Your Guide to:
STAGES OF AN ACCIDENT
to expect during
your auto accident
In Auto Accident Cases, the process of getting
recovery can be very frustrating.
MOST FRUSTRATION COMES FROM NOT KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT,
WHICH IS WHY I CREATED THIS GUIDE TO HELP YOU THROUGH THE PROCESS.
Multiplying your frustration are stories of people that
have had their case settled in just a few months or even
weeks. Some cases can be resolved quickly, but whether yours
does depends on many factors. It is important to understand
the stages so that you can better understand your case and
know what to expect.
Most cases have seven stages: (1) injury, (2) treatment,
(3) investigation, (4) negotiations, (5) ﬁling the lawsuit, (6)
mediation, and (7) trial. Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
1 S. Memorial Drive, 11th Floor
St. Louis, MO 63102
THE STAGES OF AN
AUTO ACCIDENT STAGE #1
CASE: The injury stage
Stage 1 A case or claim starts when an see a doctor. Do not worry about
injury has occurred, caused by a whether you have a case until after
negligent party (a/k/a tortfeasor). you have seen a doctor. Your ﬁrst
For example, when the car wreck worry should always by your health.
takes place. Things you can do to help your
Treatment Normally the event that caused case: besides seeking treatment, you
the injury is over quickly, but that might ask if there is any evidence
event usually leads to months of you need to gather. If you are in a
pain. For auto accident cases, the wreck, get names, addresses, and
Stage 3 statutes of limitation for Missouri phone numbers of witnesses. If you
Investigation and Illinois is ﬁve years and two have been to the emergency room,
years, respectively. This requires a save the papers, bills and receipts
suit to be ﬁled within ﬁve years (MO) you receive. If you have been given
or two years (IL). Thus, determining things from the person who caused
Stage 4 when your injury occurred is your injury, save them. In short, save
important so your attorney knows anything germane.
what date you have to ﬁle suit. If you were in a wreck, save
Be careful. In Illinois, you only repair bills and estimates. If people
have one year to ﬁle suit in some give you business cards, save them. A
Filing a cases dealing with government wise policy is to get a folder or
Lawsuit* entities. In other instances, you may notebook and start putting
have to give notice to a state agency everything in it.
within few months or weeks of the
Stage 6 injury, even though the statute of
Mediation* limitation doesn’t expire for several
What you should do if you have
been injured: the number one thing
Stage 7 to do is get treatment. If you're hurt,
STAGE #2 WAYS TO PAY
The treatment stage
The treatment stage is by far the most getting someone to treat you. If you
important part of your case. Without
someone to document your injuries,
have health insurance, the problem you DURING YOUR CASE
you don’t have a case. may have is simply getting through (IN ORDER FROM BEST TO WORST)
your health insurance's red tape. If you
During this stage, the most
don't, the biggest problem is paying for Medical
important thing for you to do is get
medical treatment. Get medical 1 coverage on
Lawyers sometimes have doctors
treatment because if you are hurt, you auto policy
that they can refer you to who will
need to get better. That’s true
extend credit and wait for Health
whether you have a case or
Settling payment until the end of 2 insurance,
not. Don’t wait to ﬁnd out
the case. That may be the Medicaid, or
if you have a case during treatment Medicare
would be like only way you can go to
because only a fool
the doctor. Make payment
would allow his injuries buying a car you
Its our policy to arrangements
to fester just because he have never seen 3 with your
recommend that you seek
might not have a case. or driven. doctor
help through you own
That said, during this stage,
insurance ﬁrst. Although this Have your
your second concern should be
may increase your own personal hassle, doctor paid
gathering evidence. You should consider 4 out of the
hiring a lawyer at this stage as well so you avoid being personally liable for settlement (on
he can gather and preserve evidence for your bills if you cannot recover. a lien basis)
Additionally, insurance companies
try to prejudice juries by introducing *CALL MY OFFICE IF YOU HAVE
Your case cannot and should not QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS LIST
the fact that the lawyer helped you get
settle at this point. Settling during
to the doctor. If you don't have
treatment would be like buying a car
insurance, you should probably call
you have never seen or driven. You Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
some doctors and see if they will take 1 S. Memorial Drive, 11th Floor
have no idea what problems it has or St. Louis, MO 63102
you without a lawyer and without 314-270-2273/573-268-7316
what condition it is in. insurance. If you ﬁnd one, go see him. Tyson@ArchDefender.com
Complete treatment and allow your
If you have been turned down
doctors to determine what problems
several times, try contacting your
you have now, and what problems you
lawyer to see if he can get you to a
may have in the future.
The possible problems you may have
at this stage are varied. The biggest is
The investigation stage
Actually, investigation starts at the beginning of lawyer and let him know. Your lawyer can then order
the case and is usually carried on by a number of your bills and records promptly. Second, make sure you
people. have told your attorney about all of the doctors you have
In a car wreck, the investigation may begin seen. If you have kept a folder/notebook and turned that
immediately when someone writes down the names and over to your lawyer, this should be no problem.
addresses of the people involved and any witnesses. It is possible that your treatment could carry on so
In the process of the case, there is a period after long that a suit will have to be ﬁled before the
which you have completed treatment that your lawyer investigation is complete. The statute of limitations will
may is reviewing the case. Normally, the attorney will dictate the latest time to ﬁle suit. Make sure you consult
order copies of your medical records and bill and other your attorney to determine the appropriate statute of
documents in order to determine the value of your case. limitations.
Though there may be little for you to do at this time,
INVESTIGATING THE SCENE
you should not ignore your ability to help at this stage.
While today many cell phones include a camera, they
Keep a folder and collect every bill, letter, and anything
lack the accuracy to fully detail the scene of an auto
you get that concerns your case. accident. Even if a camera is on-site at the time of
When several things have been gathered, take them the accident, an expert should be sent to establish a
to your lawyer’s ofﬁce. Your attorney can sort out what full, accurate photographic record.
is important and preserve the evidence for use at trial or
during negotiations. INVESTIGATING RECORDS
In an auto accident case, the backgrounds of the
If you have completed treatment, you may be anxious
parties involved may have information that supports
to settle your case, but you need to understand that you your claim. From up-to-date professional licensing to
lawyer needs to get copies of the medical records, bills, a criminal background check, make sure to uncover
reports, and sometimes witness statements or every detail. Even speciﬁc sections of road may have
governmental records to ascertain a value on your case. a paper trail of previous incidents that can help
establish liability in your case.
This process usually takes about two to six months to get
those records and bills. Your case can sometimes be
delayed because those having your records may not It is important to preserve the testimony of
respond promptly. witnesses, as it may come into play months or even
You can help at this stage by doing two things. First, years after the time of the accident. Capture all
at the moment your doctor has released you, call your relevant information and record it in a manner that
will make it usable in court (if necessary).
a suit or claim against that driver.
Car insurance normally includes
liability insurance, so the insurance
company will pay you if it believes
The negotiation stage the other driver is responsible for
causing the wreck.
Once you have completed you’ve likely heard to describe Problems preventing settlement:
treatment, and your lawyer has all liability is “negligence,” but this is the most common problems
your medical records and bills, your not entirely accurate. Although preventing settlement are disputed
attorney will usually forward that negligence does include the failure to liability, disputed injury, or disputed
on to the insurance company's use ordinary care, to prove damages (when the extent of the
adjuster. negligence, you must also prove injury is disputed).
damages. Disputed liability: when the
Most of the time, your attorney
Damages are the likely amount of insurance company says it is denying
will make a "demand," which is an
money that a jury would ﬁnd you are liability, it is claiming that its insured
initial offer to settle for a certain
to receive as compensation. Although (the person you claim caused the
amount. The insurance company
there may be other factors, most of accident) is not legally responsible.
adjuster will review the records, bills,
the time damages are determined by The insurance company may even be
and any information they have
four basic elements: (1) lost wages, claiming that you caused the wreck,
gathered in their own investigation.
(2) medical bills, (3) impairment, and in which case you may want to
The negotiation process often
(4) physical pain and mental anguish. contact your insurance company to
resembles someone trying to sell an
Role of insurance: You may be defend you.
item at a pawn shop. Your lawyer
wondering why are we talking about Disputed injury: Most disputes
will start high and the insurance
liability when there is an insurance revolve around injury. The insurance
company will start low. The process
policy involved. There is a very company or defendant may be more
continues until someone says, “deal.”
common misperception that an than willing to admit they caused an
The critical thing is determining
insurance policy will pay damages accident, but not that they hurt you.
what your case is worth. There are
regardless of the facts. Although And even more often, they deny they
two basic concepts that determine
there are some types of policies out hurt you very badly.
the value—Liability and Damages
there that do, the vast majority of Prior Injuries: It is very
(this also happens to be the key
cases involve liability insurance. important if you want to protect the
elements of “negligence”).
Liability insurance is not value of your case to let your lawyer
Liability is the likelihood that a
insurance that covers the injured know about any prior claims or
jury will hold the defendant
person. It is insurance that covers injuries. Prior cases can be found in
responsible under the law for injuries
the negligent person or company for public records, and if you have had a
you have suffered. Liability can be
claims brought against them. For prior claim, the insurance company
very complicated and turns strictly
example, if you are rear-ended by will have access to this information
on the facts of a case. The legal term
another driver, you will have to bring through a shared database.
If you forget about a prior claim, have a realistic grasp of what their
or lie about it, it will likely be case is worth. Ignore other cases
brought up to embarrass you. Thus, and speak candidly with your
you hide prior claims and injuries at attorney about your case. Most
your peril. cases are worth far less than you
Note that if an insurance think.
company has information about
other claims, they may be unwilling 10 QUICK AND EASY NEGOTIATION TIPS
or reluctant to pay your claim. They 1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
may believe the injuries you are 2. Listen to the other side and try to understand their
now claiming are the same injuries position.
you have claimed in the past. If this 3. Do your homework beforehand.
is the case, most respectable 4. Always be willing to walk away.
attorneys will ﬁle suit right away. 5. Don’t be in a hurry.
Insufﬁcient Information: 6. Be optimistic and expect the best outcome (trust me,
Another major problem when trying it’s proven to work).
to settle is missing or insufﬁcient 7. Focus on the other side’s worries and concerns to
information. Many times there may understand where to attack.
be questions raised that can't be 8. Present your offer in a way that shows how the other
answered without a suit. Court side’s needs are being met.
cases give both sides the right to 9. Don’t take the negotiations personally.
issue subpoenas that can compel 10.Don’t give something away without getting something
people to testify and turn over in return.
documents. Before a case is ﬁled,
people can only make requests, and
Settlement or Lawsuit: If you
they have little authority to force
cannot get a decent offer to settle,
anyone to cooperate..
you will have to ﬁle suit. Before suit
Witnesses may not be willing to
is ﬁled, you need to be aware that in
give a statement as to who had
most cases, additional expenses will
green or red light. And even if they
decrease the amount you get. Thus,
are, without examination by both
if your lawyer is advising you to
sides, it may be impossible to
take an offer, and you want to ﬁle
decipher each side’s story. Thus,
suit, you may be reducing your net
many times a case has to be ﬁled
recovery. Thus, even if an offer goes
before either side is ready to settle.
up after suit, you may receive less.
Have realistic expectations:
So, be realistic and listen to what
another big reason cases do not
your attorney tells you very closely.
settle promptly is one side does not
Filing a lawsuit
Filing a Lawsuit DISCOVERY: this is the most time DOCUMENT DISCOVERY: During
Litigation & Lawsuit: This is the consuming part of the case, and after the entire process, the opposing
stage where suit is ﬁled and your the answer is ﬁled, it can continue attorney will request documents from
lawyer starts dealing directly with the right up to the time of trial. witnesses and anyone else who might
insurance company’s lawyer. This WRITTEN DISCOVERY: The case have knowledge of the case. The
stage has several moving parts, which typically begins with written opposing lawyer will always request
typically occurs in the following order: discovery, usually called your medical records caused by the
FILING SUIT: a suit is ﬁled with interrogatories (which is legalese for auto accident using medical releases
the court. A judge is normally assigned written questions), requests for you will be required to sign during
and a cause number given to the ﬁle. A production (which request you to turn written discovery. Take note that the
suit consists of allegations informing over documents, pictures, and the opposing attorney will search for past
the court and the defendant of the like), and may include some other claims and lawsuits. The insurance
nature of your claims. general information. Another type of companies share a database of claims,
SERVICE: After suit is ﬁled, the written discovery is requests for so any past claims will be found.
court issues papers that tell the admissions, which requires you to
defendant to answer the lawsuit. This admit or deny certain facts. Take note that the opposing
is given to either a sheriff or a process DEPOSITIONS: After written attorney will search for past
server. The sheriff or process server discovery is exchanged, the parties claims and lawsuits. The
typically arrange to take depositions. insurance companies share
ﬁnds the defendant and serves the
a database of claims, so any
defendant the papers. If a defendant is A deposition is a live question and past claims will be found.
hard to ﬁnd, this could take months, answer session where the attorney
but typically takes less than 30 days. poses a series of questions to the
ANSWER: once the defendant is opposing party. A court reporter will NEGOTIATION AND
served, he has 30 days to ﬁle an type down every question and answer SETTLEMENT: If you ﬁled a lawsuit,
answer. The defendant answers by to create a written record, just like in it was likely because negotiations fell
ﬁling written papers with the court court. apart. Throughout discovery, both
denying your claims and giving a copy This is one of the most important sides will learn more about the case,
to your lawyer. If the defendant does parts of your case, so be sure to TELL which may spark more negotiations,
not answer, you may take a default THE TRUTH. If caught lying, the value and hopefully resolve your case.
against him. of your case will plummet, and don’t If trial scares you, don’t fret. The
think you won’t get caught. chances of trial are still small at this
point in the litigation.
After the mediator explains the
STAGE #6 process in the initial meeting, each
side gives a brief opening statement
Mediation setting forth their position. The
parties then go to separate rooms
while the mediator goes back and
Mediation is no more than a non- Mediation, on the other hand, is
forth trying to get the two sides to
binding settlement conference. Both non-binding. A Mediator's role is to
reach an agreement. During this
sides appear before a mediator, who help the parties settle, not force
period, the mediator may discuss the
acts like a referee. The basic rules
issues freely with each side.
are as follows:
Mediators are trained not to
• the mediator is a neutral third- Basic rules of a mediation
reveal facts they learn to either side
party; 1. the mediator is a without permission of the side whom
• both sides are to be present neutral third-party has revealed those facts to them.
either in person or with a
2. both sides are to be Skillful mediators will try to get both
representative with full authority
present either in person sides to assess their own strengths
to resolve the matter; and
or with a representative and weaknesses to get them to
• what happens at the mediation
with full authority to resolve their cases.
is conﬁdential and is not
resolve the matter; and If an agreement is reached,
admissible in court.
3. what happens at the many mediators will then draft a
In Missouri, mediation is usually
mediation is summary of the agreement that both
optional. There are some instances,
sides will sign. This agreement WILL
however, where the court will order conﬁdential and is not
mediation if the parties have failed admissible in court.
Preparation: Most of the time,
to opt out. In Illinois, mediation can
both sides will do some preparation,
be mandatory, depending on the them to do so. Thus, a mediator may but since it is non-binding and
court. If the parties fail to make suggestions to the parties, but somewhat informal, preparations will
participate, they could be penalized cannot dictate a result. usually be limited. In minor cases,
by the Court. How it works: both sides appear its not unusual for both sides to
Mediation is sometimes confused before the mediator at the same show up without preparation. The
with arbitration. Arbitration is more time. It usually takes place in the clients should defer to their lawyers,
a like a brief trial where parties mediator’s ofﬁce or at a neutral and ask if they should bring
present evidence to an arbitrator. location. anything or prepare.
Then, the arbitrator makes a The mediator will meet
decision. Whatever the arbitrator separately with both sides brieﬂy, Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
decides, the parties are bound by it. 1 S. Memorial Drive, 11th Floor
then meet with everyone in the same St. Louis, MO 63102
TYSON’S TOP 5
COURTROOM MOVIES STAGE #7
#5 If all attempts to resolve your Next, a panel of potential jurors
The Verdict case fail, you are going to trial. This is brought into the courtroom, where
means more time and resources will the lawyers are allowed to ask them
need to be spent on your case, which questions. Some objections may be
is why an attorney’s fees usually brought to the judge regarding
increase. particular jurors based upon what
Your attorney will probably give they say. Then, both sides are allowed
To Kill A you material to read and study. If so, to eliminate three of the possible
Mockingbird do it. Getting ready for trial is like jurors regardless of the reason
getting ready for a comprehensive (except race or gender). The judge
exam being given by the cruelest then names the twelve members of
professor. During trial, almost the jury and two alternates. Trust
anything related to your injuries and me, alternates do sometimes need to
#3 daily life is fair game. step in at trial (we actually had a
A Few Good To do well at trial you should juror pass out during the trial).
Men study the deposition you gave Trial starts with both sides giving
thoroughly. Try not to contradict an opening statement to the jury.
yourself, and above all don't lie. If During opening statements, both
there is something you are afraid of, sides state what they believe the case
#2 tell your lawyer right away. If you is about and what they believe the
Witness for haven't disclosed something, disclose evidence will be. The plaintiff then
the it right away. Walking into an calls witnesses and presents his case,
ambush is a sure way to lose a trial. followed by the defendant presenting
You may review your medical his own witnesses.
records, too, because most questions Finally, both sides present closing
will center around your injuries. arguments to the jury. The jury is
#1 A pre-trial hearing is usually held then released to the jury room to
12 Angry just before trial to determine whether deliberate and decide the case.
Men some bits of information will be
ABOUT TYSON MUTRUX
DWI/DUI, Criminal Defense, & Personal Injury
Tyson is currently an associate with Juris Doctorate from
Brown & Brown in St. Louis, Saint Louis University
Missouri. Tyson specializes in School of Law. In law
Personal Injury Litigation, Criminal school, Tyson served on
law, and Trafﬁc/DWI offenses. the executive board of
the Student Bar Tyson
Tyson's previous positions include Association and as a and his wife
clerkships with the St. Louis County Senator for the Amy
Prosecutor’s Ofﬁce, the Hammer University's Student
Law Firm, and Dunne, Koenig, & Government Association.
Prior to attending the University of Employment
Tyson served one year on the Missouri, Tyson served in the • Brown & Brown, Associate
executive board of the Bar United States Army with the • The Hammer Law Firm, Law Clerk
Association of Metropolitan St. 7228th Medical Support Unit in • St. Louis County Prosecutor’s
Louis Young Lawyers Division as a Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. He later Ofﬁce, Law Clerk
student chair. He also served as a worked for State Farm Insurance as • Dunne, Koenig & Green, Law
Representative and as a Delegate to a Fire Claim Representative after Clerk
the American Bar Association. obtaining his undergraduate • State Farm Insurance, Fire Claim
Tyson is a founding member of the degree. Representative
Veterans Bar Association in St. • United States Army, Sergeant,
Louis. Education Field Medic, EMT
• J.D., Saint Louis University
Tyson graduated magna cum laude School of Law
from the University of Missouri • B.S., Business, University of
with a Bachelors of Science in Missouri
Business and an emphasis in
Marketing. He later obtained his
• Personal Injury
FIRING YOUR ATTORNEY
• DWI/DUI Defense Even if you really think it’s a
• Criminal Defense good idea...it’s usually not!
Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
Bar Licenses 1 S. Memorial Dr., 11th Floor
St. Louis, MO 63102
• Illinois 314-270-2273/573-268-7316
• U.S. Federal Courts Tyson@ArchDefender.com