachusetts and have a proven track record of success. We have been helping people injured in accidents get the money they deserve for many, many years. We are available to explain the injury claim process to you in much greater detail and how we can help you and your family.

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.