So you’ve just been in an automobile accident, a motorcycle accident or slip and fall on someone else’s property. There are a few things that you should know to protect yourself, gather evidence and being proactive in your possible future personal injury claim. We shall discuss all important issues concerning you, right after accident and how to best prepare for any future litigation.
At the time of the accident of injury.
Obviously, first and foremost, you must be concerned with your health and safety. Make sure you don’t do anything, that could cause you any further injury, as this may affect your case in the future. Many times, after an automobile accident or slip and fall, your body can go into what is known as shock or your body may activate its defense system, by releasing large amount of adrenaline into your system. You must be conscious of this, because this adrenaline will partially or fully, mask the injuries that you sustained. The important at this point, is to consider yourself more injured, then you may believe or realize. So, take it easy, move slow and be conscious of any injuries you may have sustained.
Once you’ve taking care of yourself, the next most important thing for you to do is to preserve as much evidence as you can, at the scene of the accident. Most of you reading this are doing it on some form of smart phone, which means you have both the camera and a video camera. You should use both. First, take as many photographs, from as many angles, as humanly possible. This means taking close-up photographs of all the damage, to all vehicles involved or the condition of the property that caused your injury. You should also take photographs from a medium distance away and then photographs from a far distance away. Most people do not realize how important it is to obtain photographs from multiple angles and to catch the positioning of all automobiles in the accident. What you are doing this for, is to provide your attorney with additional evidence, that will never be able to be obtained at any other point in time, other than the scene of the accident. Once you’ve taken as many photographs from all different angles in all different positions, the next thing you should do is turn on your video camera and slowly film the entire scene. Do not simply videotape the scene in quick sweeping motions, as this will offer you little to no benefit in the settlement process or trial. Please consider the yourself a movie director, in which you are attempting to give your audience the full experience of the present situation. This may seem rudimentary, but is extremely rare for a client to provide me with the evidence I wish they would, considering there is no way to re-create that evidence once the accident has been cleared up or possibly the property owner has repaired it.
Taking an Ambulance to the Hospital after an automobile accident or a slip and fall accident.
As previously stated, most people after an accident do not realize how injured they are, due to being in shock or adrenaline. Unless you are completely sure that you’re not injured at all, you should always take in ambulance from the scene of the accident to the hospital. This is something over 90% of people in accidents failed to do, usually because they do not want to leave their car on the side of the road or to incur additional medical bills of the ambulance ride. But what does taking an ambulance from the accident give you, the simple answer is it begins the timeline of your injuries and medical treatment. Most people do not realize how important this is, as many do not go directly to the hospital or take days or weeks to see a position after an accident. This is a critical step in the personal injury process, as you could further injure yourself for some unrelated reason, further exacerbate your injuries in a way that is unrelated to the accident which injured you and finally, it provides your personal injury lawyer with the best medical evidence possible to support your personal injury lawsuit. On a more practical note, most likely you are more injured and you believe and the safest choice possible for you is to seek medical attention directly after the accident and be transported by medical professionals in ambulance.
Follow-Up with your Primary Care Physician
Assuming you went to the hospital directly after your accident, and even more importantly if you never went to the hospital after accident, you need to go see your PCP (primary care physician) as soon as possible. At the hospital, directly after accident, the physicians that treat you are most concerned with assessing your injuries and stabilizing your condition, if you are seriously injured. But it will be your primary care physician, that will handle your ongoing treatment and/or provide you with a referral to a doctor that specializes in a particular type of medicine, depending on the injuries you sustained. The vast majority of accidents, your primary care physician is going to want to refer you to a specialist, depending on your injuries. These specialists will be invaluable in ascertaining the severity of your injuries, the length of recuperating from those injuries and being able to determine with medical certainty if your injuries will be permanent.
Chiropractor & Rehabilitation
Many times, your treating physician will not send you to a chiropractor or rehabilitation. Many doctors in the medical profession do not see chiropractors as valuable in the treatment of patients, especially in personal injury cases nothing could be further from the truth. You may be tempted to go to your chiropractor, that you used in the past, you should certainly consult with a personal injury attorney on which chiropractor to use. Don’t forget you going to this chiropractor because of the accident you’ve been in, not because your back hurts from an old football injury. When it comes to chiropractors, they are not all created equally, when it comes to personal injury. One of the most valuable reasons to employ a chiropractor, is because many skilled in the treatment of personal injuries, are also skilled in drafting the medical reports of your treatment. For the most part, these medical reports are actually read by computer programs and many skilled chiropractors actually know how to fill out the medical reports with the best practices, in order for the software that will review your matter, to give the most favorable results. I would say in 75% of the cases that I’m involved in, where a client chooses their own chiropractor, the medical reports provided are not very useful to a personal injury attorney. This
Collection of your own FACTS for your Personal Injury Case.
The collection of data on your personal injury case, is something that you and only you are able to accomplish. Most experienced personal injury attorneys will provide you or explained to you the means in which to collect this data. The data (evidence) I’m speaking of, is basically your medical and personal history starting at the accident and continuing until the end of your personal injury lawsuit. The types of data that I’m speaking of our: How you feel in your impressions of your injuries. A daily log of how you feel. A log of all of your medical appointments. Symptoms and how you are feeling. How your daily activities are affected. The duration and frequency of pain and other ailments. Medication, therapies and side effects. Your ability to work and how your work schedule is affected. Communications with insurance providers and medical treatment. A weekly post accident journal. An overview of your pain and symptoms resulting from your accident. Most good personal injury law firms will provide you with blank documents where you can fill in all this information, in an easy to use format, as we do at the Botelho Law Group.
What to consider during the Settlement phase of your personal injury case.
Finally, we’ll touch on the subject matter of what you should consider during the settlement phase of your personal injury lawsuit. Many people feel that simply be because they’ve been in an accident, they will experience a financial windfall from this unfortunate incident. If you don’t closely follow the procedures I’ve outlined above, you are severely going to impact your settlement amount, by hundreds or thousands of dollars. Another consideration is your financial situation and how long you can wait until receiving money from the settlement. The longer it takes for your attorney to obtain a settlement, generally the higher the settlement will be. There are also different times of the year that it is better to settle or not to settle. At the end of the year, especially after the halfway point in the month of December, is strategically the best time to settle. This is because the insurance adjusters, want to get as many files off their desk, before the new year. Another obvious, but overlooked situation is, have you completed all medical treatment or will you be required to continue to treat for the rest of your life based on this injure you sustained. Some people are so anxious to obtain settlement funds, they push their lawyers to settle the case before they’ve ever finish treating. Nothing could be worse for your personal injury case, and attempting to settle it before you’re done treating medically. As personal injury attorneys, we are very well aware of the financial struggles our clients suffer, especially when they are injured and out of work for some length of time. The situation makes people a lot more eager to settle the case, either before treatment is completed or before they are well enough to return to work. It is critical for you to remember, that you only have one shot at a settlement after being in an accident, no one gets a second bite of the same Apple (except in extremely rare situations, where the condition was not found by the physicians and later on can be proven that it arose from the exact injury of your lawsuit). In conclusion, the longer you wait to settle your personal injury claim, the better chances you will have it receiving a settlement that you will find fair and reasonable. This could simply be due to the fact that, the insurance adjuster will realize that you’re not going to settle for one of their initial lowball figures. On one final note. If you do not receive a settlement amount that you feel is adequate, your only other choice is to file a lawsuit. So while considering the settlement offer you have been given, you must take into account that filing a lawsuit in court will lengthen the amount of time before you obtain money from your personal injury by months or years (mainly one – three years). So when deciding on if you want to accept a settlement payment or go to trial, just understand not only will the trial dramatically increased the amount of time you will wait before obtaining a settlement, any and all experts used at trial come directly out of your share of the settlement amount and not out of the share that your personal injury attorney receives. To clarify that, your personal injury attorney will obtain their percentage off the total amount received, and then the legal fees associated with it such as expert witnesses, will come directly out of your share. To make the math easy, if your case is worth $100,000 and you require three experts which cost a combined total of $30,000, you’re most likely going to end up with less money than the share that your attorney brings home. The vast majority of clients that I see, love the idea of going to trial, but do not understand that besides for the attorneys work, they are going to pay each and every cost of that trial. And in some situations, those costs improving your case, can put the settlement amount that you receive lower than the settlement amount that the insurance company initially offered you. So before settling your case, you should always have a very frank conversation with your personal injury attorney about the pros and cons of litigating the case. And on a final note, the vast majority personal injuries attorneys compensation increases dramatically if the case is filed in court. The usual commissions are 33% or one third for simply settling the case, but as high as 50% or more to take the case to trial and actually try the case in a court of law.
Joseph F. Botelho, Esq.
BOTELHO LAW GROUP
Attorneys At Law
901 Eastern Ave. Unit 2
Fall River, MA 02723