For people who have never been through the injury claim process it can be confusing and daunting. While every claim can have its own complexities, below is a simplified description, an overview if you will, of what happens in the claim process if you have an Idaho accident or injury.
When someone causes a collision (the bad guy) and injures another person the injured person has a claim for damages. The injured person hires us and becomes our client. From that point on our role is to take care of the injured client to help them recover the full value, or as much of it as is possible, of the losses imposed on them by the bad guy.
We then deal with the bad guy’s liability insurance company in addressing the client’s claim. The bad guy is supposed to have liability insurance for three basic reasons. First, the law requires it. Second, liability insurance protects the assets of the bad guy from being taken by the injured person after a judgment in a lawsuit. Third, the liability insurance protects the injured person.
We generally try to resolve an injury claim by negotiating with the bad guy’s insurance company before filing suit. This negotiating requires us first to gather appropriate information and prepare a settlement offer or “demand package.” These can be very simple or very complex and include video records, photographs and a wide range of documents. Often this leads us to an agreed on resolution, but not always.
Under Idaho law, the bad guy’s insurance company has no duty to treat an injured person fairly. The insurance company’s only legal duty is to protect the assets of the bad guy up to the amount of insurance purchased, and hire a lawyer for the bad guy if he is sued.
An initial settlement package may be for the “insurance limits” or a specific amount. It is based on the actual scope of the injured client’s damages. While some damages are relatively easy to calculate (the medical bills clearly incurred from the collision) others are much harder. Thus, sometimes we will have have very substantial differences with the insurance company is in our estimation of the value of the claim. A more complete description of damages a client can claim here.
There is often a negotiation between the insurance company and the client (through us) in an effort to resolve a claim without filing a lawsuit. At some point the insurance company will make a final pre-suit offer.
A client always has the right to accept or reject the amount offered in settlement of a case. The lawyer might strongly believe it is an insufficient amount. The lawyer has the duty to consult with and advise the client. The lawyer offers opinions and gives advice but the client is the decision-maker.
It is only when a client chooses to reject the insurance company’s final offer, or if the insurance company decides it does not want to engage in pre-lawsuit negotiations, and at the client’s direction that a lawsuit is filed.
Lawsuits are long and complex processes that have no guaranteed outcome. There are multiple phases from initiation to discovery to motion practice to expert witness work to pretrial planning to the trial itself. From filing the lawsuit through trial usually take 12 to 18 months or so.
At trial, the jury may award whatever amount in damages it determines is appropriate after it has seen the evidence. That amount has nothing to do with the amounts of insurance coverage available or the amounts of any pretrial offers or demands. It is the exclusive province of the jury to determine the value of the damages incurred. If the jury awards is more than the insurance coverage the bad guy purchased then the procedure is to have the Sheriff “execute” on the assets of the bad guy and auction those assets off to pay off the judgment. If the bad guy does not own anything then no matter how big the judgment is does not matter all you can recover is the amount of liability insurance coverage available.
However, if the insured person has purchased underinsured motorists coverage that creates an additional pool of funds from which recovery for damages may be had. From the moment of the collision until resolution of your claim there can be all sorts of issues that arise.
If you have questions, call us for a free consultation. We help people all over Idaho.
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