The Personal Injury Process
Here is a checklist of some steps you’ll want to consider in settling your case. Please note, this is not a list of what we do. As lawyers, we are able to take advantage of the legal system to do things differently. This is a helpful checklist of items that we hope the average person will find useful. We can’t guarantee that it’s complete, but we hope it will be helpful to you.
- Preserve all evidence: take photos of the scene, interview witnesses, etc. Consider hiring a private investigator if the case is complicated or there is a question of liability.
- Get all the medical treatment you need.
- Check your PIP policy. Make sure PIP pays its full amount, which should be at least $15,000. You can ask for a PIP ledger to see how much money you have used and how much is still available.
- Check your health insurance policy. It should pay anything that PIP doesn’t pay.
- If your PIP adjuster wants to send you to an IME, decide whether it is worth going- it could create a medical record that can be used against you. You can decide it’s better to refuse, even though then PIP will stop paying.
- Find out the insurance policy limits of the person who caused your injury, including umbrella policy.
- If the policy limits are not enough to cover your compensation, perform an asset check on that person to find out if they can pay out of their own money above and beyond the insurance policy limits.
- Read your UIM policy, and figure out whether you want to make a UIM claim as well. Typically, this can only be done if your UIM limit is higher than the liability limit of the person who hurt you, and your injuries warrant that much money.
- If you have lost wages from the accident, document that carefully. You will probably need notes from doctors saying that you were not able to work, and a letter from your manager saying what dates you were unable to work and how much that cost you in wages. If you are self-employed, you’ll probably need to pay an accountant or economist to write a report concluding how much money you lost due to the injury. If you have specific clients who cancelled orders due to your inability to work, get affidavits from them.
- Decide whether your case can benefit from ORS 20.080. This will limit you to $10,000 maximum recovery, but can be very motivational to insurance companies because they will usually also have to pay attorney fees.
- Figure out if your PIP or health insurer (or anyone else who has paid your medical bills) will demand to be paid back out of your settlement. Will they have a lien? Get this in writing!
- Consider whether publicity (or threat of it) may be helpful in your particular case. If you are suing a company for example, they will probably find the threat of publicity dire enough to want to settle quickly so as to not hurt the business.
- Get all of your medical records and original bills. Not the amounts actually paid, but the original bills. We suggest keeping these all organized in a binder or folder so you can reference them later.
- You may wish to create a spreadsheet summarizing your injuries and medical treatment. If you do, it may be only for your use, or you may decide to give it to the other side to convince them to pay you more money.
- Decide what evidence you want to give the insurer to convince them that the accident was not your fault, and that your injuries are real and were caused by the accident. You may want to save some evidence to tell them later on, to try to push up the negotiated settlement further along in the process. Decide now what evidence you’re going to include, and what evident, if any, you want to save for later.
- Write a demand letter to the insurer. Include your medical bills and records. Include whatever evidence you’ve decided to give them up front. Give them a time limit in which to respond. Thirty days is usually enough, though it depends on the complexity of the accident and injuries. Make sure to take any liens into account. If you’re using ORS 20.080, be sure to follow those rules closely, and have an attorney ready to file suit immediately if you don’t receive an offer within the 30-day time limit.
- Get everything in writing.
- Negotiate with anyone who is claiming a lien on your case as well. Example: “I can settle this case for $15,000, but only if you’ll agree to reduce your lien from $11,000 to $6,000. Because if you don’t reduce your lien, I’ll only end up with $4,000.”
- If you are able to come to an agreement, then read the insurance company’s release very carefully before signing it. If is binding.
- Cash your check.
- Pay back any liens, if necessary.