PERSONAL INJURY INFORMATION CENTER
What to do if you are injured in an accident (the do’s and don’ts)
Do you have a case?
Should you represent yourself?
Important things to look for in a personal injury attorney
Frequently Asked Questions
If you or a family member has been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Whether or not you receive compensation depends on a variety of factors, including whether another person or business is legally responsible (commonly referred to as “at fault” or “liable” and is often based upon principles of negligence) and whether there is any source of money to satisfy all or part of the compensation you are entitled to recover (often referred to as “collectibility”).
There are many types of accidents and injuries that can result in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death claims. The most common are:
- Automobile Accidents
- Tractor Trailer Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Train Accidents
- Bus Accidents
- Boating Accidents
- Injuries from Defective Products (Products Liability)
- Injuries as a result of Medical Negligence (Medical Malpractice)
- Slip, Trip, and Fall Accidents, Swimming Pool Accidents, and other Premises Liability
- Animal Bites or Attacks
You may also have a claim if an attorney improperly handles your case, fails to timely file your case, or fails to identify a source of recovery (Legal Malpractice).
There are time limitations within which your claims must be filed. These time limitations are called statutes of limitations. If your case is not filed before the applicable statute of limitations runs, your right to assert your claims may be lost. In some cases, there are other steps that must be taken to preserve your claim even before the statute of limitations runs. When you or your family member is injured in an accident, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Contacting a personal injury attorney quickly can help to ensure that your claims will not be time barred, and will allow the attorney to collect and preserve crucial evidence to your case, evidence that you may never think to collect or that you may not have the ability to obtain. In appropriate cases, the attorney can also track down pivotal witnesses and obtain sworn statements while the matters are fresh in the witnesses’ minds.
It is also very important to have an attorney evaluate your case to identify all potential sources of recovery. Depending on the facts of your case, there can be quite a few potential sources of recovery. For example, in the case of an automobile accident, there are numerous potential sources of recovery including but not limited to the at fault party’s automobile liability insurance policy, excess liability policy, and/or assets, your uninsured/underinsured automobile insurance policy, the at fault party’s employer or the employer’s liability policy, if the at fault party was driving another person’s vehicle, the vehicle owner’s automobile liability insurance policy and excess liability policy, and garagekeeper’s insurance policies. This list does not include all potential sources of recovery. In some cases, there will be other potential sources of recovery, depending on the specific facts of the case. It is very important to have an attorney identify your potential sources of recovery as soon as possible so that appropriate action can be taken to preserve your rights.
(Many of the things listed below in this “DOs” section are things that your attorney can, and should, do for you. The sooner you contact us, the more we can take care of for you. It is not uncommon for injured victims to not have the time or ability to take care of much of the following, which is all the more reason to contact an attorney as soon as possible.)
Call for an ambulance, if necessary.
Call the police so they can investigate the accident and make a report.
Obtain all other drivers’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, and insurance information, if possible.
Contact your insurance company to let them know the accident occurred.
Take photographs of the vehicles involved in the accident from all angles (especially yours), but do not trespass or breach the peace in order to obtain the photographs.
Take photographs of the scene of the accident and surrounding areas from all angles, including skid marks and asphalt gouges, if possible and if safe to do so. (If you hire an attorney quickly enough, your attorney should be the one to do this.)
Take photographs of all of your physical injuries.
Have all photographs developed immediately and take them with you to meet with your attorneys, or have them available when your attorneys come to meet with you. You should keep one copy of all photographs in your files.
Write down everything you remember about the accident and your injuries.
Write down every statement made to you, or that you heard, about how the accident occurred and what people witnessed, and include each person’s name, address, and telephone number, if possible. If you intend to hire an attorney, do NOT attempt to track down witnesses or take witness statements on your own. Only write down what you have already heard.
Save all prescription bottles, casts, braces, and all other items from your doctor.
Save all receipts itemizing any and all expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident or your injuries.
Keep a calendar marking all dates and numbers of hours of work you miss. Also write all of your doctor’s appointments and other appointments related to your case on this calendar.
Keep notes of your pain and injuries on a daily basis. Just a sentence or two each day will usually be sufficient.
Tell your attorney everything you think may have a bearing on the case. Do not hide or limit any information to your attorney as it will be much easier to deal with bad facts on the front end than getting “blind sided” down the road.
Keep a file folder and place all documentation, photographs, and your notes in that folder, including but not limited to police reports, photographs, the notes you have made, medical bills and records, prescriptions, receipts, letters from insurance companies, and all other documents you have that in any way pertain to the accident or your injuries. Show your file folder to your attorney as soon as possible.
Contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. The information you obtain can be very helpful in the early days following the accident, and the information and evidence available to your attorney shortly following the accident may make the difference as to whether you obtain a recovery and how much you recover.
Do NOT talk to anyone about the accident other than to the police officer(s) at the scene of the accident and your doctor(s), and only tell your doctors what is necessary for them to evaluate, diagnose and treat you. In other words, do NOT talk to anyone other your attorneys about how the accident occurred or who was at fault. However, it is important that you fully cooperate with law enforcement , emergency personnel, and your insurance company.
Do NOT assume that an insurance representative is treating you fairly simply because he or she is very nice to you. Of course they will be nice to you because they want to settle very quickly and cheaply, and prior to you hiring an attorney. Many injury victims have settled their case for much less than it is worth without contacting an attorney under the mistaken belief that the insurance company is treating them fairly. It is extremely rare for an insurance company to pay you full value on your case without you hiring an attorney.
Do NOT give any written or verbal statements to anyone about the accident or your injuries without first consulting your attorneys.
Do NOT sign anything without first consulting your attorneys (other than the standard documentation from your doctor or hospital to obtain medical treatment).
Do NOT wait to go to the doctor or emergency room. If you believe you are or may be injured and are in need of medical attention, seek medical attention immediately. At your visit, do not hold back or limit information to anyone about your pain and injuries.
Do NOT hide information from or limit information to your doctor concerning past injuries or past medical treatment. If you do not remember past information, say so.
Do NOT ignore your doctor’s advice or miss any appointments. Few insurance representatives (or jurors) will believe you have pain or problems from your injuries if you fail to comply with doctor’s orders or fail to make and keep your appointments.
Do NOT put off contacting an attorney.
In some cases the answer is clear and in others it is not so clear. The only way to know how strong your case is and the approximate value of your case is to have an attorney evaluate your case. It is not uncommon for an insurance representative to tell you that your case is worth far less than it actually is worth, or that you are not entitled to compensation for some reason when you are entitled to compensation. When you submit your name and telephone number to us, one of the attorneys will contact you (usually the same day or within 24 hours) to discuss the details of your case and your options. There is no fee or cost for this evaluation.
The more important question you should be asking is: “Am I taking all of the correct steps to preserve and pursue my claim and to preserve crucial evidence supporting my claim?” Upon speaking with an attorney, the attorney can take the steps necessary to make sure your rights are protected, and that your claims, and evidence supporting them, are preserved.
In a perfect world, it would always be best to be represented by an attorney. However, in reality, there are some situations where it may make financial sense for you to represent yourself. Those situations are usually limited to where your damages and injuries are relatively minor.
For example, consider a situation where your case is worth $7,500 and you are being offered $5,000. If you hire an attorney and the attorney gets you the full $7,500, you end up with the same amount in your pocket after the 1/3 attorney fee as if you were to have taken the $5,000. In this situation, it may make more sense for you to represent yourself. If you contact us for a case evaluation and we believe that you may come out ahead if you represent yourself, we will supply you with the necessary information on how to file your claim and how to proceed in negotiations.
On the other hand, consider a situation where the insurance company is offering to pay you $5,000 on a case that is worth $15,000. There is little doubt that you should hire an attorney. The same thing applies if you are being offered $80,000 and your case is worth $150,000, or if you are being offered $800,000 and your case is worth $1,500,000.
Before you can decide whether to hire an attorney, you have to know the prospects for your case. You should contact an attorney for a case evaluation prior to making this decision. While it is very difficult to assign an exact value on any case, you should at least know what you are working with before proceeding.
Also, keep in mind that insurance representatives will often try to settle a case quickly and before the injured person has the opportunity to consult with an attorney. Do NOT let this happen to you.
The final and most important point to make here is that you should always be represented by an attorney if your injuries are significant. There are too many procedural requirements, rules of procedure, evidentiary issues, and time limitations for you to risk a substantial recovery. An attorney can deal with all of those issues to make sure you get the amount of money you deserve.
Your attorney should be highly experienced in accident and injury cases. This is so important because of the confusing world of insurance coverage, medical issues, and legal issues involved. We know the law and we know how to use it for our clients’ best interests. We have a combined 32 years of experience representing clients in personal injury and wrongful death cases. We also care about our clients and are honest about what we can and cannot do for them. We personally handle each and every case, and we will provide you with the personal attention you deserve throughout your case. We are your advocate, your advisor, your educator, and your voice throughout your case, and we will always treat you with the utmost respect.
What should I expect from my first appointment with your firms?
During your initial interview, we will carefully go over the details of your case with you. We will use the information available to identify the liability, damages, and collectibility issues, and to evaluate your case as a whole. We will identify all of your time limitations, notice periods, and other deadlines, and advise you on what steps should be taken and when. We will explain to you the litigation and claims resolution process and let you know what to expect in the coming days, weeks, and months.
The initial interview allows you to meet, and get to know, us. You will also have the opportunity to meet our staff (if the appointment is in one of our offices). You will have the opportunity to ask us any questions you have concerning your case, and you will obtain information from us concerning your case. Make sure you bring with you all documents, correspondence, police reports, medical bills, and photographs in your possession that relate to your case (see below for more information).
We do not charge any fee or cost for an initial consultation in personal injury and wrongful death cases.
What are your fees and how and when do I pay them?
Our fees in personal injury and wrongful death cases are based on a percentage of the gross recovery. In some types of cases (such as workers compensation cases) State or Federal laws control the amount of legal fees that can be charged. In most accident cases, the fee will be 33 & 1/3% (1/3) of the gross recovery, and is paid only after your settlement or judgment is paid by the at fault party. The fee will sometimes be more, and sometimes less, depending on the complexity of the case. Before you hire us to represent you, we will discuss with you the fee arrangement, and the exact fee arrangement agreed upon will be specifically set forth in writing at the very beginning of your representation. There is no charge for the initial consultation, even if you do not hire us, regardless of whether the consultation is at your home, at one of our offices, or on the telephone.
What should I bring with me to my initial consultation?
You should bring everything that you already have that relates to your accident or injury, such as police reports, letters from insurance companies, medical bills, medical records, your notes about the accident or injury, if any, photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, the names and telephone numbers of anyone who has contacted you about the accident. If you have automobile insurance, bring a copy of your insurance policy and the declarations page. IF YOU HAVE NOT OBTAINED ANY DOCUMENTS OR PHOTOGRAPHS AT THE TIME OF YOUR FIRST MEETING, DO NOT WORRY. YOUR LAWYER WILL BE ABLE TO OBTAIN THEM IN HIS INVESTIGATION OF YOUR CASE.
What can I receive if my case is successful?
Generally, you will be awarded “damages,” which is money that is paid to you to restore you to the position you were in before your injury. The party or parties responsible for paying damages to you depends on a variety of factors which depend on the facts of your case. Your total damages may be based on numerous categories of damages, which include your past and future medical bills and expenses, past and future lost income, permanent physical disability or disfigurement, past and future mental and physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental and emotional distress, loss of earning capacity, and property damage. In appropriate cases, there are other categories of damages that will be considered in calculating your damages.