What are the Mechanics of a Personal Injury Case?
Personal injuries can be both costly and time consuming. Therefore, it is important to know what to expect when an accident or injury occurs. For example, one of the most common accidents that result in personal injury cases are car accidents. If a person is injured as the result of a car accident it is important to keep record of the accident, the injury, and any damage to your property, and any time lost from work.
After an accident occurs it is important to have a police report that details the accident, as well as the other drivers name, insurance information, and even pictures of the vehicles if necessary. Many people may choose not to call the police if the person apologizes for the accident and simply gives over their information and insurance. Accident reports are required to be filed if there is no police report, where the damages exceed $1,000.00. However, it may still be important to have a written report detailing what happened and any admissions made at the time of the accident. It is also important to note that in New Hampshire, drivers are not required to have car insurance, unless they are in an accident which is their fault. After this kind of accident, they are required to have car insurance. Further, if someone does not have insurance, and causes and accident with you, your car insurance may have an uninsured or underinsured provision. Finally, if your personal injury case goes to trial, you are not permitted to testify or inform the jury that the Defendant has insurance coverage.
Next, it will be essential to know and record any and all injuries sustained from the accident, as injuries are separate from property damage. Therefore, any medical records, physical therapy bills, and records of lost income are important. This information is crucial because without a calculable injury, there cannot be damages to compensate the injury sustained. Sometimes it can also be difficult to ascertain how much damage was caused and how many bills may arise in the future. For instance, a long-term injury or permanent injury may last longer than the suit, and therefore you may need an estimate of what the future bills be. Contacting the hospitals for all of your records will be important as well as keeping copies of all bills and appointments. This part of the process can often times be the most arduous because of the mass amount of records, which is why having an attorney to organize the materials and calculate the losses can be invaluable.
When a civil complaint has been filed, future information gathering will occur, which is called discovery. It is important to know that in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the statute of limitations provides that an action for personal injury must be brought within three (3) years of the accident. RSA 508:4; M.G.L. ch. 260 § 4. The next step, once both the past and potentially future losses have been calculated, is to issue a demand letter either to the person who caused the accident, or to their insurance provider, if they have one. This demand letter often elicits the specifics of the accident, as well as the injuries sustained, and the medical attention that was required to treat this injury. This effectively walks the individual or insurance provider through the damages that have been calculated through the collection of documents like medical bills, in order to demand an amount for settlement purposes. This places the burden on the other person to decide to agree to the amount in the demand letter, or counter it. This results in negotiations and if nothing can be agreed upon, may result in formally filing a lawsuit against the person.
This will result in further digging of information regarding the injury which is known as discovery. Any new documents showing the injury since the date of the demand, as well as any other information that would be necessary to show a judge or jury that the injury occurred because of the negligence of the other party, will be essential. This is why having a police report will be very important if someone decides to go back on admitting their negligence. Finally, this often results in mediation attempts to negotiate the damages, in front of a neutral party or retired judge in order to have a more structured discussion of settlement. However, if a resolution still cannot be resolved, the matter can go to trial, where witnesses are called and evidence is presented to a judge or jury to decide.
At Smith-Weiss Shepard & Spony our practice areas include estate planning, guardianship, probate administration, family law, civil litigation, criminal defense, personal injury, business and corporate law, real estate law, and bankruptcy. Our title company provides real estate services on behalf of buyers, sellers and lenders for both residential and commercial real estate transactions. We happily serve areas that include greater Nashua, Hillsborough North, and even Northern Massachusetts. We invite you to call our office, or submit your information online, and we will respond promptly to schedule your free initial consultation.
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