According to Rule 1.4 of the American Bar Association, lawyers should promptly inform clients about decisions requiring their consent, and keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases. But what do “prompt” and “reasonable” really mean? If a client does not hear from their personal injury attorney in days or even weeks, should it be assumed that nothing has happened with the case, or is it a sign that the attorney is not communicating? And if it’s the latter, how much time should go by before deciding to take the claim to another firm?
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The truth is that attorneys are busy, and often go weeks without hearing from opposing lawyers or insurance companies. But a good attorney should make it a priority to keep you up to date. For example, here at Kane Personal Injury, we make a point to update our clients at least once every two weeks, if not more frequently.
Because there is never an excuse to neglect clients. Sure, there might be valid reasons why you haven’t heard from your lawyer…but it could also be time to find a better option.
How Long Does a Claim Take?
Every personal injury case is different, so it’s hard to say exactly how long a claim takes. Many auto accidents settle in about 12 months, but some can take longer. Going behind the scenes of a legal claim can shine some light on what lawyers do with their time. You should receive updates within each of the following phases of the claim process.
1. Pre-Lawsuit Demand
Before even filing a lawsuit, an attorney will attempt to settle the case by sending a demand amount to the insurance company or defendant. A demand letter is not sent until the client reaches Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI, which is when the client and doctor agree that they have healed as much as possible. At this point, most expected medical bills have been received, so the number on the demand letter is accurate. Treatment for any injuries that come up after the letter is sent will not be included in the requested settlement amount.
Insurance companies usually have 30 days to agree to a settlement. If the insurance company wants to extend the deadline, you may hear from your attorney. If nothing comes up during those 30 days, you might not receive any calls until you receive a check.
2. Lawsuit Filing
When the insurance company or defendant refuses to settle, the attorney proceeds with a lawsuit. This can take up to a week, or longer if a medical expert’s affidavit is requested.
3. Service of the Summons
Around 1-2 weeks after a lawsuit is filed, the defendant receives a legal notice or “summons” letting them know they are being sued.
4. Defendant’s Answer
The defendant has 30 days to file an Answer, in which they usually deny allegations.
5. Written Discovery
This phase takes between 30 and 90 days. Your attorney will send record requests and subpoenas to 3rd parties, as well as produce written questions and requests for documents from the other party. Requests will include:
Interrogatories: Legal name and background information, as well as names of witnesses, experts, medical providers, and any other lawsuits or claims.
Requests for Production: Specific documents the defendant’s attorney plans to use, like photos of the accident, insurance documents, medical records, and investigation records.
Requests for Admissions: A chance for the defendant to admit a certain fact in order to narrow the dispute.
Subpoenas may require witnesses or documents to appear in as little as one week, while the typical response time to interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions is 30 days.
Within a few months of the first phase of written discovery, both the plaintiff and defendant give their depositions, and police officers and other witnesses will testify as to how they saw the accident play out.
Medical providers and other experts such as engineers will also give depositions, which can take longer due to scheduling conflicts.
7. Trial Setting
Typically 6 months after the lawsuit is filed, a judge will meet with both parties’ attorneys to discuss the case details. At this time a trial date will be set.
As you can see, there can be large gaps between phases. But it’s a red flag if your attorney is not communicating regularly regarding next steps or answering your questions.
What is the Best Way to Communicate with My Attorney?
Clients should always feel comfortable contacting their personal injury attorney, and should always expect a response by the next day. Phone conversations are a great way to bounce ideas off of one another, but your attorney should send follow-up emails after important verbal conversations to summarize discussions and verify you are both in agreement with how to move forward.
If you have questions that do not require an immediate phone conversation, you should send them in an email. Remember, there are never any stupid questions when it comes to your personal injury case.
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Reasons You May Not Hear From Your Personal Injury Attorney
If your attorney is not communicating with you, the following issues could be happening.
There is Nothing to Report
Lawyers have to play the waiting game just as clients do. The other party may not have sent paperwork, the insurance company might be creating delays, or there may be issues with scheduling a witness’s deposition. However, an attorney should let clients know what the holdup is and reassure them they will be the first to know when changes happen.
They are Waiting for Maximum Medical Improvement
If an attorney knows his client is still receiving treatment for injuries, he will not move forward with the case until all medical costs are known. Again, a good personal injury attorney will explain all of this up front.
Your Message Got Lost
Law offices are busy. Voicemails and emails can be overlooked, but if you follow up once and still don’t hear back, it could be a sign that you’re not a priority.
They Don’t Think the Client Needs to Know Everything
Attorneys are highly knowledgeable in their field, and they understand all the ins and outs of law suits. If your attorney doesn’t call you back or answer your email, it could be that he thinks you don’t need to be involved in everything having to do with your claim. If this is true, you should run the other way. Clients should be kept informed of what’s happening throughout their case, and if it is something they don’t understand, their attorney should explain it.
What to Do if Your Attorney is Not Communicating
Your attorney should be working for you. If you are constantly being ignored and feel like just another number, it’s time to contact the personal injury attorneys at Kane Law Firm. We keep our clients informed from the time we first discuss their claim until the day they walk away with the money they deserve. When you’re ready to work with a team that has your best interest at heart, contact one of our offices in Texas, New Mexico, or Illinois. If you are located in another state, reach out to a personal injury attorney near you.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.