If you are injured due to the actions of another party, hiring a professional personal injury lawyer is the best way to secure proper compensation for your losses, damaging, and any pain and suffering that you have endured. Contrary to popular belief, this is true even if you have no plans to take your case to trial. In fact, the law office of Rodney K. Okano specializes in obtaining fair compensation through alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as settlement negotiations, rather than going to trial.
The time it takes to secure fair compensation without going to court depends heavily on the particulars of your case. For example, a case involving permanent disability usually takes longer to settle out of court than one involving a broken arm that will completely heal in 4-8 months.
Assuming that your case is ultimately settled out of court (roughly 95 percent of them are), the following checklist details every step of the process.
1. You Call Us
Your initial call allows us to schedule a meeting with you to discuss the details of your case.
2. Your First Meeting
Your first meeting with your personal injury lawyer is one of the most important steps of the entire process. We’ll discuss exactly what happened and all of the legal principles you can use to argue your case. We also complete a thorough assessment of what your claim may be worth, information that may be difficult to determine without a law office on your side.
3. Moving Forward
If we determine your case to be sound, we will discuss a contingency fee (we only get paid if you collect on your claim) and sign a retainer agreement. At this stage, we’ll also formally create a file in your case.
4. Getting To Work
At first, we prepare your case as if it was going to trial. Again, a court appearance probably won’t actually happen. We prepare a trial case anyway to ensure that we don’t miss any important details that will help us negotiate the best possible settlement for you.
5. Providing Notice
We also notify the person or persons at fault for your injury of your intention to sue through a formal Notice Letter. These individuals are called “tortfeasors” and are likely to hire their own lawyer or insurance adjuster to investigate and hopefully settle your claim. Whoever they hire will call us to let us know that they are working on the case.
6. Meeting The Other Side
Our first meeting with representatives of the other side will take place at our law office unless you are too injured to travel, in which case we’ll meet at your home. You will provide your version of what transpired to the insurance adjuster, who will determine how credible your testimony is. We’ll also discuss how the file is progressing, such as medical documents, tax information, and other materials required to substantiate your claim.
7. Another Doctor Appointment
Sometimes, the insurance adjuster hires their own physician for a second opinion on your injuries.
8. Building Your Case
While you recover, we’re hard at work gathering the information needed to prove your claim. We ask your physicians to provide any documentation that supports your claim to us while ensuring that they don’t share it with any unauthorized parties.
We also research expert witnesses to back your claim, including doctors to provide medical records and actuarial consultants to prepare loss of income statements. We select these individuals with a legal context in mind, ensuring that we can use what they give us.
If needed, we will travel to the scene of your accident and take photographs that help substantiate your claim. We’ll also contact witnesses on your behalf to add their testimony to the case we are building.
We’ll also meet with you multiple times to determine how your recovery is going. The manner in which your injuries have affected you and your family is a key part of your case. Photos of your injuries may also be taken.
We may hire a private investigator to help us gather the materials we need. You will always be consulted before we take this step though.
In our industry, Crystallization refers to the point in your recovery at which you stop getting better or worse. Put another way; you are as healed as you are going to get. We cannot obtain some of the medical reports we may need until you reach this stage.
10. Talking Dollars and Cents
Now that all of the particulars of your claim are known, it is possible to set realistic compensation targets. We will advise you on how much money we think you could get and what your final settlement might look like. It’s worth noting that we will never settle your claim without your consent to the terms.
We also determine the quantum, or value of your claim if you went to court and won, at this stage. This is useful information to have as you are contemplating settlement offers.
11. A Comprehensive Settlement Brief
Next, we prepare a document summarizing all of the particulars of your case, including your version of events, how your injuries have impacted you and your family, medical records and bills, summarized versions of all of the expert testimony we obtained, witness statements, and legal research. Finally, we assign a monetary value to each aspect of your claim to arrive at a total compensation amount. You will approve this amount before we send it to the other side.
Once the insurance adjuster and lawyer representing the other side has had a chance to review our settlement brief, we will discuss the case in person or by telephone to attempt to negotiate a deal. If their offer meets your needs, we’ll accept it.
Once a deal is struck, the other side will send our law office a check in the agreed upon amount and a release form for you to sign that guarantees that you will never sue over this issue again. We wait for the check to clear, deduct our agreed fee, and deliver the compensation to you with a full letter detailing everything we did to earn it. Your case is completed!