This is a question I get quite often. The answer really depends on the type of case you have and the facts of your case. When a client calls and discusses the facts of their case with me during our free consultation, I am able to determine if they actually need to hire an Attorney or not fairly quickly. There are a few types of cases that can be handled by the client alone, but they really depend on the facts. Granted, an Attorney can offer a significant benefit but I do not believe that is true in every case. For example, the less complex cases, with few or no injuries, can usually be managed by the client on their own. If the client is not seeking treatment and is not in need of treatment, the client can usually handle the case on their own. If there is no dispute on liability (whose fault was it), the client can usually handle the case on their own. If these are not the facts, you will likely need an experienced Attorney with great online reviews to help you.
When discussing a case with a client, I am always thinking about what is in their best interest. If, as stated above, the case is straightforward, i.e. there are no disputes about liability and the client when to urgent care one time and is not complaining of any pain or injuries related to the crash, I am going to to advise that the client handle the case on your own. Why? Even though I could shepherd them through the process with ease and likely get them some more money, if they have to pay 1/3 of their recovery to Attorney, or even less, as we often reduce our fee in cases with a smaller recovery, that is still a significant amount of money in a small settlement. During a consultation I am always analyzing, is this client going to be better off financially with or without my involvement. If I cannot increase my client’s ultimate settlement by more and usually a lot more than my 1/3 fee, then I am doing them a disservice. I am very candid and up front about this if it is my assessment. I have done this countless times throughout my career. This begs the question what should the client do? I always walk them through the process on how to handle a straightforward case. That journey looks like this…
1. Collect all the photos you took of the crash, damage to your car, and any injuries (bruising) you sustained on your body;
2. Get a copy of the police report. *In Arizona, the document the officers give you at the scene of the crash is not the accident report. In Phoenix, for example, that document is the “Accident Exchange Information Form”. It contains basic information about the parties and the accident or incident number. The actual police report is available a few weeks later, by requesting the report by its accident/incident number on the exchange form from the Police Station in the city where the crash took place. The police report will contain the parties’ information, including insurance information (which you should have obtained at the scene), a narrative of what happened according to the Police officer’s investigation and and if any citations were issued. A citation is not definitive “proof” of fault, but it is a great start. What if the Police were not called? Now your case is not straightforward any more, and you might need to hire an experienced Attorney with great online reviews;
3. Contact the insurance company of the at-fault driver and they will let you know the adjuster assigned to handle your claim and your claim number. This number is how your claim will be identified and needs to be referenced on all documents. Ask them if they have accepted liability. If not, you might need to hire an experienced Attorney with great online reviews.
3. Once all your medical treatment is completed, get all of your medical records and charges from each provider who treated you.
4. Put together a demand package with the facts of the case, the damages you suffered, the police report and the medical records and send it to the insurance adjuster with the claim number referenced on the top of each page.
5. In Arizona, you have 2 years from the date of the crash to resolve your claim. Otherwise a lawsuit needs to be filed to preserve your claim. If you are getting anywhere near this deadline, which is called the Statute of Limitations, you need to hire an experienced Attorney with great online reviews. Have we mentioned our perfect 5 star rating online? 🙂
6. Once you send the demand to the adjuster, you wait for a response, and then you negotiate up that initial offer they present to you. When you are happy with the number you accept and the insurance company will send you a release of liability to sign. By signing this, you agree that you will release them from all future liability and, in essence, you will never come after the at fault party again. This is why you had better make sure your injuries caused by this crash have been diagnosed and treated.
7. Keep in mind, you will likely have to pay the providers that you saw and may have to pay back your health insurance company or anyone else who has a “lien”. This can be a trap for the person who wants to handle a case on their own. This is a complicated area of law that is ever-changing in Arizona. Paying back these amounts will obviously affect the bottom line settlement that you obtain. Even on a “straightforward” and “smaller” case, this can be a landmine just waiting to explode. If you have treated at a Hospital or were taken by Ambulance, you may want to contact (say it with me) an experienced Attorney with great online reviews.
I would say these are the most basic of steps to help you navigate through a case that liability is not in dispute, you have only treated at an urgent care or at your Primary Care Physician’s office and have absolutely no complaints of pain or injury. Anything more than that, you really should consult with an Attorney that you feel comfortable with. We always suggest you go online and read what former clients say about their experiences with the Attorney. If there are many reviews (more than 10) there is a good chance what the clients are saying is what you can expect. Sites you can check are avvo.com, google reviews, Facebook reviews, Yelp reviews and see if they are on Super Lawyers. If you cross reference those sites for online reviews and also speak to the Attorney themselves, you should be in great shape.
As always, if you have been injured, or just have questions about your case, feel free to give us a call anytime at 480-818-4855. We are here to help and answer any questions you may have during our free consultation.
Tanveer A. Shah, Esq.
Founder, Viper Law Group