First Steps in a Personal Injury Case
First Things First - Get Medical Help
By Chris Kramer
If you're injured, the first and most important thing to do is always seek appropriate medical attention. Unfortunately, the fact that unscrupulous insurance companies are always on the lookout for ways to avoid paying personal injury claims means that you have to protect the record at the same time.
The good news is that much of what you do in the early stages to protect the record is exactly what you should be doing anyway. For instance, it's important that you clearly convey all of your personal injuries to your doctor or the emergency services doctor, and explain exactly how the personal injury occurred. You'll need that information documented later, but it's critical to ensuring that you receive adequate medical care as well.
Document Your Injuries
It's very difficult for someone without experience in personal injury law to know at the outset what will be important in negotiations or litigation that might take place months down the road. The safest route is probably to document everything; don't discover a year into a personal injury case that you're missing a critical piece of evidence.
- Photograph your injuries
- Keep notes, including:
- Medical appointments/treatment
- Therapy session (including progress & limitations)
- Lost work time
- Other lost time/activities
- Pain and limitations
- Expenses incurred as a result of injuries/limitations
- Document conversations/information received from
- Doctors and other medical professionals
- The insurance company
- Keep all receipts, prescription records, etc.
This list is by no means exhaustive - the general rule is to err on the side of documentation.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Immediately
Find out what injury lawyers can do for you. A personal injury case might be the furthest thing from your mind immediately following an injury, while you're coping with pain and juggling bills and doctor appointments, but the medical bills are already mounting.
More importantly, your personal injury case is being built-or weakened-at every moment, whether you're conscious of it or not. If you're not protecting your personal injury rights, then the chances of your personal injury case being broken down are much greater.
In the vast majority of personal injury cases, there's an insurance company on the other side. The insurance company provides coverage to the person or business that caused your injury, and now the insurance company is facing a claim.
A personal injury claim isn't necessarily a lawsuit, it's simply the process by which the insured, or someone injured by the insured, says to the insurance company, "Okay, you were hired to pay for this kind of injury if it occurred, and you collected your premiums, and now it's occurred, so here are my bills."
The Insurance Company Has Its Own Agenda
Unfortunately, insurance companies don't make profits by paying out personal injury claims, and so claims representatives at insurance companies may try to to avoid making payment. If they can't avoid making payment altogether, then they might aim to minimize the amount they have to pay.
That's why you may want to seriously consider talking to insurance company representatives with a personal injury attorney in your corner.
The insurance agents may claim that they want to make the process as easy as possible, or that they need information in order to get you paid more quickly, but they're really trying to get you to say something that might harm your case later. They may even try to get you to agree to a quick settlement, claiming that it's for your benefit because they know you have bills and medical expenses piling up while you're unable to work.
The truth is that they're probably anxious to get you to sign on the dotted line because in most personal injury cases, once you've agreed to a settlement, you likely can't come back and ask for anything more, even if you later discover that your personal injuries were more extensive than you realized, you have unexpected medical bills, or you're disabled for much longer than you'd anticipated.
Consider the Advice of Your Personal Injury Lawyer
It's easy to get careless or think that your personal injury attorney is being overly cautious and that not all of the advice he gives you is absolutely critical.
For instance, your personal injury attorney may tell you not to talk to anyone about your personal injury or your case. You might think that's silly, and be certain that the people in your life are "on your side" and you have nothing at risk. But your personal injury attorney generally has a much clearer view of what's involved in a personal injury case and of possible pitfalls that would never occur to the average person.
Take advantage of that experience and use it to protect yourself and your personal injury case. If your personal injury attorney tells you to do something that you don't think is important, don't just disregard it-ask questions.
Follow the Advice of Your Doctor and other Medical Professionals
Obviously, the most important reason to follow your doctor's advice is that you want to make a full recovery, and as quickly as possible. It's easy to cut corners, though, and to justify cutting those corners because rehabilitation is painful and you aren't feeling up to it or because you can't find time in your schedule once you've returned to work to keep up regular treatments.
Those little lapses may make sense in the larger context of life, but in the personal injury arena, they can be fatal.
What if, for instance, your doctor tells you to go to physical therapy three times a week and you can't work it in, but then you end up with a long-term or permanent disability or limitation? Of course, it's entirely possible that you would have ended up with exactly the same limitation if you'd followed your doctor's advice to the letter, but there's no way to prove that now.
And since you're the plaintiff in this case, the one initiating the personal injury claim, you have the burden of proof. If the insurance company can demonstrate that you didn't follow medical advice, it might drastically reduce their liability for your limitations, pain and suffering, and loss of income.
We Make it Easy for You to Connect with a Personal Injury Attorney
The risks of waiting are clear, and it's easy to get the information you need from a personal injury lawyer. Just call us toll-free at 877-288-7564 or fill out our free personal injury case evaluation form, and we'll put you in touch with a personal injury lawyer in your area for a free consultation.
The above summary of personal injury cases is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on personal injury cases, speak to a personal injury attorney in your area.