After suffering an injury in Philadelphia, most people do not know where to turn. You should be focused on recovery, so you can get back to a normal life. However, the reality is that it may be difficult for you to focus on getting better when you have to worry about insurance claims, hospital bills, and possibly losing your job.
Unfortunately, after an incident or accident where someone is injured, the other people involved are not likely to admit they were at fault. Even if they know they were acting negligently, they will deny any culpability, and any parties involved will do the same. Even their insurance companies will try and avoid paying out. If the evidence shows the insurance company should pay, they may still try and get away with paying as little as possible. This puts the burden on you to enforce the law, seek compensation for your injuries, and hold the responsible parties accountable.
Even though the burden may be on you to make sure you are compensated for your injuries, you may have no idea where to start, what to do, or how the claims process even works. It is important to understand the claims process in Philadelphia, so you will know what to expect, and can hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle the claims process on your behalf.
The Claims Process in Philadelphia
A personal injury claim could refer to making an insurance claim after an accident, or filing a personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, there will be an overlap between the insurance process and the legal process. While every case is different, automobile accidents are generally handled in a different way than other personal injury cases. This is because every driver is required to have insurance, and because automobile accidents are so common.
Automobile Accident Claims
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is unique in that it offers both traditional and no-fault insurance coverage. If the driver chooses traditional insurance coverage, they may be liable if they are at fault for the accident, and if the other party is at fault, they may have to seek compensation from the other driver's insurance provider.
With no-fault insurance, the driver will usually look to their own insurance company to be compensated after an accident, regardless of who was at fault. However, in some cases, the insurance policy won't cover the full personal injury protection (PIP) limit. In the case of a serious injury, a driver with no-fault insurance may still be able to seek compensation from the other driver for damages.
Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, or what type of insurance coverage the driver had, the insurance companies involved may take a similar approach. If you are dealing with someone else's insurance, their claims representative or adjuster may try and contact you. Speaking with the other driver's insurance representatives is very risky. They may be trying to get you to say certain things that they will later use against you, to reduce your compensation or deny your claim. You should tell the insurance company to talk to your lawyer, to maintain the integrity of your claim.
Whoever the insurance company represents, they may try and deny coverage for some claims, or reduce compensation for any number of reasons. After a denial or appeal, if you try and talk to the insurance company, they may direct you to an internal appeals process, though often you may end up with the same denial or an insignificant change.
If you think you are not getting the compensation you deserve, you should talk to a personal injury attorney. After an injury, you should contact an attorney to help you navigate the claims process, and make sure you get the full compensation you deserve.
Personal Injury Claim
In personal injury claims and some automobile claims, you may have to go directly to the individuals at fault to get covered for your injuries. The simplest and most straightforward way to do this is through contacting an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney to handle the entire claims process for you so that you can concentrate on your recovery, and return to a normal life. The claims process can be complex, depending on the type of case, the extent of the injury, and the number of parties involved.
In some cases, an individual may want to try and deal with their personal injury claim by themselves, without seeking the aid and advice of an attorney. This may be a possibility, but before putting your claim at risk, you should understand that many personal injury attorneys will offer you a free consultation, so you can talk to the attorney about your case at no cost to you. Additionally, many personal injury cases are handled with a contingency fee agreement. This means that you pay nothing unless your attorney wins your case. They will advance all costs, and only collect their fee if you successfully recover compensation.
Small Claims Court
If you want to try and handle your personal injury claim on your own, your best chance at success may be going through the small claims court process. This is generally a simpler process than filing a case in the Courts of Common Pleas. However, there are several things you should understand before you decide to file your case in small claims court.
Small claims cases are limited to against certain types of defendants. You cannot generally file cases against the City of Philadelphia, the state, or other government agencies in small claims court. Additionally, your claim may be limited to $12,000 in money damages. If your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages are worth more than $12,000, you will not be able to fully recover for your injuries.
Finally, although the small claims process may seem more relaxed, pro se plaintiffs are still required to follow the rules and laws. Pro se plaintiffs are individuals who represent themselves. They are responsible for understanding the court rules and procedures, and following those rules. If they make a mistake or fail to file certain documents according to the legal regulations, their claim may be dismissed.
Personal Injury Claims Process
After you contact an attorney about representing you in a personal injury claim, they will generally have an initial meeting with you, which may take the form of a free consultation. This will be to get an overall picture of the case, some basic facts, and let you know what will happen next. Your attorney will likely ask you to bring all relevant materials for review, including medical records, insurance papers, correspondence from other parties or insurance companies, pay stubs, contact information, and anything else that may be important for your case.
Even before filing a lawsuit, your attorney may reach out to the other parties involved, and see if the case can be settled before taking the case to court. Some defendants may not want to deal with the courts based on past experience, or because they know they don't have a good case. If your attorney can negotiate a settlement that meets your approval, then you can decide to accept the agreement, and you'll receive quick compensation for your injuries.
In most cases, the defendants will wait until the case is filed in the civil court before they really understand that you are taking this claim seriously. A civil lawsuit begins with filing a Complaint. The complaint sets forth the basis for filing the lawsuit. It should include the names and addresses of the parties, the amount claimed for damages, and a brief and concise statement of the facts upon which the claim is based.
After filing the complaint with the court, it is then served to the defendants. The defendants then have 20 days from the date of service to file an answer. The answer will respond to the complaint, and should include any defenses, claims against the plaintiff, and claims against any other parties.
After the pleadings are filed, the parties may begin discovery. The discovery process involves gathering facts, evidence, and other information relevant to the case. This includes formal questions to be responded to by the other party, requests for production of documents, and depositions. A deposition is an oral testimony under oath that will be recorded for use in litigation. As the plaintiff, the defendants will generally take your deposition, asking you questions about the case. Your attorney will be present and advise you on certain questions, and will be able to make objections when necessary.
Before the case goes to trial, the court may seek a settlement through alternative dispute resolution or a settlement conference. Most civil lawsuits are settled before going to trial, often just before trial. At this point, the parties will have the relevant information, and should have a good understanding of how the case may go. However, because juries can be unpredictable, the plaintiff and defendants have an interest in resolving the case before it goes to a jury.
Alternative dispute resolution may involve mediation, arbitration or a neutral case evaluation. These are alternative methods to resolving a lawsuit and are generally faster and less costly than going through a full trial. Additionally, it is possible for both parties to negotiate an acceptable settlement, rather than submit to the winner-take-all resolution of a jury trial. You should talk to your attorney about the settlement process or alternative dispute resolution options.
Personal Injury Trial
A personal injury trial can be either a jury trial or a bench trial. A jury trial uses a group of people selected from the local population to hear the case and come to a decision. In a bench trial, the judge acts as the factfinder, rather than a jury. There are benefits to each kind of trial, which will depend on the individual circumstances of your case. A bench trial can be beneficial when there are complex legal issues involved.
A jury trial begins with jury selection. The judge along with the attorneys from all sides will select the jury, arguing for or against certain potential jurors who they think may be more beneficial to their side. Once a jury is selected, each side will present their case to the jury. The plaintiff will go first, followed by the defendant. Throughout the trial, each side may object to certain statements or evidence from the other parties, and the judge will determine whether to allow or deny such statements or evidence.
At the conclusion of the trial, the jury will be instructed on the law involved. They will then confer about the case, and come to a decision on who may be at fault for the injuries involved. The jury will return a verdict, which may determine how much money the plaintiff will receive, or if the plaintiff will receive nothing at all. In some cases, the judge may adjust the jury verdict.
Depending on the verdict, each side has the option of filing an appeal. Your attorney may want to file an appeal if there was some mistake or legal error made during the trial made by the judge, the other attorneys, or even one of the jurors.
Personal Injury Attorneys in Philadelphia
The claims process in Philadelphia can be complicated. The exact process will depend on the facts and circumstances of your individual case. Your claim could be quickly approved after your attorney negotiates a satisfactory agreement, or the case could be contested all the way through a jury trial. Your focus should be on recovery. Let an experienced team of Philadelphia personal injury attorneys handle the claims process so you can focus on getting better. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligent behavior of another person, please do not hesitate to call the Gilman & Bedigian team today for a free consultation.