The Stages of Your Personal Injury and Accident Injury Case
When you have a personal injury or accident injury case, Cantor Crane will start by meeting with you for an in-depth interview. We will compile basic information about your case including the date of the injury, location where the injury occurred and the circumstances regarding your injury and resulting loss. We will then create a file for your case to organize the facts and formally prepare your case as if it is going to proceed to a lawsuit and trial. The reality is that 95% of cases are settled before trial, so the odds are that a trial for your case will not occur.
- Gathering Information
- Claim Analysis
- Uninsured Motorist / Underinsured Motorist Claim
- Property Damage Claim
- Personal Health Insurance / Medical Payments Coverage
- Worker’s Compensation Claims
- Rental Bike / Rental Car Reimbursement
- Beginning a Lawsuit
- Disclosure / Discovery
- Mandatory Arbitration / Trial in Superior Court
- Costs Involved
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When you retain Cantor Crane to represent you, we will immediately inform the other party’s insurance company that we have been retained to be your attorneys for your case. We will also request copies of any information or statements that you have provided to the insurance company during the course of your case. Additionally, we will send a letter to any physicians or hospitals who have provided medical services related to your case; we will notify them that Cantor Crane is representing you. We will request that the physicians and hospitals do not directly share any information to the other party’s investigator or insurance adjuster.
Letters will also be mailed to any other individuals or companies who have provided services to you or invoiced you in relation to your personal injury or accident case. We will inform them that Cantor Crane is representing you; your unpaid medical bills will be paid following the recovery of your loss and you will execute a lien against your recovery. This will, in most cases, allow more time for your case to progress without creditors actively pursuing payment. However, you should be aware that some creditors may not be willing to wait for payment; your medical bills remain your responsibility even in the absence of a recovery.
We will also interview any law enforcement officers and witnesses who were involved and can provide us with information about your injury or accident. We will gather pre-existing photographs of the accident location and take new photographs if necessary. Cantor Crane will also gather information from the Internal Revenue Service, your employer, your school or any other organizations that may have information to support your claim. If more detailed information is required, Cantor Crane may choose to hire an investigator to assist us in gathering information for your case. The cost of an investigator, along with any other out-of-pocket costs, are your responsibility. They must be paid up-front or be deducted from your recovery.
It is important that your case remains open until your medical condition has improved and is stable. Your future medical expenses must be considered until our investigation is completed. It will take a minimum of four to six weeks for us to gather the information we will need to properly investigate your case. In some cases, Cantor Crane’s investigation can take much longer, especially if we have difficulty reaching any of the witnesses for your case.
Obtaining your medical records may take time as well, especially if your doctor is continuing to provide medical treatment on your behalf. We anticipate that this can take at least six to nine months from the date of the incident. Once we have completed our investigation and have received the final medical report from your doctor with details about your medical condition and expected future medical expenses, Cantor Crane can evaluate your case and move forward with the legal process.
If a mandatory arbitration is necessary, it can mean a delay of another year or more. If either party is dissatisfied with the result, they can appeal to the Superior Court for a trial, which can add many months to the process surrounding your case.
Although there is always the potential for many delays in your case, we will communicate the steps of the process to you, and we’ll work with you to help you understand our evaluation and our determination of an appropriate settlement amount. Cantor Crane will never accept or reject a settlement without your full consent.
An uninsured or underinsured motorist can potentially add some complexity to your case. If the other party has no insurance or inadequate insurance, you may be filing a claim against your own insurance and underinsured motorist coverage. This option is only available if your insurance policy includes uninsured motorist coverage. If this is the case, your insurance company takes the role of the other party’s insurance provider; however, there is no coverage for property damage with an uninsured motorist claim.
To begin the process of an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you must notify your insurance company of the accident. Cantor Crane can do this for you if you have not already done so. With an uninsured motorist claim, if we cannot agree on a value for settlement, we will not go to trial; instead, we will proceed to an arbitration hearing as outlined in your insurance policy. We will select an arbitrator, as will the other party. The two arbitrators will then select a third arbitrator, who is considered to be a neutral arbitrator. Arbitration is similar to a trial, but it has more relaxed rules of evidence. The decision of the arbitrator for an uninsured motorist claim is final; there is no opportunity for you to appeal.
Property damage typically means body damage to your vehicle or motorcycle. It can also cover damaged clothing, paint damage, and any other property issues that are a direct result of the accident. Cantor Crane can typically settle your property damage claim separately before the investigation of your medical claim is complete. In most cases, the insurance company will cover only the fair market value of your vehicle or motorcycle; the exception may be for a classic, show or collector’s vehicle or motorcycle. If you still owe money to a lender following the purchase of your vehicle, the recovery for any property damage will go directly to the lender.
If you obtained a loan to purchase your vehicle or motorcycle, you may owe the lender more than the vehicle’s fair market value. The insurance company is not required to cover the difference, and it may put you in the position of owing more money than the property damage recovery from the insurance company provides. A “totaled” vehicle is one that requires repairs that will cost more than its fair market value.
If your vehicle or motorcycle is totaled, you typically will have two choices:
- Accept the settlement amount; this also requires you to sign your vehicle’s title over to the insurance company.
- Accept the settlement amount minus your vehicle’s salvage value. This option will allow you to keep your vehicle. Should you choose this option, you will need to acquire a salvage title for your vehicle; this type of title designates your vehicle as being salvaged from an accident when it was considered totaled.
If there is a dispute regarding the value of your vehicle or motorcycle, arbitration can be pursued to make a judgment about the value. This should only be an option in cases where the amount in dispute is significant and there is a valid reason for arbitration.
If the damage to your vehicle or motorcycle is less than the fair market value, the insurance company will typically pay for repairs. The insurance company may simply provide you with payment if your vehicle has sustained minimal damage. Though this may seem like a preferable option, if additional damage is discovered, the insurance company may not take responsibility to pay for it. If you work directly with a body shop, they will obtain a “supplemental estimate” from the insurance company. This means that the insurance company will be required to pay for any additional damage that may be discovered when repairs are made to your vehicle.
When you have personal health insurance coverage, there are a variety of aspects to consider about the possibility of Cantor Crane filing a claim against your health care coverage. Most health insurance providers have a subrogation clause in their contracts that allow them to recover the costs of your medical care should your injuries be due to the negligence of a third party. This means that you will likely be required to reimburse your insurance for the medical care and health insurance claims they have paid. This amount will be typically be deducted from your personal injury or accident settlement payment.
The exception may be if you have medical payments coverage as a part of your vehicle’s insurance coverage. This no-fault medical insurance coverage means you will only have to pay your insurance provider back for any medical bills exceeding $5,000. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your medical bills are covered, and it’s important to use this coverage to your advantage to ensure that your medical needs have been thoroughly addressed. However, if you are using your uninsured medical coverage and you also have medical payments coverage, the insurance company can request a “set-off.” This means that the insurance company can reduce the total amount of the settlement by the amount paid under the medical payments coverage; the reason for this is that an insurance company should not be required to pay for medical costs twice.
If your injuries occurred on the job, you will be required to pay the Industrial Commission for the medical expenses and wage reimbursements they have provided. However, it is important to file a claim so you have protection for any future injuries. It is typical for a personal injury or accident claim to have a two-year statute of limitations. If you have been injured while on the job, the statute of limitations is also two years; however, your window of opportunity to file a lawsuit is only one year unless you have requested and received a “reassignment” from the Industrial Commission. A reassignment means that you are taking back the ownership of your claim, and you are then allowed to pursue a personal injury claim during the second year following your work-related injury.
Obtaining a rental vehicle when your damaged vehicle is totaled or is being repaired is not necessarily a simple process. If your vehicle is not operational and the other party was 100% at fault for the accident, they are responsible for providing you with a rental vehicle. However, there may be some dispute about which party is at fault, or it may take a lengthy period of time for this to be determined and responsibility for your rental vehicle to be accepted by the other party’s insurance company.
Cantor Crane can provide you with the resources to secure a rental vehicle on a lien basis until the question of liability can be definitively answered. However, if the other party is not found to be 100% liable for the accident, you will be required to return the rented vehicle and you will be responsible for the cost of the rental. It is typical for insurance companies to require you to pay upfront for the cost of a rental car, then they will reimburse you if their client is found to be 100% at fault for the accident. Using a lien to rent a vehicle can make this process easier for you by eliminating your need to pay for the vehicle rental up front.
If the other party against whom you’ve filed a claim is insured and a settlement cannot be reached with their insurance provider, Cantor Crane will advise you about the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the other party. We will discuss the costs of a lawsuit and the possibility of obtaining a satisfactory result. In some situations, it may be important for us to file a lawsuit immediately; we will advise you if this might be in your best interest. When you sign our contingency fee agreement, you have provided us with permission to file a lawsuit on your behalf to protect your interests and rights.
The lawsuit begins when we deliver a document to the opposing party called a “Complaint.” The complaint explains the reason for the lawsuit, the nature of your injuries and your request for reimbursement of your loss. As the party filing the lawsuit, you are referred to as the “Plaintiff,” and the other party is referred to as the “Defendant.” The attorneys for the defendant’s insurance company will be tasked with defending the lawsuit, and they will respond to Cantor Crane with a document referred to as an “Answer.” Once the answer is filed, the case is “at issue” and the process of preparing the case for trial begins. However, a settlement is always possible during this timeframe, and a settlement is typically offered just prior to trial or even during the trial.
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When the lawsuit begins, both sides are entitled to information that the other party has collected during the investigation. This is called “Discovery,” but a more accurate term for this process is “Disclosure.” Cantor Crane has a responsibility to provide the attorneys for the other party with all the information in our files that is related to your claim. Each party can also obtain information through a process called “Interrogatories” – written, sworn questions that must be returned with answers within thirty days.
You may also go through the process of a “Deposition” which is providing sworn oral testimony in the presence of a court reporter. When there is a lawsuit including medical bills, a medical examination by a physician of the other party’s choice and at their expense may be required of you as well. Cantor Crane will be present with you at the deposition to protect your rights, and we may be able to record or be present for your medical examination under certain circumstances. We typically expect their doctor to provide a report that does not support your claim, but occasionally we are surprised with a report that substantiates your claim.
Arizona law requires that there are no secrets kept during the course of a lawsuit. The intention of this law is that there is an increased possibility of a settlement if both parties know everything about the case.
Current laws state that all claims worth less than $50,000 are subject to mandatory arbitration; this type of arbitration is not necessarily final. The courts will appoint an attorney to serve as the arbitrator. An arbitration date will be set, and we will present our evidence, witnesses and records. Within ten days of the arbitration, the arbitrator will provide his or her decision about the case. If we are not satisfied with the decision, we have the opportunity for an appeal to the Superior Court for a trial by jury.
The majority of personal injury and accident cases never go to arbitration or trial even when a lawsuit has been filed. It is typical for a case to settle just prior to scheduled arbitration or trial. This means that Cantor Crane will carefully prepare your case as if it is going to arbitration or trial – we will be prepared in the event that your case is one of the 5% that does go to trial. We will also prepare you with information about what to expect during arbitration or a trial so you will be comfortable with the process if a settlement is not reached. Your cooperation is imperative so we can be as prepared as possible to win your case.
Your previous history is important, as the insurance company has a database that records all past claims and injuries. If you have made a prior claim for another accident or injury or have filed a lawsuit in the past, the details of your settlement and the facts about your injury will be easily available. Your honesty with Cantor Crane means that we can prepare your case to the best of our ability. If you are inconsistent with the information you provide to us or fail to disclose important information about your case, it may make our job much more difficult.
As we prepare your case for the possibility of a settlement or trial, there will be out-of-pocket expenses related to your case. Items such as photocopies, investigative services, fees for expert witnesses, transcripts, postage, long-distance telephone calls, facsimile transmission costs, court filing fees, jury fees, process service fees and travel expenses are expenses of your case that you are responsible for covering. These costs are separate from the fees for our professional legal services.
At Cantor Crane, we will front many of these expenses for your case until your settlement is received. We will also consult with you about any additional costs. We provide this as a service to you, but we cannot ethically loan you money or provide you with an advance from your potential settlement.
The information we have provided here is very general, and it may not pertain to your individual personal injury or accident claim. When you are represented by Cantor Crane, we encourage you to call our legal assistants or paralegals any time you may have a question. As the liaison between you and your attorney, they can assist you with the majority of your questions during your ongoing case.
Cantor Crane will treat you with respect and as a friend rather than a mere client. If you or a family member has sustained a personal injury or had been involved in a car accident / motorcycle accident, please give us a call at (602) 254-2701 or contact us by filling out our Online Free Consultation Form. We’ll be in touch promptly to discuss our professional legal services with you, and we will work assertively to assist you with your personal injury claim, accident claim or lawsuit.