Do’s and Don’ts for Clients
Whether it is our attorneys, or another personal injury law firm, we strongly advise you to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident or incident occurs. In almost every case there are a number of steps that have to take place immediately after a personal injury. It is vitally important that you take certain steps to protect your rights. The following information is a summary of steps you need to take to protect your claims and to help prevent insurance companies and others from damaging your case.
Don’t Discuss Your Case with Insurance Companies or Their Adjusters
After an accident occurs, particularly automobile or trucking accidents, you will be contacted by a representative from the at-fault party’s insurance company or its investigator. They may say you “need to talk to them” in order to set up the claim. DO NOT DISCUSS THE INCIDENT OR ANYTHING ELSE WITH THESE INDIVIDUALS. Their job is save the insurance company money by damaging or defeating your claim.
This rule does not apply to your own insurance company. Under most circumstances, you have an obligation to cooperate with your insurance company, though you do have the right to have your attorney present. If law enforcement wishes to obtain your statement, we also strongly advise you to consult with an attorney before doing so.
Don’t Sign Anything Without Consulting an Attorney
In an effort to take advantage of injured victims of accidents, insurance companies and others may try to get you to sign releases or waivers after you have been injured without fully explaining the effect of the document. As a general rule, you should never sign any document about an accident or incident until you have consulted with an attorney so that the document can be carefully reviewed.
Generally, Do Not Try to Negotiate by Yourself
Whenever someone has been seriously injured, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney before trying to negotiate a settlement. Often times, victims of accidents will attempt to negotiate with an insurance company before consulting an attorney because they believe an attorney will cost too much money and that they can recover more on their own. In general, this is a dangerous misconception.
Almost without exception, an insurance company will refuse to pay the full value of your case until an attorney is involved who will thoroughly evaluate the responsibility of those who have injured you and the extent of your past and future damages. Often times, additional medical care will be needed in the future and experts may be needed to evaluate the costs of this treatment. In addition, your ability to return to work may be affected by an accident, and you are entitled to recover any future lost wages that you may incur.
Without the advice of an attorney, you will be at a significant disadvantage when dealing with an insurance company or its insured, and the best protection is a skilled and professional attorney. Negotiating with an insurance company before consulting with an attorney can hurt your case in a number of ways. First, information may be provided to the insurance company which should not be given. Second, the insurance company will try to discover how much you believe the case is worth, when that evaluation requires significant study and examination based upon the nature of the injuries and the misconduct of the at-fault party. Finally, the insurance company will often try to take advantage of the fact that you do not have an attorney by offering you significantly less than you deserve, and stating that no more can be offered.
Do Document/Photograph Important Evidence
When a serious injury occurs, there are often many issues that require immediate attention of the victim and their family: medical treatment and recovery, medical bills and expenses, lost time at work, etc. It is important, however, to document the immediate effects of the accident for use down the road. In most cases, the immediate injuries from an accident will heal over time. Trying to convey the seriousness of the injuries to a jury months or years later without photographs or video is an extremely difficult task. In addition, photographic evidence of property damage, vehicles and accident scenes are vitally important. While a friend or family member may have the ability to collect such evidence, the best practice is to have this done professionally.
Our attorneys utilize the services of companies that specialize in obtaining photographs and videotape of injuries, accident sites, damage to vehicles and other evidence. These companies will travel to hospitals, homes or anywhere necessary to document this evidence for use at trial.
In order to obtain timely photographs or video of injuries or evidence, we must be contacted as soon as possible after an accident occurs. Where necessary, we can have our professionals at the scene or in a hospital within 24 hours to ensure that the evidence is properly preserved