It is important to contact an attorney promptly following an accident. The things you say and do during the first couple of days can have a lasting impact on your case. And while insurance companies may try to portray themselves as helpful and concerned for their insured, their ultimate goal is to reduce their own liability.
Once an insurance company receives notice of an accident, it assigns the case to a claims adjuster who investigates the accident and makes recommendations regarding whether and how much the insurance company should pay. At the initial stages of your case, your attorney works with the claims adjuster and eventually sends a demand that identifies your losses and proffers a settlement offer that reflects them.
The amount of time your attorney waits to send a demand may vary based on the complexities of the case, the severity of your injuries, and the nature of your treatment. Generally, attorneys wait until the facts of the case and extent of injuries are fairly well established so that they may negotiate from a position of strength.
The initial demand begins the negotiation process. If the insurance company fails to put forth a fair offer, your attorney may file suit or attempt to move the case to arbitration, at which point the insurance adjuster usually hands the case of to an in-house or contracted attorney. Negotiations generally continue throughout the process and many cases settle. But if not, either a panel of arbitrators or a jury must examine the evidence and ultimately render a decision.