When other individuals behave recklessly or negligently, they may cause an accident, which leads to debilitating injuries. Accident victims must often undergo medical treatment, lose time from work, and experience other significant consequences.
When an accident results from a third party's negligence, the injured accident victim may recover compensation from the at-fault party's insurance company.
Negotiating with insurance companies is often an uphill battle. This is because, in general, motor vehicle insurers do not have an incentive to fully and fairly compensate you for your accident-related injuries. Rather, they will offer you as little money as possible and hope you take it.
In some cases, even after persistent settlement negotiations with insurance company adjusters, the insurance company may still refuse to offer you a fair monetary settlement for your losses.
When that happens, and you reject a settlement offer, then a personal injury attorney can file a lawsuit in the court system on your behalf and, if necessary, take your case to a civil jury trial or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceeding.
A knowledgeable car accident attorney in San Antonio can aggressively negotiate with insurance company adjusters and handle all of the other legal aspects of your case.
Your attorney can also weigh the pros and cons of a particular settlement offer versus litigation in your case and advise you to make important decisions that will best serve your legal interests in the long run.
Types of Negligence that Lead to a Personal Injury Claim
An individual or entity behaves negligently when they act unreasonably under the circumstances. For example, in a premises accident, a property owner or property manager might have failed to promptly warn about or repair dangerous conditions on the premises, such as spills on the floor or defective staircases. Similarly, drivers may violate traffic laws, exhibit road rage, or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When individuals and entities deviate from the legal standard of care, they may cause accidents that leave others with severe injuries.
Some of the most common occurrences that result from another party's negligent behavior include:
- Commercial truck accidents, including those that involve big rigs, tractor-trailers, large box trucks, and 18-wheelers
- Accidents involving cars and other passenger vehicles
- Motorcycle and bicycle collisions
- Pedestrian accidents that occur at a traffic intersection or in a parking lot or parking garage
- Bus and mass transit accidents, including those that involve school buses, tour buses, and municipal buses
- Medical malpractice and negligence, where a healthcare provider – such as a doctor or nurse – misdiagnoses a patient or makes a mistake while treating a patient
- Construction and building-site accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Premises accidents (including slip and falls)
- Boating accidents
- Escalator and elevator accidents
If you suffered injuries in one of these types of accidents, you need to consult with a personal injury lawyer in your area as quickly as possible.
Your attorney can promptly investigate your accident circumstances and determine your eligibility for filing a personal injury claim.
If you can move forward with a claim, your lawyer will file a claim with the appropriate insurance company and aggressively negotiate with settlement adjusters on your behalf. If the insurance company refuses to take your case seriously, then your attorney can explore litigation options for your case.
Legal Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case
In a personal injury claim or lawsuit, the insured accident victim has the sole legal burden of proof. Specifically, the accident victim must establish that the at-fault individual or entity owed them a legal duty of reasonable care.
For example, in a motor vehicle crash, including bicycle and motorcycle accidents, drivers must follow all traffic laws and to drive carefully and safely under the circumstances – especially in adverse traffic or weather conditions.
Next, the injured accident victim must show that the other party failed to act responsibly and reasonably. In other words, they must have breached the applicable standard of care.
The accident victim must then show that as a direct result of the other party's negligent behavior, both the accident and their injuries materialized.
To establish this legal standard of care, your personal injury lawyer can retain several experts in your case.
For example, a medical expert, such as a treating healthcare provider, can physically examine you and causally relate your claimed injuries to the accident. Additionally, a medical expert can establish the permanency of one or more of your injuries.
If the insurance company disputes fault – or liability – for the subject accident, then your lawyer can retain an accident reconstructionist who can testify in your case.
An accident reconstructionist can visit the accident scene, review the police report, speak to witnesses, observe property damage, and draft a report about their findings and conclusions.
How Do Settlement Negotiations Work in a Personal Injury Case?
In a personal injury case, the settlement negotiation process begins when the accident victim's attorney submits a settlement demand package to the insurance company adjuster handling the case.
A settlement demand package will include a demand letter that requests a certain amount of monetary compensation for the accident victim's injuries and other losses – within the available insurance policy limits.
The demand package will also include various documents that may later serve as evidence in the case if it proceeds to trial.
Important documents that the accident victim may use to satisfy their legal burden of proof include police reports, written statements from witnesses to the accident, property damage photographs, injury photographs, lost income documentation from the accident victim's employer, medical bills, and medical treatment records.
Upon reviewing these documents, the insurance company adjuster might offer to resolve the claim through settlement. However, settlement negotiations may take time to conclude. Insurance companies want to pay accident victims as little compensation as possible to resolve their claims. That way, the insurance company can keep as much of its money as possible in its own coffers.
Given most insurance companies’ general approach to settlement negotiations, an accident victim may reject the initial settlement offer that an adjuster puts on the table. However, settlement negotiations may continue to go back and forth between the accident victim's attorney and the insurance company adjuster until the case either settles or the parties reach a roadblock.
If it appears that the case will not settle, a personal injury lawyer can explore litigation.
Litigation Options in a Personal Injury Case
Litigation begins when a personal injury attorney files a lawsuit for their injured accident victim client in court. Even after filing a lawsuit in a personal injury case, the matter may still resolve out of court. In fact, most personal injury cases settle somewhere along the line simply because of the added expense associated with litigation proceedings.
However, if you reject an insurance company settlement offer, you may need to take part in litigation. For example, you may need to answer discovery questions from the defense lawyer, called Interrogatories, and attend a discovery deposition.
Your attorney can handle the discovery phase of litigation and represent you during depositions, settlement conferences, and other litigation proceedings.
If your case remains unresolved by the end of litigation, you have several options.
First, you can take your case to a civil jury trial, present evidence, and allow a jury to decide the amount of monetary compensation to award you for your injuries.
You might also pursue an ADR option, like mediation or binding arbitration. At a mediation proceeding, a neutral mediator will meet with the parties as a group, and then individually, to facilitate ongoing settlement discussions between them.
However, at a binding arbitration proceeding, a preselected, neutral arbitrator will review documentation in the case, listen to evidence and witness testimony, and decide the amount of monetary compensation to award the accident victim.
Your attorney can weigh the pros and cons of various litigation options in your case and choose the best course of action to maximize your total monetary recovery.
Recoverable Monetary Damages in Personal Injury Claims and Lawsuits
Accident victims who file a personal injury claim or lawsuit may be eligible to receive various types of monetary damages, depending on the nature and extent of their injuries and other important factors.
The total monetary award an accident victim receives through settlement or litigation will vary considerably from case to case. Generally, the more severe an accident victim's injuries and the more extensive and costly their medical treatment, the higher the monetary damages they can receive in a personal injury claim or a lawsuit.
First, accident victims may be eligible to receive compensation for their related medical costs, both past and anticipated. If they had to miss time from work, they might also bring a claim for loss of earnings – or loss of earning capacity if they had to switch to a lower-paying job due to their injuries.
Accident victims can also pursue compensation for their intangible losses, such as monetary damages for loss of spousal consortium, inconvenience, loss of life enjoyment, pain and suffering, loss of the use of a specific body part (such as from full/partial paralysis), permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, mental distress, and long-term care costs.
Your attorney can estimate the likely settlement or verdict value of your personal injury case and work to pursue a damage award that fully and fairly compensates you for all of your losses.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney about Your Legal Matter Today
If you recently suffered injuries in an accident that another person or entity caused, consult a personal injury lawyer in your area as quickly as possible.
Accident victims must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of their accident date. If they fail to do so, then they waive their right to recover the full monetary compensation they deserve.
A San Antonio personal injury lawyer can explore all of your settlement and litigation options and work to recover compensation that truly makes you whole again after your accident – and that fairly compensates you for all of your accident-related losses.
Once you hire the right lawyer, you place your case in experienced, professional hands. You will have no guesswork regarding the process, and you know someone will protect your rights.