Pundits commonly claim that Americans are overly litigious, and run to the courts with every minor dispute. The example of personal injury cases shows that this is not true. The vast majority of personal injury cases, including car accidents, are settled without involvement of the courts. Instead, they are resolved in most instances by negotiation and mediation.
Someone who is injured in a car accident may or may not agree to be taken to the hospital immediately. Many people involved in car accidents feel fine by the side of the road, perhaps due to adrenaline or simply not wanting to complain. This isn’t necessarily the best response. Soft tissue injuries such as commonly occur in car accidents sometimes don’t manifest themselves until a day or even several days later. Thus, from a legal point of view, it is far better to err on the side of caution and seek immediate medical relief if there is any pain or discomfort at all following an accident. The insurance company will use the victim’s failure to seek medical attention as an excuse to minimize the seriousness of the claim.
When a person does seek medical care for injuries stemming from a car accident, it is important that the prescribed course of treatment be followed strictly. For example, if a doctor prescribes ten sessions of physical therapy, it is important that the patient attend all ten sessions, on time, and without missing any of them. The insurance company will check the patient’s attendance record and deduct for missed sessions or sessions that are cut short.
Many medical payments can be charged to the person's automobile insurance, at least for a few thousand dollars. Other medical providers, who learn that the injuries arise from an automobile accident, will agree to provide service if the attorney agrees to reimburse the medical provider from the proceeds of any recovery. This can be important if the course of treatment is prolonged and the bills exceed the ability of the accident victim to pay.
Eventually, a person will reach what is known as the maximum medical improvement. This is the point where an injured person reaches a state such that his or her condition cannot be improved any further with medical treatment. This is a point where a settlement might be reached with the insurance company. All of the medical bills and papers, estimates of damage to any vehicle or property, and other types of damages that may be involved are collected. Often a demand letter will be sent to the insurance carrier describing the injuries incurred by the victim, together with an explanation of why certain expenses should be reimbursed. The insurance company will consider the demand letter and usually respond with an offer for a fraction of the amount claimed. What follows is a process of negotiation that usually, but not always, results in some form of agreement. The process can include threats, bluffs, posturing, and braggadocio, much like two peacocks in the barnyard strutting and circling in some kind of ritual.
Not all cases are settled. Where there is a disagreement, then the cases proceed to court. This is nothing that people should be afraid of or fear. The legal system is set up to decide cases like this, and with patience the case will eventually come to trial. There will also be occasions during the course of litigation when the legal system encourages mediation and informal resolutions. Because the court system is not well known to most laypersons, it is important to have an attorney to assist in this process. An attorney can assist in gaining the best settlement, and offer an explanation for some of the procedures that at times may seem counter-intuitive.