The first step in a personal injury case is for the client to get medical treatment. At DuBoff & Associates, Chartered, we always tell our clients that we have two goals for them: One is to get them 100 percent better or to MMI, which is Maximum Medical Improvement. The client may need to go to physical therapy, or the client may need to see an orthopedic doctor. If the client is having headaches or any head contusions, they should go see a neurologist.
If a client has a disc injury, their medical treatment is going to be a lot longer versus a client who has a soft tissue injury. So the first thing to do in a typical personal injury case as a client is to be treated. It is important that the client reaches this maximum improvement. Health is always the first concern.
During the next step, we compile a demand package. A demand package is a legal/medical report that includes all the necessary medical coding for the injuries you have sustained and the medical procedures you have had or will have to have as a result of your injuries. For instance, a demand package includes International Classification of Disease (ICD) codes and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. Does the client have an injury to the neck? Does he or she have an injury to the back? What about an injury to the knee? Those all have specific ICD codes that must be included in the demand package.
For each ICD code, we will also include additional information. Let’s use a back injury as an example. We would include things like the following: What is the pain level on a scale of 1–10? How many active days of treatment did the client receive for his or her back? How many actual treatments did the client get to his or her back?
Once the demand package is as complete as possible, we send it out to the auto insurance adjuster. After that, the adjuster will sit in front of a computer and load up all these data entry points regarding our client’s claim. It is important that the demand package is easy for the adjusters to feed into their software system. This matters because the score that this program reports is heavily relied upon whenever an insurance company is going to make an offer on your case.
Next, we are getting into the second phase of a personal injury case, which is negotiation. In a perfect world, we will settle each one of our client’s claims without having to file suit. This way, the client gets closure early on. However, we only settle if the client tells us, “Yes. We are happy with the settlement offer. We are happy with the money that we are getting for our pain, our suffering, and our inconvenience. Yes, we want to settle.”
If the auto insurance company makes low offers and if the client doesn’t like their bottom line number—in other words, the amount of money the client would get at the end of this process—then we have to file suit.