Case Stages When You Are in a Motor Vehicle or Motorcycle Accident
After a motor vehicle or motorcycle accident, you should call upon the legal skills of Cantor Injury Lawyers for help. When you meet with the lawyers of the Cantor team in our Phoenix office, you will first gain an in-depth interview by our staff of highly trained injury lawyers. During this interview you will be asked questions about your accident date, its location and all of the specific circumstances that occurred. Our lawyers will then work hard in preparation of your case, building a file and organizing all of the accident facts and details provided to us. Our team approaches every single case as if it will go to trial. This means that your case will be prepared in this thorough manner, even though it will most likely be settled out of court. In our experience, more than 95 percent of motor vehicle and motorcycle accident cases do settle before or without going to a trial.
First Meeting with Your Cantor Injury Lawyer
Your first meeting with Cantor Injury Lawyers will take place at our office or in your home or hospital room. Our highly trained professional staff will conduct an in-depth interview with you, asking you questions about your accident, such as the date it occurred, its location and other circumstances of the events. We will then start building your case file, getting all of the facts and information we have together. Using this information we start preparing your case.
We prepare for every case as if it is going to trial. About 95 percent of Cantor Injury Lawyers’ car accident and personal injury cases settle, whereas about five percent go to trial.
- Information Gathering
- Analysis of Your Claim
- Claims for Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
- Property Damage Settlement
- Personal Health Insurance/Medical Payments Coverage
- Worker’s Compensation Claims
- Reimbursement for Your Rental Car
- Starting Your Lawsuit
- Mandatory Arbitration or Trial in Superior Court
- Costs for Your Case
- You Need Expert Legal Help for Your Personal Injury Case
Important stages of your motor vehicle accident case include:
- Information gathering
- Claim analysis
- Uninsured/Underinsured motorist claims
- Personal health insurance and medical payments coverage
- Worker’s compensation claims
- Rental car reimbursement
- Starting your lawsuit
- Disclosure in your motor vehicle accident case
- Mandatory arbitration or trial in Superior Court
- Costs of your case
In the earliest stage of your motor vehicle accident case, your lawyers from the Team will notify the other party’s insurance company that we represent you in your case. After this notification, the insurance company will send us copies of statements they received from you after your accident. We need to immediately handle one of the most important aspects of any personal injury claim. That is, ensuring your case has not exceeded the applicable Arizona statutes of limitations. We will also need to send letters to hospitals, emergency departments, urgent care facilities or doctors from whom you received care for your accident injuries. These letters will advise these parties that we have been retained as your attorneys. They will ask the named parties to not provide any information to investigators or insurance adjusters on the other side of the case.
If you have experienced medical costs and bills for treatment of your injuries, we will send letters to the people you owe for those bills, letting them know that your legal claim will likely cover your medical bills through settlement or recovery received for you in your claim. We do this, as most creditors understand this process and will agree to wait for payment. You will still hold full responsibility for paying these accounts. But some will not accept waiting for payment from your recovery or settlement and they will still enforce payment due dates while your case is pending. Regardless of the outcome of your case and whether you receive damages, you have to remember that your name is on these accounts and you are ultimately accountable for paying them.
The next part of this first stage is for Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law to interview law enforcement officers who investigated or reported on your accident. When there are witnesses, we will communicate with them and conduct interviews to gain their statements, too. If necessary, we will go to the accident scene and take photographs of the site. When employers, schools, the Director of Internal Revenue or others have helpful details in support of your claim, we will get that information and obtain statements from them. As we find necessary, we may hire an investigator to fully investigate your accident case. This leads to out-of-pocket expenses that will also be your financial responsibility. You may pay that amount up front, or you can request for us to deduct the investigator’s costs from any recovery amounts we gain on your behalf.
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It is very important that you never agree to settle your case with the at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster until you have achieved improvement in your medical condition. If you accept a settlement too quickly, you could miss out on gaining compensation for the medical expenses you experience in the future. Further, you should not settle until after your case investigation is completed. It will take at least four to six weeks for us to gather all necessary information. Witnesses move, change phone numbers or are sometimes reluctant to provide testimony in a case, making them unreachable. So this process can take much longer. We must also await the doctor’s final report on your injury condition to know what possible medical expenses await in the future. These amounts may not be available until your doctor has finalized your treatment. Many cases take six to nine months or even longer, prior to gaining this medical report from your physician.
If your case must proceed through Mandatory Arbitration, it may be as long as a year to gain the arbitration date. When the ruling is disliked by one side of the case or the other, it may be appealed to the County Superior Court. This allows the case to proceed to a jury trial. Once it is set for trial, your case will involve several more months. Once all required medical information is received and the investigation is completed, we evaluate the results. We will then work with you to gain full understanding of how we came to our conclusions. Using the investigation evaluation, we work together to come up with a proper amount for your case’s settlement. Your lawyers of the Cantor Team will never accept or reject a settlement offer without your involvement and consent.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims
When the at-fault driver in your accident does not have auto insurance as required by law, you will have to proceed with an Uninsured Motorist Claim. This is done using your policy’s uninsured motorist coverage, if you opted for that coverage through your insurance company. Your insurance company then takes on the role of paying for damages the at-fault motorist’s insurance company would, if they had insurance at the time your accident occurred. Under uninsured motorist coverage, you will not be compensated for property damage.
If the person responsible for your accident and resulting injuries had no insurance at the time, you will need to file an “Uninsured Motorist Claim” against the coverage you have for uninsured motorists through your insurance company. This is only available if you had purchased that type of coverage. In uninsured motorist claims, your insurance company takes the role that the responsible party’s own carrier would have taken if they had had insurance at the time of your accident. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you need to understand that it will not cover losses for property damage.
When you need to rely upon your uninsured motorist coverage, Cantor Injury Lawyers will start the process by communicating with your insurance company about your accident. One drawback of uninsured motorist claims is that we will not go to trial if we cannot reach a settlement agreement. The course of action at this point for your uninsured motorist claim is instead to go through arbitration as specified by your insurance contract. Arbitration is similar to a trial in many ways, but the rules of evidence are more relaxed. Witnesses will testify under oath at arbitration. Whatever the arbitrator decides as part of your uninsured motorist arbitration is the final ruling for your case.
Property damages typically refer to damage caused to your motorcycle or vehicle during the accident. Other types of property damage may be paint damage, broken windshields, damaged personal effects like clothing and others. Insurance claim property damages are usually settled long before the personal injury portion of the claim is settled. Except in very rare cases, the insurance company is liable for your vehicle’s fair market value. Some exceptions may be your vehicle being a collector’s car or collector’s motorcycle, a show car or something like this.
The duty of the insurance company is to restore you to your pre-accident position. If you owe more on your vehicle than it is worth, you will obtain less from the insurance company than you owe on your vehicle loan. If repairing your vehicle would cost more than its value, the insurance company will deem it totaled. When your vehicle is totaled, you have one of two options:
- You may agree to the amount the insurance company offers for your vehicle’s value, then signing over the title to the insurance company, or
- You can keep your vehicle by accepting the insurance company’s reduction of the amount offered by its salvage value
If you choose to keep your vehicle under a salvaged title, the title will be changed to indicate the vehicle has been salvaged. If there is a substantial difference between the amount you are offered for your vehicle and its actual value, you may dispute this through a separate arbitration for the property damage. If you have a vehicle loan, the insurance company will send your settlement check to the lienholder, not to you. If the vehicle is drivable with only minimal damage, Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law will strive for a full and fair settlement amount for your property damage claim which will be sent to you from the insurance company.
When you receive a settlement for repairable damage, it is very important that you take your vehicle to a body shop for an inspection before cashing your settlement check. At the body shop, the insurance company will be contacted for a supplemental estimate. If you cash your settlement check before having this done, you may find out later that the damage will cost more than you through for repairs. If this happens, it will be very difficult to prove that the accident caused this damage, so the insurance company will not be held accountable for the additional damages amount.
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Personal Health Insurance and Medical Payments Coverage
Subrogation clauses in most health insurance companies’ contracts mean you will likely not benefit in filing a claim for accident injury treatment through your health insurance policy. Subrogation clauses specify that your health insurance company is entitled to collect amounts they have paid for your injury treatments after an accident. This means that when your personal injuries are settled with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you must use settlement funds to pay your health insurance company for what they provided in payment of hospital and doctor treatment fees.
Most motorcycle insurance policies include no-fault health insurance known as medical payments coverage. This means that when you suffer injuries in a motorcycle accident, the motorcycle insurance policy pays for your medical bills up to $5,000. When you file a claim against this coverage, it benefits you because each dollar paid for injury treatments is one dollar more for you to keep from your settlement or award. There is an exception to this, however. The insurance company may reduce your settlement amount if you use uninsured motorist benefits in addition to your medical payments benefits. This exception is because the one company will not pay you twice for your expensive medical costs.
Worker’s Compensation Claims
If you have a valid claim for worker’s compensation, you are required to repay the Industrial Commission for wage and medical payments made to you. But it is still important for you to file a worker’s compensation claim because this protects you for injuries in the future. Your statutes of limitations for personal injury are likely two years. If your injuries occur at work, you will still have that two year statute of limitations to adhere to, but Cantor Injury Lawyers cannot file a legal claim after one year without a reassignment gained from the Industrial Commission.
This means that your on-the-job accident personal injury claim must be filed within 12 months. The Industrial Commission’s reassignment will enable a second year for filing your claim by returning its ownership back to you.
Rental Car Reimbursement
It is never easy to gain reimbursement for a rental car after a motor vehicle accident. When you cannot drive your vehicle after the accident, and if the other party was fully at fault, they must provide you with a rental vehicle as replacement for yours while you gain repair or another vehicle. The at-fault party’s insurance company usually refuses to pay rental vehicle costs unless they believe their insured policyholder is 100 percent at fault in the accident. Convincing the insurance company that this is the case can take longer than you may think. Cantor Injury Lawyers will help you secure the resources for a rental vehicle through a lien, pending the resolution in determination of liability in your case.
If you have partial responsibility for your accident and are consider partly at fault, you will have to return the rental vehicle to the rental agency. You are then responsible for covering the rental vehicle costs. Most insurance companies do not allow rental car companies to bill them directly and many insurance companies will not even seek to provide reimbursement for the rental vehicle costs, even when you are free of any fault in your accident. This is why Cantor Injury Lawyers help clients of motor vehicle accidents by offering a rental vehicle lien.
Starting Your Lawsuit
When a fair and reasonable settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company even though the other at-fault party had insurance, the Cantor Team is likely to file a lawsuit on your behalf to solve the matter. Of course, we will first discuss this with you and provide information about the additional costs of litigation and how likely it may be that we will gain favorable outcome in your case. For some cases, settlement is not an option and a lawsuit must be filed from the start. In the contingency fee agreement we provide to you at the beginning of our representation, you give us permission to proceed in this manner if we determine that it is necessary to file a lawsuit in order to protect your rights.
The first steps in a lawsuit include delivering a document called a Complaint to the at-fault party. The Complaint outlines the lawsuit’s legal grounds and provides general information about your injuries. You are then called the Plaintiff in your case and the responsible driver in your car accident is called the Defendant. After the Defendant receives the documents, they must provide them to their insurance company. The insurance company has lawyers on staff or that represent them, so they send copies of these documents to those lawyers. Their defense lawyers then send us an Answer to the Complaint, a court document. When this Answer is filed and delivered, the case is called “at issue.”
Even after your lawsuit has begun, it is important to know that a settlement agreement may still be reached. This is often how pre-trial proceedings are ended, with a settlement achieved just before the trial is scheduled to being or just after it has started.
Discovery Regarding Your Motor Vehicle Accident Case
Once the Complaint and Answer are filed and the lawsuit has begun, you as the Plaintiff and the Defendant both have the right to gain information from each other. This is achieved through a formal process called Discovery. Discovery is disclosure of all relevant information on each side of the case to the other parties. Under Discovery, both plaintiffs and defendants are required to provide the information they have to the opposing legal team. Interrogatories are another part of Discovery, during which written questions sworn to be true are answered within 30 days and returned to the other side of the case. Depositions are another part of Discovery, during which the primary parties and witnesses in the case must provide sworn testimony in front of a court reporter.
Defense attorneys working for the insurance company may also ask you to submit to a medical exam by their chosen physician. Cantor Injury Lawyers may be able to be present with you for this exam or record it, in some cases. Defense doctors work for the defense, so it is common for them to provide reports that are bad for your side of the case and conflict with the exam results of your own physician.
Arizona law prohibits any secrets in civil lawsuits, as it is considered more likely for cases to achieve a settlement when both sides know all of the details of the other side’s cases. This helps keep courts free of cases that can still be settled at this point in the process.
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Mandatory Arbitration or Trial in Superior Court
When your claim amounts to less than $50,000, Mandatory Arbitration is required instead of a trial. This Mandatory Arbitration is different than arbitration for an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. The difference exists in this arbitration not being final judgment in your lawsuit.
For Mandatory Arbitration the court appoints a lawyer to serve as the arbitrator. The arbitrator hears all of the evidence for both sides and hears all of the motions. The court provides the date of your arbitration, when you and your legal team from Cantor Injury Lawyers will appear before the arbitrator. At that time, your lawyers present your evidence and call witnesses. The arbitrator decides the case, then provides that decision within ten days of the arbitration hearing. For Mandatory Arbitration, there are no juries. But if the decision of the arbitrator is not one considered reasonable for your case, it is possible for the Team to appeal by requesting a jury trial in Superior Court.
Most personal injury cases do not proceed to arbitration or trial. The majority achieve a settlement, even if that settlement is agreed upon just days before the arbitration or scheduled trial is set to begin. From the very start of your case, your Cantor Injury Lawyers team prepare it for trial or arbitration while knowing it will most likely settle. If we see that a settlement will not be achieved or recovery will not be as you deserve and we head toward arbitration or trial, we will meet with you to explain how this works. We will also provide insight regarding what to expect during the arbitration or trial. It is very critical that you cooperate during this process and help us to gather all of the information we need.
If you have ever filed a personal injury claim for another accident, injury at work or other matter, we need to know that before taking your case. If you have filed a lawsuit in the past, the insurance company in your case will have details about that past filing and they will know how much your settlement was, or what the arbitration award or jury verdict provided for you. This is because insurance companies have databases that track individuals’ personal injury claims.
This is why we need to know from the very beginning whether you have filed prior cases or suffered previous personal injury. It is always important to be fully honest with Injury Lawyers, so we may provide the most complete handling of your case. A lawyer is hindered in what he or she can do for you, when the other side has more information than your legal team or when you make inconsistent statements.
Costs in Your Case
The out-of-pocket expenses of your personal injury or auto accident claim are your sole responsibility. These are separate from your lawyer’s legal fees charged for their services and may include costs such as:
- Investigator’s fees
- Expert witness fees
- Long distance phone call tolls
- Court filing costs
- Service of process
- Jury fees
- Travel expenses
- Other costs
At Cantor Injury Lawyers, we advance some costs for your case. These include costs of investigation, court filings, process service, postage, photocopies, faxes and phone calls. The costs that we do not advance will not be incurred by us for you until we first discuss these charges with you. We are not permitted by the principles of Arizona Legal Ethical Rules to provide loans to you against an unrealized recovery.
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As you review the information provided on our website, remember that it is general. Your case is unique and will be handled on its own individual basis. When you are represented by a Cantor Injury Lawyers, you can call our team with your questions or to speak to paralegals and legal assistants at any time. These helpful professionals are able to answer many questions right away and serve as a quality liaison between you and the lawyers on your case. The legal assistants and paralegals work to help you have your questions answered and to solve any minor issues arising during your case proceedings.
At Cantor Injury Lawyers, we treat you as our friend in need rather than just as a nameless client. If you, one of your family members or one of your friends has been injured in a motorcycle or motor vehicle accident, we invite you to call us at (602) 254-2701 or submit your request on our “Contact Our Firm” link. If you click on the link, we will reply via email shortly. While many attorneys try to claim that they are aggressive, Cantor Injury Lawyers are truly “Beyond Aggressive!”