I have been practicing law since 1988 and consider myself to be within the first generation of lawyers to look for different ways to seek compensation for my clients. The generations before mine tried to negotiate a settlement, and if that failed, they started a lawsuit.
We now have different methods of achieving the same goal.
My plan is to first prepare a package of all evidence in neat, concise form for presentation to an insurance company. Imagine that an adjuster’s day consists of sorting through mounds of medical and other evidence in order to evaluate your file. When they receive my packages, they contain bold & tabbed pages which describe each medical record. Photographs are clearly marked and identify the important issues (e.g., where my client’s car was positioned, where a defect in a sidewalk was located, etc.).
Plan “A” is to try to settle the case. I find that if you present the client’s file in an easy, readable manner, you are ahead of the game. The adjuster wants to be able to absorb the information painlessly. You are advantage if you present your case in the perspective that YOU want. You can highlight the parts that you wish by underscoring the details that support your case.
Plan “B” (if settlement negotiations fail) is to suggest that the parties participate in a “mediation.” A “mediation” is a meeting in which the attorneys from both sides present their cases and a “mediator” prods both sides to settle. The good points and bad points are sorted out and the parties then are able to have a serious dialogue. Many times mediation leads to settlement. Clients also feel as though they have had their “day in court.”
Plan “C” is to convince the other party to participate in an “arbitration.” An arbitration is a micro version of a trial. Both parties can present written records, photographs, etc. and also have a chance to question their own clients and the other side’s witnesses. An arbitrator make a final decision that is binding on all parties. The benefits of arbitration are 1) less expensive than a trial 2) quicker than a trial and 3) a final decision that cannot be appealed.
Finally, Plan “D” is to start a lawsuit and begin the process of “Discovery.” That means that both sides have the opportunity to exchange medical records, to question witnesses (before trial), and to have the injured client examined by the defendant’s doctor(s). The ultimate goal is to finish “Discovery” and to go to a jury trial. Depending on the case, jury trials may be the best option.
My goal is to make my client whole, to obtain a money award or settlement that will satisfy the loss and the pain & suffering from an accident. I use all of the above “tools” to make that happen.