When you are first interviewed, general information regarding your case is obtained. Materials relating to things you should, or should not do will be furnished to you. You will be requested to sign certain authorization forms which will allow us to obtain your medical records and other necessary information.
We will notify the person who was responsible for your injury and/or their insurance company that you have retained us as your attorney. Requests will be sent to all of the doctors and hospitals involved in your care for your chart and billing information. If this case involves a social security claim make sure you have your social security number handy.
Who can I talk to?
Do not talk about your case with anyone except your attorney and your doctors. If your own insurance company wants to talk about your case before they pay your medical bills, please refer them to your attorney.
What do I sign?
Any necessary information from employers, schools, or other persons will be obtained by your attorney. You should not sign anything for anyone else until you check with your attorney first.
How do I handle my medical bills until my case is settled?
While your case is pending against the insurance company of the person that caused your injury, we try to arrange to have your medical bills paid by your own insurance company. This could be from the medical payments provision of your own automobile insurance policy or your own health insurance policy, or if applicable, worker's compensation insurance. Please be sure that all medical bills that relate to your injury are sent to your attorney's office, so that they may forward them to the appropriate insurance company.
Should I keep detailed records?
Most definitely! Please be sure to record the following:
It is important to make your entries on an ongoing basis. A summary at the end of each month will not be as helpful to your attorney. Copies of checks and receipts of payment, as well as the above records, will be very helpful when you may be asked by the insurance company or an attorney to recall your pain, physical disabilities, and any out-of-pocket expenses including medication.
What about medical liens?
Some of our clients are involved in an accident where there is no medical payments insurance, worker's compensation or private health insurance. In such cases, your doctor will expect to be paid by you at the conclusion of this case. Often they will require you to agree, in writing, to have your attorney pay them directly from the proceeds you receive. State laws sometimes permit health care providers to file a "lien" which must be paid out of the proceeds of your case. If your doctor asks you to sign what is often called a "lien letter" be sure to contact your attorney first. In some cases, it may not be appropriate for you to sign such an agreement.
What about subrogation?
If any insurance company pays some of your medical or other expenses arising from your injury, the law provides "subrogation," which means that the insurance company stands "in your shoes" and can recover from the liable party some or all of the amounts paid on your behalf. If this is the case, they usually are required to pay their proportionate share of the attorney's fee and costs in connection with the recovery. This is handled on a case-by-case basis.
Could I have someone watching me and taking photographs?
When a claim is filed by an injured person, insurance companies routinely conduct a detailed investigation of the injured person's background. It is not uncommon for an insurance company investigator to park his surveillance van near your house and videotape your activities. These investigators work very hard to obtain videotapes of claimants lifting heavy groceries or engaging in strenuous physical activity. However, these same surveillance tapes have been useful to corroborate our client's limitations, including the use of canes, crutches, etc.
If you believe you are being watched, please call your attorney immediately and try to avoid the camera. Do not exaggerate your limitations or pose for the camera.
What if I decide file bankruptcy?
If you are considering filing bankruptcy, you should know that you may lose all rights to your personal injury case. The Bankruptcy Court can take over your case, settle your case and give your settlement money to your creditors, and you will receive nothing. Be sure to talk to your attorney before filing bankruptcy.
Why does this process take so long?
We cannot make your claim until after the doctors have given us reports stating exactly what your medical condition is and what they expect it to be in the future: in other words, until you have reached "maximum medical improvements." Many times the doctors will be very slow in making these reports. We may even, on occasion, ask you to contact your doctor to speed up this report. If we try to settle your case before your medical condition is stabilized, you may lose money that you might be entitled to for a condition that did not show up until after your case was settled.
It is important to know that your case will not be settled until the damages have been determined and all investigations to determine who is liable have been completed. It generally takes several months to gather the necessary information. If a trial becomes necessary, it can take several years to complete a case. One of the most difficult requests we ask of you is to have patience. We will work as hard and fast as possible to settle your case quickly.
What is the value of my case?
It is impossible for us to tell immediately how much money, if any, you will recover in connection with your case. There is no formula and each case is unique and different. In cases of serious injury, the ultimate recovery is often related to the amount of insurance coverage available, as well as the nature, extent, and duration of your injuries, along with an assessment of liability. As your legal representation, we feel it is our primary duty to obtain an amount of money which will fairly and justly compensate you for your injuries. We will make every effort to do this by locating all sources of money. We will advise you of our evaluation in this regard.
In general, most states allow recovery of damages for the following elements of damage:
Will I have to file a lawsuit?
It may be necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain an adequate recovery. This is a legal decision that should be made by your attorney with your input. Before filing suit in your case, we will obtain your permission and explain to you why we believe a lawsuit should be filed.
Although a lawsuit may have to be filed, settlement is always possible. Negotiations continue and only a small percentage of lawsuits actually go to trial.
The following are the steps necessary to bring the case to trial.
Pleadings are the documents parties file in court that form the basis of a lawsuit. This is intended to be general information only. Each case is unique.
Once an action is filed, both sides have a right to "discover" facts concerning the opposing party's case. Normal discovery proceedings include written interrogatories, depositions, production of records, and sometimes medical examinations.
In giving a deposition, there are a few rules to follow:
Frequently the other attorney will ask you many questions which will seem to you to have no bearing upon the case. Nevertheless, it is your duty to answer these questions, notwithstanding the fact that they may irritate you. Never conceal prior injuries or prior illnesses. Remember, the other side has the means of obtaining such information.
What about mediation?
There are occasions when the parties submit the dispute to "mediation." The parties meet with an independent third person, usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge, who assists the parties in arriving at a settlement. The results are not binding. It is informal, and less expensive than a trial. If that is an option to your case, your attorney will discuss it with you.
What if my case involves an uninsured/underinsured driver?
If you were hit by an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist, you may be eligible for benefits under your own policy or the policy that covered the vehicle you were in. Many insurance companies have special provisions if you desire to proceed against the uninsured motorist provision of the policy. In most cases, you will be able to collect for your lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, etc., in the same way as if the driver that hit you did have insurance. We ask that you provide us with a complete copy of your own insurance policy in force at the time of the accident.
What about claims against the government?
Any injury claim, whether it stems from a car collision or other event that involves the government, is subject to special rules. The governmental entity involved may be the state, a city, a county, local government, or the United States. Generally, a Notice of Claim must be filed with the appropriate governmental agency very soon following your injury. If you believe that the government may be involved in your case, please notify us immediately.
Things Which You Should NOT DO:
Things for you to REMEMBER:
Five BIG MISTAKES clients make:
Follow Your Doctor's Advice
Be sure to do what your doctors tell you. There is never a reason or excuse to miss a doctor's appointment. By missing a doctor's appointment, you are saying to the doctor and to the insurance company that you're not in pain and that it doesn't matter that much. Our job is to make a recovery for you for the pain and suffering that can be proven. Not going to the doctor is a good way to prove that you are not in pain and that you don't care. If you don't care, the doctor may not care. It is very important for you to work hard to get well and to go to all of your appointments.
If you are in pain and you do not see a doctor, the insurance company and the jury will not believe that you are having pain.
Each time you go to the doctor and report that you are still having pain, your doctor makes an entry in his records. It is important for your doctor to have up-to-date information on your condition. Some clients get discouraged and do not see their doctor even though they are having pain. This may harm your claim. It is important that your doctor knows how you are feeling.