Case Stages after a Personal Injury, Car Accident or Motorcycle Accident
During your first meeting with Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law at our office, our staff of highly trained injury attorneys will conduct an in-depth interview with you. We will ask for information about the date your accident occurred, the location and all of the circumstances that surrounded it. Then, we will start preparing your case file and organize all of the facts and information that we have been provided. Our approach is to prepare every case as if it were going to go to trial, and so we prepare your file in that manner. We have found that on average, around 95% of cases end up settling without proceeding to trial.
- Gathering Information
- Claim Analysis
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims
- Personal Health Insurance/Medical Payments Coverage
- Worker’s Compensation Claims
- Rental Car Reimbursement
- Beginning a Lawsuit
- Mandatory Arbitration/Trial in Superior Court
Our next step will be notifying the other party’s insurance company that Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law has been retained by you for your case. With this notification, we will also request that the company send us copies of any statements they may have received from you regarding your accident. Then, we will send letters to the hospitals where you received care and all doctors who have been involved with your treatment letting them know of our representation of you in your motor vehicle accident case. When we notify the treating physicians and hospitals that you have retained us as your attorneys, we also ask that they do not provide information to investigators or insurance adjusters working for the other party in your case. One of the most important factors in filing a personal injury claim is determining if the person has exceeded the Arizona statute of limitation.
If you have incurred bills for injuries, we will send letters to the people to whom those bills are owed and let them know that unpaid medical bills might be paid from any settlement or recovery we receive for you in your case. We will let them know that you will execute a lien allowing them to seek reimbursement from your recovery. The reason we do this is most creditors will agree to wait for payment if they are provided with a reason to do so. Unfortunately, some will not agree to wait, and for them, you will still have the responsibility to pay them while your case is pending. Regardless of whether or not you recover damages in your case, it is important to remember that you will still be responsible for your medical bills.
Next, we will work to interview law enforcement officers who were involved in investigating your accident. If there were witnesses, we will contact them and interview them as well. If we need to do so, we will take photographs of the accident scene. If your employer, school, the Director of Internal Revenue or other people have helpful information in support of your claim, we will obtain statements and information from them. If we find it to be necessary, we will hire an investigator to help thoroughly investigate your case. The cost of an investigator is an out-of-pocket expense and will be your responsibility. You can either pay that cost up front or request us to instead deduct the cost from any recovery we are able to get on your behalf.
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You should never agree to settle your case until you have reached medical improvement for your medical condition. Accepting a quick settlement from the insurance company could result in missing out on recovering medical expenses occurring in the future. A settlement should also not occur until after your case investigation has completed. You should expect it to take at least one month to six weeks to gather all of the information that we need. If witnesses have moved or are reluctant to speak with us, that process can take significantly longer. We also have to wait for your doctor’s final medical report about your condition and your possible future medical expenses, which may not be available until your doctor has completed your treatment. It sometimes will take between six to nine months or longer before we are able to get this report from your physician.
If your case will need to go through “Mandatory Arbitration“, it can take up to another year to reach your arbitration date. If either you or the other party do not like the arbitration ruling, it can be appealed to the County Superior Court so the case can go to jury trial. If your case then heads to trial, that will add several more months to the case process. After we have received all of your needed medical information and have completed our investigation of your case, we will then evaluate it. We will then work with you so that you understand how we arrived at our evaluation. We will work with you to agree to a proper amount of settlement for your case. The Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law team never accepts or rejects offers of settlement without your full consent.
Uninsured / Under-insured Motorist Claims
If the person responsible for your accident and resulting injuries had no insurance at the time, you will need to file an “Uninsured Motorist Claim” against the coverage you have for uninsured motorists through your insurance company. This is only available if you had purchased that type of coverage. In uninsured motorist claims, your insurance company takes the role that the responsible party’s own carrier would have taken if they had had insurance at the time of your accident. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you need to understand that it will not cover losses for property damage.
To begin the claims process for an uninsured motorist claim, Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law will start by notifying your insurance company of your accident. If we are unable to reach an agreement regarding the value of your claim, you shouldn’t expect us to go to trial on it. Most uninsured motorist claims instead proceed through arbitration as outlined in your contract for insurance. Arbitration is similar to a mini-trial, but it has more relaxed rules of evidence. At arbitration, witnesses testify and provide sworn testimony. Whatever is decided by the arbitrator at an uninsured motorist claim arbitration is considered to be a final ruling in your case.
Normally, property damages simply refer to the damage caused to your vehicle or motorcycle. Other types of property damage may include damage to your paint, broken windscreens, damaged clothing and jackets and others. Property damage portions of insurance claims are normally settled far before your personal injury portion is completed. We are able to settle property damage claims while waiting to finish your personal injury claim. The insurance company will normally be liable for your vehicle’s fair market value except in very rare cases, such as you owning a collector’s car or motorcycle, a show car or something similar.
The insurance company’s duty is to restore you to the position you were in before the accident. If you are upside-down with what you owe on your vehicle versus what it is worth, you will receive less than the amount you owe on your vehicle from the insurance company. If it would cost more to repair your vehicle than what it is worth, it will be totaled. You will then have one of two options:
- You can accept the amount the insurance company offers for the value of your vehicle and sign over your title to the company, or
- You can keep your vehicle by agreeing to the insurance company reducing the offered amount by your vehicle’s salvage value.
If you choose the second option, you will then need to get a “Salvaged Title” which will note that your vehicle is a salvage vehicle. If you have a valid dispute regarding the value of your vehicle with a substantial difference in the amount, we may seek a separate arbitration regarding your property damage. If you have a loan on your vehicle, the insurance company will send the check for it directly to your finance company and not to you. If your vehicle is only minimally damaged and is driveable, the insurance company will send a check that looks like a full and fair settlement of your property damage claim.
It is important that you take your vehicle to an auto-body shop for them to fully inspect it before you cash your check. When you go to the body shop, they will contact the insurance company to get a supplemental estimate. If you instead cash your check without getting this done and later find out that there was more damage than you thought, it will be very difficult to prove that that damage resulted from your collision and the company will not have to pay you for these additional damages.
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Personal Health Insurance / Medical Payments Coverage
Most medical insurance companies have “Subrogation” clauses in their contracts, which may mean it may not be to your benefit to file a claim against your own medical insurance coverage. Subrogation clauses let insurance companies recover the amounts they have paid for the treatment of your injuries caused by your accident. This means that any settlement amount you receive in your case would be used to pay your medical insurer for all of the money they paid to the hospitals and doctors who treated you.
Most motorcycle insurance contains a no-fault health insurance policy called medical payments coverage. If you were injured, your motorcycle insurance carrier will pay for all medical bills that do not exceed $5,000. If you can make claims against this, you should do so because each dollar they pay through that for you is one more dollar for you to keep for yourself if the Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law team receives a recovery in your case. One exception does exist, however. Insurance companies can reduce the total amount of your settlement if you are using your uninsured motorist coverage along with your medical payments coverage. That is because the same company will not be required to pay you for your high medical expenses twice.
Worker’s Compensation Claims
If you have a workers’ compensation claim, you will be required to reimburse the Industrial Commission for the wage payments and medical payments they made to you. Making a claim is still important because doing so gives you important protection for your injuries in the future. Most personal injury claims have statutes of limitation for two years. For injuries that occur while you are at work, you still have a two-year statute of limitations but Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law will be unable to file a lawsuit after a year has passed unless we have received a reassignment from the Industrial Commission.
This means any personal injury claim you have arising out of your on-the-job injury must be filed within a year. Getting a reassignment from the Industrial Commission will allow you to pursue your claim for a second year by giving its ownership back to you.
Rental Car Reimbursement
Getting reimbursed for a rental car is not an easy process. If your vehicle is not driveable and the other person was 100 percent at fault, they will be responsible to provide you with a vehicle to replace yours. The other party’s insurance company will refuse to pay your car rental costs unless they believe that their insured is entirely at fault. Convincing the company that this is the case can take a long time. Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law is able to provide you with the resources to get a rental vehicle on a lien basis pending the resolution of the liability determination.
If you are found to be partly at fault for the accident, however, you will have to return the rental vehicle and the responsibility for those costs will be yours. Most insurance companies will not accept direct billing from rental car companies, and many will not seek to reimburse you for the cost of your rental car even though you are free of fault, which is why the Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law team will offer you a rental vehicle on a lien basis.
Beginning a Lawsuit
If the person who is responsible for your injury accident had insurance and we are unable to reach a fair and reasonable settlement with the insurance company, Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law may file a lawsuit on your behalf. We will first talk with you about additional litigation costs and how likely it is that we would get a favorable result for your case. In some situations, it is necessary to file a lawsuit at the outset. When you sign your contingency fee agreement, you give us permission to file a lawsuit in the event we make the determination that doing so is necessary in order to protect your rights.
A lawsuit starts when we deliver a document called a “Complaint‘ to the responsible party. This document outlines the legal grounds for your lawsuit and generally discusses your injuries. You would be called the “Plaintiff” to the lawsuit while the responsible party would be called the “Defendant“. When the defendant receives the documents, they take them to their insurance company. Their insurance company will, in turn, send them to the lawyers who represent the company. The defense lawyers then deliver an “Answer” to the complaint, which is a court document. Upon filing and delivering the answer, the case is considered to be “at issue”.
It is important for you to know that even if a lawsuit has started, it is always possible to reach a settlement. Often, a settlement may be reached just prior to trial or after it has already begun.
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After the Complaint and Answer have both been filed and the lawsuit has started, both you and the defendant will have the right to get information from each other through a process called “Discovery“. Discovery in this sense means disclosure. We will be required to provide all relevant information about your claim to the other side. Both plaintiffs and defendants are able to obtain information through “Interrogatories“, which are written questions that must be sworn to be true. Interrogatories must be returned within 30 days. “Depositions” may also be taken in which you and other witnesses provide sworn testimony in front of a court reporter.
Insurance Defense attorneys may also ask for you to submit to a medical examination completed by their own chosen doctor. In some cases, the Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law team may be present with you during this exam or record it. It is common for defense doctors to give reports that are bad for you and that conflict with those provided by your own physician. Under Arizona law, there cannot be any secrets in civil lawsuits. The reasoning for this is that there is a greater chance that cases will settle if both sides know everything about the other side’s case, which helps to free up the courts.
Mandatory Arbitration / Trial in Superior Court
If your claim is worth less than $50,000, it must proceed through “Mandatory Arbitration“. Unlike the arbitration for uninsured or under-insured motorist claims, however, this type of arbitration is not a final judgment in a case. The court will appoint a lawyer to serve as the arbitrator, hear all of the evidence and hear all of the motions. The court will provide a date for us to appear before the arbitrator. When we do so, we will present our evidence and call our witnesses. The arbitrator will then issue their decision within 10 days of the arbitration hearing. No juries are present for mandatory arbitration. If the decision we receive at arbitration is not one that is reasonable, we may then appeal it and request a “Jury Trial” in Superior Court.
A majority of personal injury cases do not proceed to arbitration or trial, however. Many times, cases will reach settlement days before a scheduled trial or arbitration hearing. Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law prepares every case from the start as if it will go to trial or arbitration, even though they likely will not. If we are headed for arbitration or trial, we will first meet with you to explain the procedure and your expectations at the hearing or trial. We will work with you to help you feel as comfortable as you can during the arbitration or trial. It is extremely important and necessary that you cooperate with helping us to gather all of the information about your case.
Insurance companies keep databases documenting the people who have made claims for injuries before. If you have ever made a personal injury claim for another accident, work-related injury or have sued someone in the past, the insurance company in your case will know the facts about that past personal injury and how much you received in by way of settlement, arbitration award or jury verdict.
It is very important for you to tell us about all previous injuries and to be completely honest with your lawyers here at Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law, so we can better handle your case. It can be very hard for a lawyer to help when it is demonstrated by the other side that their client has failed to disclose information or has made inconsistent statements.
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All out-of-pocket expenses are your sole responsibility and are separate from your lawyer’s legal fees for their services. Case costs may include the costs of photocopying, investigators, expert witnesses, transcripts, long distance phone calls, postage, court filing fees, service of process, facsimile charges, jury fees, travel expenses and other costs.
At Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law, we will advance the costs for investigation, court filing, process service, phone calls, postage, photocopying and faxing. Costs we do not advance will only be incurred for you by us after we first discuss it with you. We are not allowed to loan money to you against an unrealized recovery under our principles of Arizona Legal Ethical Rules.
All of the information appearing on our website is general. We handle all cases on their own individual bases. During your representation, you can call Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law to speak with our paralegals or legal assistants any time you have simple questions. They are often able to answer your questions immediately and may serve as the liaison between us and you. Our paralegals and legal assistants are there to help you with questions and minor issues that may arise while your case is proceeding.
At Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law, we treat you as our friend in need rather than just as a nameless client. If you, one of your family members or one of your friends has been injured in a motorcycle or motor vehicle accident, we invite you to call us at (602) 691-7278 or submit your request on our “Contact Our Firm” link. If you click on the link, we will reply via email shortly. While many attorneys try to claim that they are aggressive, the Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law team are truly “Beyond Aggressive!”