We all are familiar with lawyer advertisements. We see them everywhere, on buses, bus stops, television, social media or full page ads on the back of the yellow pages (if anyone still gets those). Some television and radio stations seem to be financed almost exclusively by attorney advertising. Lots of smiling faces in nice suits virtually promising quick, easy money if only you will give them a call. Many of us are familiar with the client testimonials (typically head shots) uttering catchy phrases like: “Larry H. Parker got me $1.2 million dollars,” advertisements which seemingly have been on daytime and late night television forever.
These advertisements, however, do not present the most honest or accurate descriptions of the process a personal injury case goes through. The reality of personal injury cases, particularly in litigation, is much different. Settlements and verdicts are not easily handed over, but must be fought for and wrested out of the insurance companies’ tight grip. Further, personal injury cases that do not settle can wind up going to trial where your recovery must rely upon not just the litigation skills of your lawyer, but upon fair-minded citizens performing their civic jury duty.
10 Truths About Personal Injury Claims
1. You need to retain an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases.
Do not try to handle the matter yourself. An experienced personal injury attorney is better equipped and will be far more effective in presenting your liability contentions, injuries and other damages. Do not speak to an insurance adjuster or provide a statement before you have consulted with an experienced injury attorney. Your attorney will be able to take most of the burden off your shoulders and relieve you of your anxiety as soon as you retain them. Personal injury attorneys typically charge adult clients a one-third contingency fee and not more than 40% of the recovery if the case proceeds to litigation and trial.
2. Following an accident where you have suffered injuries, you should go to urgent care, an emergency room or your primary care physician for a physical examination as soon as possible.
Thereafter, you will need to be proactive and consistent with your treatment plan. Immediate health care will guarantee that you discover all of your injuries, receive appropriate treatment and that your injuries will be documented for use in your personal injury case. Insurance companies will penalize you for any delay in seeking treatment or gaps in your treatment. You also may need to receive mental health care, particularly if you may have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Be a good record keeper regarding your health care subsequent to the accident, so you will be able to describe your injuries and resulting treatment to your attorney or, if necessary, in your deposition. Be able to discuss any injury or physical limitation throughout your entire body, from head to toe.
3. If possible, you will need to obtain all contact information from the other parties involved in (or witness to) the accident.
Insurance information, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, etc. — especially if the police do not respond to the scene and there is no traffic collision report. Use your cell phone to photograph the scene, the location of the vehicles involved, property damage, driver’s license and insurance cards.
4. You need to verify your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, as not every motorist is insured or has adequate insurance policy limits.
If the party who caused the accident is uninsured or underinsured, your attorney will be able to present a first-party claim to your own insurance company, if you have previously obtained sufficient uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage applies whether you are riding in an automobile, bicycle or in someone else’s car or are a pedestrian.
5. You will need to be able to locate your insurance policy declaration page and provide that to your counsel.
Alternatively, if you do not have insurance, you will not be able to recover for any non-economic damages or “pain and suffering,” under California law.* See, California’s Prop 213.
6. You should expect that your social media accounts will be reviewed.
If the case goes into litigation, that information can and will be requested via “discovery” (the fact-finding process), even if you have a “friends only” privacy setting. For example, if you claim bodily injury, but are pictured on Facebook, or tweet about, completing a 10K run or Century ride, the insurance company will rightly think that your injury claims are exaggerated, so be careful what you post!
7. You will have to provide documentation of any claimed loss of earnings and other out-of-pocket losses.
This presents challenges for people who are self-employed or work on a commission basis. Maintain all receipts and other documentation of out-of-pocket expenses.
8. You will need to be patient.
Insurance companies typically do not offer substantial settlements without time to evaluate documentation showing both liability and damages. More time is required if the offer is unreasonably low and a lawsuit must be filed. Then, the case must go through litigation and, if necessary, trial. This litigation process can take years.
9. You will need to manage your expectations and recognize that success is not guaranteed.
Insurance companies retain experienced lawyers to challenge your claims and to disprove your damages. For example, if you are rear-ended at a slow speed, with minimal property damage, and you suffer soft tissue damage, you should not expect to receive much compensation in a settlement. And, in the event a case goes to trial, you may not recover the amount you were hoping for or, in the worst case scenario, you might not prevail and not recover any damages.
10. You need to retain counsel as soon as possible following an accident to maximize your chances to receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
Your attorney will be able to assist you in obtaining health care, if necessary, and will be able to guide you through the entire process to ensure that your personal injury case is properly managed from beginning to end.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. This blog is not intended to, and does not, create an attorney client relationship, an offer of employment or a guarantee of success for clients of The Drexler Law firm. No information or representation contained in this post should be construed as an offer of employment, guarantee of success or the creation of an attorney client relationship with The Drexler Law firm, nor as legal advice from The Drexler Law Firm or the individual author. No reader of this post should act, or refrain from acting, on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer in the corresponding jurisdiction.
There are time deadlines during which a case must be brought, according to your jurisdiction or state, and failing to abide by the jurisdictional statute of limitation rules can result in your case being time-barred.