How does the personal injury claim process work?

There are reputable liability insurers, and then there are the others. Our personal injury lawyers know which insurance companies require a lawsuit to get their attention. They’ll deny, delay and defend, so lawsuits may be the only way to get fair compensation for our clients. Other insurance companies take a more reasonable approach when they know that their policyholder was liable for an accident involving injuries. Sometimes we can reach a full and fair settlement with these insurance companies through a claim without ever having to walk up the courthouse stairs. Here’s a basic look at how the personal injury claims process works.
The letter of representation
Upon being retained, an attorney may forward a notice of representation to the insurer of the person responsible for the accident; most attorneys will do this by certified mail. An adjuster for the insurance company will respond and acknowledge an attorney’s representation of their client. The adjuster may also ask for copies of any medical bills, records or reports involved in the case.

Gathering the evidence
It is important that an attorney receives updates from their client on his or her current treatment and any new treating physicians or clinics. Usually, an attorney has already obtained medical authorizations from the client, so copies of medical bills, records, reports or the like may be obtained. When an attorney compiles these documents, they may photocopy and forward them to the adjuster.

The demand letter
After the client has been discharged from treatment, an attorney may obtain the final bills, records, reports and evidence of lost earnings resulting from the accident. This is when a complete and final assessment of the case can be made. Any issues of the client’s own comparative negligence are given due consideration in estimating the value of the case. A final medical report involving the nature and extent of the client’s injuries might be obtained from his or her treating physician. All final bills, records, reports and evidence of lost earnings are sent to the insurer with a demand for settlement at a specified sum of money.

Settlement discussions
Numerous discussions may be held between an attorney and the adjuster regarding the value of the case and settlement. DC personal injury lawyers are required to advise their client of any settlement offers from the insurer, and they will ordinarily recommend or not recommend settling at a certain amount. Regardless of legal recommendations, if a client wants to settle on an insurer’s offer, attorneys are required to settle the case.

Final settlement
If a settlement is reached, the insurance adjuster forwards a release of claims to be signed by the client and witnesses. The release discharges the insured person from any future claims, suits or demands related to the accident. Some insurers forward the settlement check with the release, while others wait for the signed and witnessed release to arrive before forwarding the settlement check. In accordance with a settlement statement that the client also signs, attorneys are paid pursuant to the retainer agreement with the client, costs advanced on the client’s behalf are reimbursed, any lien claimants are paid, and the client receives his or her net proceeds from settlement. As per the Internal Revenue Service, these proceeds are usually tax free since they’re treated as compensation for damages as opposed to income.

If the case doesn’t settle, the file may already be prepared for litigation. In this case, the lawsuit may need only be drafted, filed and served. This is when the actual litigation process begins.

c-c_origThanks to our friends and co-contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into personal injury claims process.

Cannon Hadfield Stieben, LLC Awards Scholarship

A little while back, we announced that we would be awarding a scholarship for the 2016 school year. The applications are in, and we are thrilled to announce that Lexi Clark from Colorado State University is the first recipient of the Cannon Hadfield Stieben Scholarship. Click through to read more.

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Lexi is a rising junior at CSU getting ready to apply to law schools when she graduates. She is a first generation high school graduate and successful college student. In addition, she works at least one job during the school year and multiple jobs in the summer to put herself through college. She has the drive and ambition to succeed as a lawyer, and we wish her the very best.

Congratulations Lexi!

3 Tips on Taking Depositions in a Motorcycle Accident Case

Depositions are a common practice in the adjudication of any personal injury auto accident claims, and it is very easy to damage your case based on statements in a recorded setting. A deposition is a testimony taken by a skilled New York court reporter, conducted by a legal representative in a civil tort lawsuit, that is aimed at revealing information that may not be available on an official accident report. In many ways, it is a hunting expedition where practically anything is in season. Here are few tips when facing a deposition.

1. Be Prepared for Detailed Questioning
Motorcycle riders are often considered second-class travelers on the roadways. When the legal issue is a personal injury resulting from a motorcycle accident, there are some unwritten assumptions about bikers that they are dangerous motorists and often act illegally. Be prepared for detailed and intrusive questions from a defending attorney if you are biker who has been injured in an accident, even in light of seemingly obvious negligence by the responding party. Maintaining composure can be difficult, but it should be your basic frame of mind. Remember, you may be getting some trick questions.

2. Do Not Answer What is Not Asked
Always answer questions directly and succinctly. Do not offer additional information. Remember that the questioning attorney is looking for additional information beyond the scope of the official accident report, and there may be questions pertaining to any statement given to police officers. The purpose of this line of questioning is to cast doubt on your claim of injury severeness or contribution to the accident. Comparative negligence is a component of all accident cases and the defending attorney will likely be focused on increasing your comparative negligence percentage. Actually, depending on the state of occurrence, any contribution to the cause of the accident might eliminate a claim in some states while others maintain the modified comparative negligence model of 50% contribution to the accident to invalidate a claim.

3. Avoid Admitting Fault in the Accident
Any amount of fault assigned to an injured plaintiff will probably impact the amount of financial damage recovery for which they are eligible. Even in obvious cases of respondent negligence, the answers given in a deposition may be used as bargaining leverage against your claim when a settlement is being negotiated. The higher your comparative negligence percentage, the lower your settlement eligibility. Except for the few states that use pure contributory negligence, all accident victims are assessed for fault in the accident and the awards are discounted based on the fault percentage of the injured plaintiffs. In no state can an accident victim be paid damages for accidents they cause completely, and in states that use pure comparative negligence, any amount over 50% can eliminate validity of a claim. Luckily, in most states, even those who are largely at fault for an accident will likely receive some level of compensation when appropriate insurance levels are maintained by the negligent parties. But fault is crucial in every element of a personal injury claim, regardless of the state of jurisdiction.

Remember that a deposition could very well be a precursor to an actual trial when a defending legal counsel thinks they can have the claim dismissed by a jury. Subsequently, an injured plaintiff may also take the case to trial when there is significant insurance coverage available and the respondent is potentially guilty of gross negligence that could result in punitive damages. Your case may rest on your deposition, so being prepared is essential. As a matter of fact, if you are claiming damages based on an uninsured or underinsured clause on your personal policy, the adversarial insurance company might be your own insurance provider. It is clear that the need for an experienced and aggressive personal injury attorney is extremely helpful in any injury claim stemming from a motorcycle accident, especially when stereotypes may be invoked by the defendant. As a rule of thumb, one should be well prepared when being deposed.

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Thanks to our friends and co-contributors from Veritext Legal Solutions for their added insight into important deposition tips.

CannonLaw, LLC is closing, but . . .

don’t worry, it’s rising again as Cannon Hadfield Stieben, LLC on Monday May 2. Yep, I’m officially done with solo practice and moving on to bigger, hopefully better, adventures. It’s been a great experience, but I think the future is brighter with a partner. It’s going to be nice to have another lawyer in the office to bounce ideas off, it should allow us to provide even better legal services, and its going to be a whole lot easier to leave the office for vacation now there’s someone to cover for me.

So who is this Mr. Hadfield? Well, the short answer is that he’s Gordon Hadfield. I have updated the Team section of the website if you want to check out his full bio and headshot. For the idle, I’ve copied the short form Bio below.

It’s going to be a little strange not running my own solo show any more, but I’m excited to be working with Gordon full time. We’ve co-counseled a couple of cases together, and we work well together. Most importantly, he is an excellent attorney who does fantastic work for his clients.

Gordon Hadfield
Gordon Hadfield is a trial lawyer whose practice focuses on civil litigation. Gordon has litigated cases in numerous venues, including Colorado State Courts and federal district courts in Colorado, Illinois, and Florida. He has taken or defended almost 100 depositions, and he has tried cases to both juries and the court.

Gordon also has extensive appellate experience. He has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., and the Colorado Court of Appeals. He has also assisted clients in arbitration, mediation, and administrative hearings. Prior to practicing in Fort Collins, Gordon worked for a large, AmLaw 100 firm in Denver, Colorado.

Infographic – Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry

It’s almost cliché to think that servers in restaurants are the victims of sexual harassment. But the statistics are even worse than you might imagine. In fact, almost 80% of female restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment by coworkers. If you want your mind blown by more statistics like that, click through the link below.

Should I sign a Medical Release for an Insurance Company?

If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you’ve probably received a bunch of letters from insurance companies. They ask who your doctors are, what treatment you’ve received, whether you’re willing to give them a recorded statement, and all sorts of other things. One form that is usually included in the flood of letters is a medical release. I’ve had a number of people come to me asking whether they should sign it. The short answer is probably not, but for a longer look at the issue, click through to read the full article. Continue reading “Should I sign a Medical Release for an Insurance Company?”

What Can I Recover in a Personal Injury Case?

3150222Most personal injury cases don’t hinge on who was to blame for the injuries. Usually it’s pretty obvious who caused a car accident. But what you are able to recover in a personal injury case is sometimes less clear. Even when you know the law, it can get confusing. It’s worth knowing the rules though. That way you won’t accept the insurance company’s low-ball offer. Continue reading “What Can I Recover in a Personal Injury Case?”

What Makes a Good Personal Injury Case

2656735The question I get asked most often by my personal injury clients is this: “Do I have a good case?” It’s impossible to answer that question in detail without knowing a lot about a particular case. But I’ve developed a 4 step analysis of a case to estimate whether it is worth pursuing. Check after the break to find out more. Continue reading “What Makes a Good Personal Injury Case”

Independent Contractors vs. Employees

1411400594One way employers have tried to get around employment laws to make people working for them sign “Independent Contractor Agreements.” That way, they don’t have to pay overtime, unemployment, or obey a lot of other rules. Unfortunately for them, the courts are wise to their games and look beyond what a worker is called by the employer. In fact, the Colorado Supreme Court published two cases this year examining when someone is an employee and when they are an independent contractor. Click below to find out how to tell the difference. Continue reading “Independent Contractors vs. Employees”

At Will Employment in Colorado

At-will employment means that either an employee or an employer can end their relationship at any time for any reason. In practice, it means that your employer can fire you at any time for any reason at all or even for no reason. It’s the default rule in every state except Montana. Still, just because it’s the default, doesn’t mean all fired employees have are out of luck. In Colorado, there are a lot of exceptions that limit when and why an employer can fire someone despite it being an at-will state. Continue reading “At Will Employment in Colorado”