What can I do to ensure I get the most out of my personal injury case?
The age-old adage “hindsight is 20/20” tends to hold true in life as well as in personal injury cases. Oftentimes, clients tell me they wish they would’ve known the significance of taking certain actions after being the victim of a car crash. It’s important to realize that after you’re involved in a car crash, the insurance company commences an investigation immediately. I constantly encounter situations where a person is the victim of a auto accident in the morning and just an hour later they’re receiving numerous phone calls from the insurance company requesting a recorded statement. Navigating conversations with the at-fault party’s insurance company and even your own insurance company can be overwhelming and confusing.
That’s why speaking with an attorney as soon as possible after suffering any type of personal injury is imperative.
There are also several important tips that you should remember when pursuing your claim to maximize your recovery.
Photos Of Your Vehicle & Injuries
Pictures really are worth a thousand words, since few things can illustrate the significance of a crash or your injuries like a good photograph. Don’t depend on police officers, your insurance company, or anyone else* to take photographic evidence for you. With the state of technology today, the camera on your cell phone can ensure that these necessary images are captured immediately following the incident.
Be sure to take photos of your vehicle from different angles in order to best demonstrate the extent of the damage. Taking many different photos from varying distances and angles will help to reconstruct the damage and convey the extent of the accident. For example, a photograph of a completely smashed in trunk will go a long way in convincing a jury that your whiplash injuries are significant.
Read this article for tips on What To Do At The Scene of An Accident, including what you should photograph.
You should also take great care to document your physical injuries immediately after the incident. Bruises, abrasions, and other evidence of physical injuries may fade over time and be relatively non-existent by the time your case goes to trial. Do this in multiple stages. First, photograph each and every injury (again from varying angles and distance) that you received in the accident. These photographs will later help to convey the severity of your injuries to the insurance company and/or a jury. As the healing process continues, be sure to document any changes with your injury. Take photos of any medical devices you receive, like casts or neck braces, as well as an developing injuries (sometimes bruises or swelling can get worse over time). Having documentation of your injuries from beginning to end will help to establish a timeline of your suffering.
*If you are seriously injured, you obviously cannot stick around the scene to take photos. In this case, have someone you trust take as many photos as possible of everything they can think of, as soon as possible. You and your attorney can sort through the picture later to decide what is relevant.
Documentation & Record Keeping
Keeping track of important documents is crucial to any type of legal case; personal injury is no different. From the moment the police arrive on the scene, until your case is officially over, the documentation will be rolling in. Likewise, you will also be communicating with many different people in many different formats. This information, too, should be kept and organized.
If hindsight is 20/20, this is one of those areas that people don’t always see clearly the first time. But since you’re reading this information, you’ll be prepared with well-organized and recorded documentation of your experience.
This information is especially helpful for those people who don’t hire an attorney immediately following an accident (since the firm will keep track of a majority of this information for you). However, hiring an attorney will not solve all the problems that come with the level of communication a personal injury case entails. Follow these tips and you’ll be perfectly prepared.
- Start by getting a file box or someway to organize paperwork. Make tabs or dividers with sections like My Insurance, Defendant’s Insurance, Attorney Info, Vehicle Damage, Medical Records, Missed Work, etc. As you go along, it will become clear how to best organize your own case.
- Keep everything (or a copy of everything) that you receive on paper. File this information in the appropriate folder so that you can access it later. If someone down the road asks you what model year the negligent driver’s car is, you can go right to your folder and have that information available in seconds.
- Maintain a record of all communications. This means taking notes when you speak to someone on the phone or in person. It also means saving any letters or copy of letters that you receive. It is also a great idea to either create a new email address just for your case or to create a designated folder in your current email inbox. Within that folder, create sub-folders with similar headings to your file box. If you’re a paper-person, print copies of emails and file them away. If you’re a digital-person, scan copies of every document you receive to keep track of them on your computer.
For more in-depth information on how to organize your case, read 3 Tips to Organzie Your Injury Claim. This article will cover in-detail how to organize your documentation, how to take notes during the process, and how to organize a claim calendar.BONUS TIP: Keep track of people you spoke with or who you may have given a recorded statement to; likewise, keep track of the names of any witnesses to the crash. Oftentimes following a collision, things move so quickly that a client may give a recorded statement regarding the details of the crash without giving much consideration to how that statement might affect their case in the future.Hiring an attorney immediately following your accident will help you to navigate through these initial phases and allow you to rest assured that everything is being handled correctly.
Open Communication & Timeliness
Another thing to remember that will help your case is being open and honest with your attorney; an attorney-client relationship is based on maintaining open lines of communication. That means, it’s important to be upfront and honest with your attorney about your case, your injuries, and any prior history you may have. Keeping information from your attorney that you feel might be harmful to your case is never a good idea.
For starters, whatever information you shield from your attorney will undoubtedly be discovered by the insurance company and/or the defense attorney. Likewise, if your attorney doesn’t know about certain things, they cannot prepare to defend against them later. This is most common when it comes to past injuries or accidents. Intentionally distorting your past thwarts your attorneys ability to properly pursue your case. Taking the time to sit down with your attorney and thoughtfully answer questions about prior accidents, medical conditions, or past injuries you sustained will allow your attorney to formulate the best strategy for maximizing your recovery.
As the client, you have the ability to positively influence the ultimate outcome of your case by simply ensuring you are on-time to meetings and doctor’s appointments. Insurance companies will attempt to poke holes in your case in any way possible. Things like missing a doctor’s appointment or having a gap in medical treatment can open the door for the defense attorney to claim that you’re not really injured. Although we all know that things happen and life can get in the way, this tip should be taken seriously to ensure that the opposing attorney has no room to manipulate this situation.
Ask your attorney as many questions as necessary about the injury claim process when you’re confused or don’t completely understand. This will help you and your attorney in successfully litigating your case. When everyone is on the same page, things go a lot smoother.
At Dolman Law Group, we handle a variety of personal injury cases and have both the experience and resources to pursue your claim correctly and efficiently. For more information, call our Clearwater office at 727-451-6900 or use our Online Contact Page to email us directly.