Personal injury cases tend to settle rather than go to trial, so winning your case requires having a valid case and being able to get the amount of compensation you deserve. While your lawyer will do most of the work for you, the following strategies will support you in winning your case:
1. Document everything
Document everything you can think of as soon as possible before your memory fades. Be sure to date your notes so nobody can accuse you of creating them after the fact.
Document the time, day, and even the weather. Document what you were wearing and where you were driving to. Every detail will make your recollection more credible.
2. Research the comparative fault system
If you live in a no-fault state, you don’t need to worry about this. However, thirty-eight states are tort states, so most people need to understand how the comparative fault system works.
Investopedia defines the comparative fault system as “a principle of tort law” that determines the fault or negligence of each party involved “based upon their respective contributions to the accident.” Insurance companies assign blame to each party as a percentage and pay claims according to those percentages. The party found less responsible is still assigned blame if they contributed to the accident.
In California, for example, multiple parties can share the blame for an accident, including an injured party. If there’s a potential you might be found partially at fault for your injuries, your compensation can be reduced.
3. Ask your lawyer how often you should contact him or her
Ask your lawyer how often you should request updates if you haven’t heard from him or her in a while. They’ll let you know when there’s an update to your case. Don’t presume silence means nothing’s happening.
Settlements aren’t usually resolved quickly. There are motions to file, discovery procedures to follow, paperwork to do, and meetings to have. Your lawyer will probably meet with the insurance company or other party several times to negotiate before filling you in on any progress. It could be months before you’re informed of the first settlement offer.
4. Meticulously track injury progression
Keep a daily log of your injuries until your case settles. Your lawyer will be negotiating based on the extent of your injuries. If your injuries get worse during negotiations, you’ll have a log to prove it. Your lawyer can then negotiate a higher settlement amount, especially if your injuries look like they’re going to be long-term.
Determining the full extent of your injuries is difficult to do in the beginning, so be thankful you’ve got some time to figure that out. When a case settles too soon, and injuries are underreported, you’ll need to pay for extra care out of pocket, and you have no recourse.
Although a lengthy process means you won’t see your money for a while, being patient with the process will ensure your injuries are covered.
Always listen to your lawyer
Personal injury lawyers know the law inside and out. They’ve got years of experience in the courtroom handling cases and working with local judges. They know what your chances are of winning a bigger settlement, and if that’s not possible, they’ll let you know.
Don’t try to be an armchair lawyer when you’re pursuing a personal injury claim. The internet is filled with stories from people who recovered millions of dollars for injuries similar to yours, but that doesn’t mean your specific case is worth that much. Listen to your lawyer. If they tell you the settlement you’re being offered is the best you’re going to get, heed their advice. If you reject a fair offer, you might end up being forced to accept an even lower amount in the end.
If you refuse to accept a settlement and want your case to go to trial, you’ll spend more money on legal fees and in the end may get far less compensation than you deserve. Only 5% of personal injury cases in the U.S. go to trial; 95% reach pretrial settlements. Statistics published by TheLawDictionary.org say 90% of personal injury cases that go to trial are lost.
Don’t hold out for millions of dollars against your lawyer’s advice or you could end up with nothing.