What You Need To Know About Your Personal Injury Claim
With over 20 years in the personal injury legal practice as an insurance defenseattorney and now exclusively representing injured people, I have gained a wealth of knowledge about insurance companies, as well as extensive litigation and trial experience. I have represented hundreds of people who have been involved in collisions. Below are some questions the insurance company does not want you to ask:
Q. I have been injured in a car accident and am considering filing a lawsuit. What information do I need to record to have a successful claim?
A. Documentation is everything when it concerns receiving a fair settlement from an insurance company. Your medical providers will keep records of all visits and treatments for your injury, but you should record the ways your injury has impacted your personal and work life. Only you can testify to the pain you feel, the limitations you have in your workplace, home life, personal relationships, and recreational activities. Record all of these things as well as all activities you find that you can no longer engage in and other ways your injury has impacted your life.
Writing down your observations of injuries and losses when they are fresh in your mind will allow you to recall a greater number of details, and details mean compensation. No one else will do this for you.
Q. Why should I hire a personal injury lawyer after having been injured in a car, truck, or workplace accident?
A. Some injury claims are so small they may not require legal representation, but my best advice as a former insurance defense lawyer is if you have suffered serious injuries from a collision, you need to promptly seek advice from an excellent personal injury lawyer. An experienced trial lawyer whose focus is auto injury litigation knows how to preserve all your legal rights, not just some of them, against the attempts of the insurance adjuster and their defense attorneys to defeat or minimize your claim. Chances are this is the first serious accident and recovery you have had to manage, but a lawyer whose focus is auto accident law has handled hundreds of claims for injured people. A skilled advocate will ensure you are not taken advantage of by the complexities of the insurance claim process and will receive the compensation due to you.Retaining an attorney adds credibility to a client's threat to file suit, to pursue a claim to trial, and to negotiate a larger payment. Thus, a client gains more experience, more knowledge, and more negotiating credibility and power in dealing with the insurance industry.
Q. Don't all lawyers know how to successfully represent an injured person?
A. Personal injury law has many complexities and requires an understanding of not only tort and insurance law, but litigation and trial procedures and of how insurance companies operate that a general practitioner may not possess.
Additionally, well-experienced personal injury attorneys understand how particular factors will influence the value of a claim. Comparative negligence issues (who was at fault, and to what degree), punitive damage issues, and pre-existing medical conditions of the claimant will also factor into the value of a claim. A serious personal injury attorney will have access to resources that give them up-to-date information about the claim value of various types of injuries.
One size does not fit all in the practice of law. Just as you would not seek treatment from a family practice physician for a traumatic brain injury, you should be equally careful in hiring a lawyer who has extensive experience representing injured people and working with insurance companies.
Q. For what damages can an accident victim be compensated through a lawsuit?
A. Accident victims can be compensated for economic damages: actual dollar losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and lost future income earning ability. Pain, suffering, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and grief over the loss of a loved one are some of the non-economic losses for which a person may receive compensation. Punitive damages are also awarded in rare cases which serve to punish a defendant for extreme negligence and serve to deter future similar conduct by that defendant and others.
Q. I was in a car accident and have now been called for a deposition. What is a deposition?
A. A deposition is similar to giving an oral testimony in a trial, but is less formal and takes place in an office setting at a time prior to trial. A plaintiff, defendant, witness, or expert witness is questioned under oath by the attorneys representing both sides of a lawsuit. The goal is to discover all information relevant to a lawsuit before it is formally tried in a court of law. The resulting testimony gained in a deposition may also yield information leading to a settlement of the case before it reaches trial.
Q. Why is it important to follow all my doctor's recommendations for treatment after a car or work accident?
A. If you are hurt in an accident, it is critical to seek prompt and appropriate medical treatment. Don't allow any interruption in your treatment without a good reason. If you skip appointments or fail to follow through with prescribed treatments, the insurance company and their defense lawyers will argue that you must have felt that you were fully recovered from your injuries and had no need of continued treatment.
Additionally, much of the work that was done by insurance adjusters to evaluate claims in the past is now done by computers. At least 70% of insurance companies now use computer software programs to determine case value. Your doctor will record your injuries using the International Classifications of Diseases codes. These codes are then entered into the insurance claims evaluation program. If the required documentation is not entered into the computer in language and codes the program understands, the program will not properly evaluate your injury and may deny the compensation due to you. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will know how to present the medical evidence the computers are designed to recognize.
These are only a few of the basic facts that you must know in order to achieve the best result possible regarding your injury claim. You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether. Take advantage of the free consultation most personal injury attorneys offer to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to gain the recovery you need to get on with your life.
by: Jeffery Robinette