How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You
Most people know that if you are hurt in a car accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you get compensation for your injuries. However, most personal injury lawyers can help with more than vehicle accident cases. The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman cover several practice areas that fall under personal injury law. If another person or a company injured you, contact our firms for a free consultation and case evaluation.
Whether you’re hurt in a fall or an auto accident, by a defective product or due to some other occurrence, you need to concentrate on your recovery. As you focus on emergency medical treatment, doctors, nurses, medications, surgical interventions, and therapeutic treatments, your attorney focuses on protecting your legal rights. He establishes a barrier between you and all of the people who would disrupt your peace of mind.
- As your medical bills begin to pile up, hospital administrators will want to know how you plan to pay them.
- If you were involved in an auto accident, the investigating police officer will want answers.
- Your insurance company will need your statement. They’ll want to determine if they owe you PIP benefits and if they owe the other driver’s damages
- The other driver’s insurance company will need to know your version so they can figure out if they can walk away without paying you anything.
- If you fell on someone’s property, the liability insurance company will want to know what happened.
- If you were injured on the job, the HR department and your boss will also have a few questions to ask.
While you might be able to handle these and other issues on your own, you have too much at stake to go it alone. During the confusing post-accident days, your personal injury lawyer intervenes on your behalf. As your legal representative, he forces people to deal with him instead of bothering you. A personal injury attorney remains vigilant from the moment you decide you want his representation until you execute any final settlement documents.
Personal Injury Attorneys Perform Complicated Jobs
A personal injury lawyer protects your legal rights. That sounds simple but it requires that he recognize and anticipate legal issues before they arise and intervene on your behalf. This often involves a continuous flow of tasks.
Discusses the Accident With You and Advises You of Your Rights
If someone else has injured you, you may be entitled to collect compensation for your injuries and losses. A personal injury lawyer can advise you about what steps you need to take to negotiate a settlement. If the insurance company refuses to come to a fair and reasonable settlement, a personal injury lawyer should be ready to take your case to court.
Your version of the accident becomes the road map your lawyer follows as he protects your legal interests. When your attorney discusses your case with you, he listens for facts and information that require additional clarification and follow up. He asks relevant questions about your accident circumstances, injuries, pain, recovery, disabilities, insurance, and other key information.
If you were injured in an auto accident at an intersection, your council will want to know about lights, traffic signals, speed limits, or traffic signs that control access to the highway. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, he will want to understand the surface on which you fell. He will consider the lighting, your shoes, and any obstructions to your path. He would want to know about anything that could have caused or contributed to your fall.
Case Investigation and Discovery
Part of preparing for settlement and trial is doing an investigation of the case and performing discovery. A personal injury attorney will investigate your case, which may involve hiring expert witnesses, as well as finding all of the evidence available as a result of your accident.
Some lawyers conduct on-site and in-person investigations themselves. Others hire independent investigators to do the work. Investigators track down and interview witnesses; obtain scene photos, videos, and diagrams if they exist; pick up police and employer reports; get photos of involved vehicles; and document adverse conditions at premises injury sites. If no pictures or videos exist, the lawyer may have someone go out to the accident site to take pictures of evidence left on the ground, such as skid marks, vehicle parts, and other evidence that cannot be picked up.
These and other tasks provide evidence for the attorney to review and evaluate as he determines fault.
Your lawyer will also need additional documents to help you get the compensation you deserve. These include your medical records and medical bills. If you have an underlying condition that causes your injuries to heal slowly, such as diabetes or an immune system disease, your attorney may need records regarding your underlying illnesses to show that recovery will not be typical for you and/or that the injuries you sustained in the accident exacerbated your underlying condition.
Finally, your attorney will prepare interrogatories—written questions—for the other party. The attorney may also request depositions to ask the other party questions under oath.
Discusses Your Claims With Insurance Companies
If you’re in an auto accident both your auto insurance carrier and the other driver’s liability carrier will want to talk to you. If it’s a premises fall or an on-the-job injury, a general liability or workers compensation carrier will want information. They’ll all want recorded statements.
- To control the flow of information that might undermine your claim, your lawyer will refuse the liability carriers’ requests.
- As your auto insurance policy and applicable workers compensation carriers require cooperation, your attorney will either arrange and supervise your statement or coach you ahead of time on what to say or not say.
- Additional conversations with your insurance companies may cover medical bill payments, auto repair, health insurance subrogation rights, and basic liability discussions.
Places Parties on Notice
To prevent them from contacting you, your personal injury attorney advises all relevant parties that he represents you. He notifies each person or entity that all future contacts or inquiries must come through his office. This allows a personal injury attorney to keep track of insurance communications and insurance claim statuses, injury prognosis, medical treatment and bills, and other information critical to your case.
Sends Formal Letters of Representation
If an attorney makes his initial notice via phone or email, he will usually follow up with a formal letter of representation. He will send his representation letter to the drivers of other vehicles involved in an auto accident, employers of workers injured on the job, manufacturers of defective machines, insurance companies and anyone else who may seek to contact his client about an incident.
Requests and Reviews Applicable Insurance Policies
Your lawyer will typically request a copy of your auto policy or other relevant policies from your insurance companies. Once he receives them he can eliminate any concerns about your auto insurance coverage and any benefits. He will review applicable PIP, liability, medical payments, Uninsured Motorist coverage, and Underinsured Motorist coverage. He also will request benefits information from your health insurance carrier.
Reviews and Documents Your Insurance Companies’ Subrogation Rights
Your attorney will also review any applicable subrogation provisions in your health and auto insurance coverage. This will explain your duty to protect their subrogation rights and include your insurance companies as a party to any future lawsuits. As your representative, your attorney must know your insurance company’s right to recover the damages they pay. When he settles your claim or tries a suit for damages, he will also protect your insurance company’s interests.
Picks up Defective Products
If a defective product injured you, the product becomes important evidence. If it’s still in your possession, your attorney will explain that you should not relinquish it to anyone except his law firm or its representative. Your attorney will likely have an investigator pick up the product and bring it in for storage or immediate testing.
Arranges for Non-Destructive Testing
Once an attorney takes possession of a defective product, he arranges for an industry expert to conduct non-destructive testing. When an injured client alleges an injury due to a defective product, it’s important to secure the product before the manufacturer or their insurance carrier does. Defendants will sometimes conduct destructive testing which virtually destroys a product. This procedure prevents plaintiffs from conducting meaningful tests to confirm a defect.
The personal injury attorney’s expert will determine the nature of any defects and determine if the product could have caused or contributed to the client’s injuries. Non-destructive tests maintain the structural integrity of a product. They allow the plaintiff to leave the product intact for defendants and their insurance companies to test.
Researches Product Defects
If a defective product caused your injury, your lawyer will search consumer sites, prior lawsuits, and government sites seeking to confirm if there were any similar incidents.
Requests Product Testing Report
Once the expert tests the product, your attorney may request a detailed report outlining their findings.
Analyzes Potential Legal Issues
When your attorney has gathered enough information and evidence, he performs a detailed liability analysis. He reviews applicable statutes, case law, common law, and relevant legal precedents. He uses the information to establish a valid rationale for pursuing a claim against the responsible parties.
It’s a less time-consuming process when a case is a simple auto accident. If your injury involves complex issues, rare circumstances, or unusual legal theories, it will require an in-depth analysis.
Accumulates Medical Bills and Hospital Records
As your treatment winds down, your doctor will review your accumulated medical bills and request those he’s not yet received.
Requests Medical Reports
If you’ve reached maximum recovery, your attorney will request narrative medical reports from your treating physicians. The reports will describe your injuries, course of treatment, initial diagnosis, prognosis, and disability information. It will conclude whether or not you can return to normal work and activity levels or if you have permanent impairments.
Requests Lost Income Information
To evaluate your damages, your attorney needs confirmation from your employer of any income lost because of your injuries. Your doctor’s report must support your income loss.
Locates Medical Experts
Catastrophic and serious injuries often lead to complex diagnoses, treatment, prognoses, and disabilities that can have a profound effect on your life. Your attorney may hire a medical expert to confirm the diagnoses and project future impairments, restrictions, and treatment.
Requests Economic Projections
If your case involves a potential for substantial future medical treatment and wage losses, your attorney may hire an economist to project the values.
Requests Medical Expert Evaluation
Your attorney will discuss your case with medical expert’s, either in person or by phone. He will request a narrative report if the findings support your claimed injuries, restrictions and disabilities.
Confirms PIP Tort Exceptions
You have no right to make an auto liability claim against a negligent driver until your medical condition meets one of the Florida PIP exceptions. When your attorney verifies that you’ve met one of these thresholds, he will present a liability claim to the other driver’s insurance carrier.
- Significant/permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Once you have reached maximum healing, or your attorney has a good picture of the incident and what they believe you will need to cover your past and future medical expenses, your lawyer will often attempt to settle your claim with the appropriate liability carrier. Personal injury attorneys often follow a tradition where they submit a packet of medical bills, reports, income loss documentation and a liability analysis with a settlement demand. If the defendants respond with an offer, this process initiates informal negotiations and may lead to a settlement. If the insurance company does not respond or responds with a low-ball counteroffer, and the attorney believes that further negotiations will not get you fair compensation, the attorney may then prepare to take your case to trial.
Files a Lawsuit
When your lawyer files a suit, it begins a new phase in his representation. He formalizes all of his legal theories, allegations, and damage information. The involved parties give up some control to a judge who usually pushes for settlement. When a case enters litigation, all parties and their insurance companies begin incurring legal expenses and fees. The increasing costs sometimes motivate defendants to settle.
Participates in Alternative Dispute Resolution
National statistics show that attorneys settle 95 percent of the suits they file. The courts understand this, and so they encourage mediation, settlement conferences, and other forums to resolve differences and settle early in the litigation process.
Mediation is mandatory in all Florida personal injury lawsuits. You, your attorney, the insurance company representative, and the insurance company’s lawyer come together in an informal setting. The adverse parties share information and try to move toward a settlement.
Preparing for Trial
Because most of the work on your case is done during the investigation and discovery phase, once an attorney is ready for settlement negotiations, they are almost ready for trial, as well. They must now file the lawsuit and make sure the evidence is in order and ready for admission before the court. The lawyer must ensure that the defendant (the other party you are suing) gets copies of all evidence the attorney plans to present at trial. The defendant must also provide any evidence they plan to present at trial to your attorney.
If the attorney feels that they need expert witnesses to describe certain aspects of your case at trial, like how much your future medical costs are likely to be, the firm will hire those witnesses on your behalf. Once everything is ready for trial, and if the insurance company still has not offered a fair and reasonable settlement, the lawyer will schedule a trial date with the court. A trial sometimes takes only a few hours, but can occasionally stretch out over several days.
Tries Your Case, if Necessary
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will present your evidence before a judge and jury. If you request a bench trial, only a judge will hear your evidence and decide your case.
Represent Clients Throughout Worker Compensation Process
If your case involves a workers compensation claim, your lawyer will help you comply, as needed, with any required reports and form submissions. If the insurance company refuses to pay your claim, your attorney will assist you with your petition for benefits. He will also represent you at any required hearings and help you obtain any lump sum settlements to which you’re entitled.
Personal Injury Attorneys Maintain a Hectic Pace
Your lawyer may experience an occasional lull in activity throughout the life of your case. During the active periods, he remains busy pulling together the evidence he needs to effectively present and negotiate your case. Your attorney tailors his activity to the circumstances, type of claim and the injuries involved. Look for someone who will take the time to clearly communicate with you what he or she is doing to advance your case.
You may be entitled to damages—a word courts use to describe financial compensation—for your injuries and/or losses. Personal injury cases involve three types of damages: general, special and punitive.
These are damages with a specific dollar amount attached. They may also be called economic damages, and can include:
- Medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident;
- Future medical expenses such as additional surgeries, therapy, or follow-up doctors’ appointments;
- Lost wages;
- Future lost wages; or
- Repair or replacement of personal property.
These are damages for which it is not as easy to assign a specific dollar amount. Courts or insurance companies will sometimes award this type of damages if you are suffering from long-term injuries or you have lost a loved one in an accident. General damages may include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of use of a body part or limb;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of consortium; or
- Wrongful death.
Courts only award punitive damages if the defendant’s behavior was grossly negligent or intentionally harmful. This type of damages is used as a punishment for the defendant. For example, a court may award you punitive damages if they find that the defendant was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident and caused your injuries or the death of your loved one.
Courts may also award punitive damages in certain cases where the defendant committed an intentional tort, such as trespassing with the intent to harm you or your family. For example, if the defendant trespassed on your property and started a fire in your home knowing you were at home, a court might order the defendant to pay punitive damages in a civil case. Of course, the defendant may also face criminal charges for trespassing and arson in a criminal court.
Arranging for Payment
Once the lawyer settles with the insurance company or you receive an award through a court order, the lawyer will collect the award from the defendant. It is then that the attorney takes their agreed-upon fee; usually a percentage of your winnings. The attorney will also ensure that your medical bills have been paid and will write you a check for the balance of the money from the settlement or court order.
If Someone Injured You, Call a Personal Injury Lawyer for More Information
If you’re struggling to recover from a serious accident, you need a personal injury law firm that’s willing to work hard for you. Look for someone with the resources and experience to handle your case, someone who offers free consultations and who works on a contingency fee basis so that you can get more information about your case without worrying about additional expenditures. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please call us at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online today.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765