The average injury-related hospital bill in Kentucky is over $100,000. Frequently, health insurance companies refuse to pay these costs, citing liability issues. The medical bills, along with additional economic losses like property damage and lost wages, often send victims into a financial tailspin. So, car crash victims need money to put their lives back together. And, that money should never come from their own pockets.
A Lexington personal injury lawyer can usually obtain compensation for these economic losses, as well as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and other noneconomic losses.
Typically, these claims settle out of court. But the settlement process is rarely quick. In fact, fast settlements are usually a bad sign. These attorneys might take the first settlement offer or not thoroughly investigate the claim. In either case, the settlement could be for pennies on the dollar. Nevertheless, we know waiting is frustrating. So, here is a general outline of what will happen in a car crash claim.
Investigating the Facts
Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in personal injury cases. They must establish negligence, which is a lack of ordinary or statutory care, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, all successful claims are built on strong foundations of solid evidence.
In many situations, the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony, the police accident report, and medical bills are sufficient to establish liability. But that’s not always true. Furthermore, this basic evidence might not be enough to overcome contributory negligence and other insurance company defenses.
The police accident report is a good example. This report is quite often incomplete or inaccurate. Even the most experienced first responder is not an accident reconstruction specialist. So, the report’s reconstruction portion is often little more than an educated guess. Furthermore, if the victim was killed or seriously injured, the report probably only contains one side of the story.
Frequently, electronic evidence, like the Event Data Recorder, fills in the gap. Much like a commercial airliner’s black box flight data recorder, an EDR measures and records things like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle,
- Engine RPM, and
- Brake application.
Items like these are often very compelling in negligence cases. Additionally, unlike an eyewitness, a computer is never mistaken, biased, or otherwise incompetent.
EDRs are not always available. Attorneys must overcome some obstacles, usually vehicle information privacy laws and technical issues, before they can access, download, and present EDR information in court.
Determining the Settlement Value
After gathering as much evidence as possible, and once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, an attorney can accurately determine a claim’s settlement value. This figure is usually all current and future economic losses, as well as a reasonable amount of noneconomic losses.
Typically, to determine things like pain and suffering, an attorney multiplies the economic losses by two, three, or four, depending on the evidence in the case and some other factors. These factors often include the strength of any insurance company defenses and the victim’s motivation to settle quickly.
The next step is to send a demand letter to the insurance company. If liability is reasonably clear, the insurance company has a duty to settle the claim within a few weeks. However, liability is rarely that clear. So, most claims proceed to the next level.
Filing Legal Action
To put pressure on the insurance company to settle, and also to protect the victim’s legal rights, most attorneys file legal paperwork at this point.
Generally, insurance companies immediately file procedural motions which seek to have the case thrown out of court. As long as there is solid evidence to support the victim/plaintiff’s claims, these motions rarely succeed.
The discovery phase is next. Kentucky law requires both sides to put all their cards on the table. Frequently, discovery includes both written discovery, like document production, and oral discovery, like depositions.
If the parties cannot settle the case on their own, most Central Kentucky judges appoint mediators. If both sides negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful.
Most car crash claims settle out of court, but they usually do not settle right away. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.