After a car accident, you could recover damages from the at-fault driver. However, it does take some time to receive a settlement. You should contact a Richmond car accident lawyer as soon as possible to expedite the process. While you are waiting for your medical expenses to come in, your attorney can work on reviewing your case and drafting a demand letter.
In most cases, you have to wait until your treatment is complete or you are at the maximum medical improvement. If doctors expect your injuries to heal within a few weeks, it’s better to wait so that you have all of your medical expenses.
However, if doctors expect your injuries to cause long-term or permanent disabilities, your attorney will work with medical professionals to determine the cost of ongoing and future medical care.
In some cases, your doctors might work with your attorney to determine how much short-term medical treatment will cost so that your attorney can forward a demand letter to the defendant before you recover.
For example, if you had one surgery but need another surgery, and your doctors expect you to recover fully, your attorney could start the settlement process if doctors are willing to estimate the cost of your medical care for the next several weeks.
What Is a Demand Package?
Once your attorney has all of your medical expenses or knows how much your medical care will cost for the next several weeks, he or she can send a demand letter to the defendant. The demand letter includes your injuries, copies of your medical expenses, explanations of other losses, such as lost wages, and if you lost a loved one in a car accident, copies of funeral expenses, and other end-of-life expenses.
The demand letter also includes a timeframe for the defendant to respond. If the defendant does not respond to the demand letter, your case will likely go to litigation. However, most insurance companies respond to demand letters, either with a denial or with a counteroffer.
If your attorney receives a denial, your case probably goes to litigation. If your attorney receives a counteroffer, he or she will contact you to discuss the insurance company’s offer. If you agree that the offer is fair and reasonable, you move onto the next steps. However, if you believe that the offer is unfair and/or unreasonable, you can either submit a counteroffer to the insurance company’s counteroffer or move to litigation. Your attorney will always discuss your options with you.
Paying Medical Expenses Before Settlement
During the time you are waiting for the settlement agreement, your doctors might want to collect for the medical expenses you incurred. You can use your auto insurance and your health insurance to cover many of your medical expenses. Depending on your auto insurance policy, you could also recover lost wages.
If you were not at fault for the accident, your insurance companies would want you to reimburse it, and rightly so. The at-fault driver should pay. Thus, once your attorney receives your check, he or she will use part of that money to reimburse your insurance company.
Statute of Limitations for Litigation
Keep in mind that you have just two years to file a lawsuit. Your recovery and the settlement process take some of this time, so it is to your benefit to contact a car accident attorney sooner rather than later.
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, the decedent’s personal representative must bring the lawsuit, and he or she has two years from the date of death to do so.
After Accepting a Settlement Offer
Once you agree to the insurance company’s offer, you must take several steps before receiving your check.
Sign the Settlement Agreement and Other Forms
Either your attorney or the insurance defendant’s attorney will draft a settlement agreement. You then review the agreement to ensure that everything you agreed to is in it, including the amount of the settlement. You then sign and notarize the agreement and a release for the insurance company. The release states that you have no further claim on the insurance company. Your attorney forwards the settlement agreement and release to the insurance company.
This process could take a couple of days to several weeks, depending on whether you, your attorney, or the insurance company requests changes to the agreement.
Once the insurance company receives the settlement agreement and the release, it processes the documents and then cuts a check. The insurance company then forwards the check to your attorney. This step usually takes up to 10 business days.
Receipt of the Check
Once your attorney receives the check, they will deposit it into their trust account. It could take up to 15 days for the check to clear, depending on the amount. Your attorney cannot take action until the check clears—they need to ensure that the check is good.
Once the check clears, your attorney pays any outstanding medical expenses you have, reimbursements to your insurance company, attorneys fees from previous lawyers, and child support obligations. Your attorney then deducts his fees and any expenses you incurred, including investigation expenses and legal expenses, such as those for depositions and arbitration. This step could take up to 10 days to complete.
Receiving Your Settlement Check
Once the attorney pays your outstanding debt, she then cuts a check for the balance to you. You can deposit the check in your bank account to use as you please.
However, if your injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities, be sure to keep enough money to cover those expenses.
Do not count on your health insurance, especially if your injuries and/or disabilities do not allow you to work or significantly decrease your earning capacity.