7 Things Personal Injury Attorneys Wish Their Clients KnewMay 10, 2016
The portrayal of personal injury attorneys and the legal process in television shows and movies is, surprisingly, not usually accurate. Unfortunately, cases are not resolved in just under an hour and trials are not as entertaining as the Thursday night lineup suggests.
Because of this, the process of filing a personal injury claim can be misinterpreted and hard to follow for many victims, which can have negative implications on their case. To help you get a better understanding of the process and to ensure the maximum success of your suit, here are seven things all attorneys wish their clients knew.
- There can be varying degrees of fault
The key influencer in your case will be the level of fault of each party involved. If you want to bring a claim against someone, you need to be deemed less at fault than they are.
What this means, is that if a jury determines that you are 50% or more at fault, you will walk away empty handed. Your chance for compensation will be eliminated completely in this instance because you are considered a contributor to the incident that led to your injuries.
On the other hand, if you are seen as 20% at fault and the defendant is 80%, you will receive 20% less of the settlement. So if $100,000 was at stake, you will only be paid $80,000. This is known as comparative negligence.
- Understand the complexity of laws and public policy
“Well that’s not fair” is a phrase we hear often, and sometimes it is understandable. Some cases are not always black and white; there can be multiple parties involved, which can make the legal process a lot more complicated than a simple suit. You may end up having to go up against a party that you did not intend on acting against, or your case could take a turn in another direction.
It is important to understand that this is why you hired your personal injury attorney. They need you to trust that they will be able to guide you through the process, regardless of the turns it may take.
- Take pictures or videos
The first thing you will be asked for when preparing to file a claim are photos or videos from the time of the incident. This is often the best evidence you can provide since it is hard proof of your case. Make sure to photograph your injuries, what caused them, the surroundings at the time and anything else that was involved in the accident.
Cases can take a long time to see through to the end. By the time of a verdict, the severity of your injuries could have completely dissipated, leaving no evidence that you were ever even injured. Having the photographic proof will keep the severity of your injuries fresh in the minds of the jury, insurance company, judge and everyone else that can decide the fate of your case.
Since nearly everyone has a smart phone on them at all times, documenting an incident should rarely be a problem. Dashboard cameras in vehicles have also become more widely used, which makes auto accident fault more evident. These devices can help prove liability for your injuries and lessen the time it takes to close your case.
- Tell us the entire story
There are always several sides to every story. While you are our client, we still need to understand the bigger picture of the incident and how the other party was involved.
Say you were rear-ended while driving on a snowy street. You were not breaking any laws, so you automatically assume the other driver is at fault for carelessness. While this could very well be the case, you were not in the other car and you don’t know what might have happened. That driver could have slid on black ice that was impossible to notice. In this instance, the other driver is not seen as at fault and, unfortunately, you will not recover any damages for your personal injuries.
Withholding information, like the details of the street conditions during your accident or the fact that you might have been driving carelessly, can prolong your case, cost you more money and leave you with full responsibility of any medical bills from your accident.
- Preserve your evidence
There exists a legal duty to preserve documents, electronically stored information or tangible evidence based on the existence of pending, threatened or reasonably foreseeable litigation.
Typically, the documents that are recorded around the time of an accident are the most accurate recollection of the event. These are also perceived as the most truthful account of the incident, which is why it is absolutely necessary that you save:
- Text messages
- Social media accounts
- Insurance documents
- Medical paperwork
- Anything else relating to the incident
There are some things that your lawyer may be able to track down if you misplace, but the majority of private documents are going to be very hard to come by which can prolong your case or raise issues of spoiliation of evidence.
- Be patient: the process will take time
If you are filing a claim for an injury you have sustained due to someone else’s negligence, there will be a lot of people involved. From legal teams to insurance adjusters to court personnel, getting everyone on the same page will take time.
It is also important to note that the beginning stages of a claim will typically include a revolving door of insurance claim adjusters based on how the monetary value of your case escalates or declines. The more changes your case sees, the more adjusters that will be involved and the longer the process could take.
The legal process will also be delayed if there is a lack of sufficient evidence, which is another reason why taking photos and video and saving all related documents will only support your case.
- Act quickly
You will need to receive medical attention immediately after the incident. Not only is this crucial for your health, you will need documented proof on file in case you pursue filing a claim.
Even if you are not planning on filing a claim, you should still consult with someone experienced in the area of personal injury law. They will be able to answer any of the questions you will likely have regarding your situation and guide you in the right direction to someone that can help.
Navigating through a personal injury can be draining—both physically and financially—and we understand the importance of having someone on your side. You can contact us anytime to discuss your case and set up a free consultation. If we cannot help you, we will gladly put you in touch with someone who can.