Accidents are facts of life, so some knowledge about how to prepare for the filing of a personal injury legal claim and about what to expect afterwards can be of significant assistance to anyone whose life takes a bad turn caused by another’s negligence. Accidents that cause personal injury claims are potentially infinite in number and variety from motor vehicle collisions, slip and fall incidents on surfaces improperly maintained, or poisoning from food products negligently prepared, to cite a few examples. Fortunately, there are several ways for grievants to acquire some basic knowledge of personal injury law so they can avoid some of the most common costly, unnecessary mistakes. Here are ten such ways:
1. Get professional medical attention right away
The first thing to do after your accident is to have a medical professional treat the apparent injuries and make a thorough examination with appropriate testing for others unseen that may come to light later after delayed reactions to the trauma of the injury. It is unnecessary and often unwise to initiate any formal personal injury claim before knowing the full extent of all injuries sustained.
Claimants should be aware that unnecessary delay in obtaining medical attention after a personal injury sometimes prejudices the case for monetary damages. Opposing parties may argue that claimants have inflated their claims fraudulently by acting on afterthoughts to make their injuries seem more severe than the facts proved, or they would have gone to their doctors right away. Injured parties may be duty-bound to mitigate their losses and not to magnify them by running up costs that could be avoided or prevented by reasonably prompt action.
2. File a Police Report
Official police reports are reliable, disinterested, impartial third-party accounts and substantially probative evidence of important facts about the personal injury incident. Party names and contact data, witness identifications and initial statements, and information as to time, location, and particular circumstances are important not only in themselves but also as starting points for further investigation of additional, relevant facts. Police reports are useful as forensic aids in refreshing witness recollections and as evidence of past recollections recorded, a function particularly useful and frequent in lawsuits that go on and on for years.
3. Make no unnecessary statements at accident scenes
It may be necessary to speak directly with opposing parties at personal injury scenes, but careful reticence always should be in control. A man of few words makes not many foolish, self-defeating statements. Silence is truly golden in such situations. The injured party has no obligation to socialize, to state any opinion, or to provide any facts other than name, contact information, and insurer. Anything additional may be twistable to create confusion and doubt about the personal injury claim.
4. Maintain records and accounts of all related losses and expenses
Medical and hospital billings, bills for property repair or replacement, and insurance reports are all relevant. Lost income should be documented if the injury caused the claimant to lose time and compensation from employment. It is also generally worthwhile for the claimant to write out a detailed, personal account of what happened to cause the injury while details remain vivid in memory. The time and effort to prepare this record may pay off in a big way if the claimant later must testify at a hearing or trial to prove the case.
5. Know about filing deadlines
Under state statutes of limitations, formal legal claims must be filed in the courts of proper jurisdiction within certain time periods. Following timely filing of their complaints, claimants must meet numerous deadlines for filing motions, pleadings, and other statements of the case or risk penalties and sanctions and even dismissals of their cases for failure to file on time. If the time under the statute passes with no complaint filed or if the complaint is timely but the court ultimately dismisses it for failure to comply with case filing deadlines, the personal injury claim dies and with it any chance for claimant compensation.
6. Do some elementary legal research
The claimant who can acquire some basic familiarity with the main provisions of personal injury practice and procedure is more likely than the totally untutored to navigate the civil legal process successfully. Expert knowledge of rules of practice and of case precedents is hardly necessary nor desirable as a practical matter, but a discussion with a lawyer about how to find statutes, regulations, and pertinent opinions can clarify much of what seems to be mysterious and arcane about the process.
7. Have no trust in insurance adjusters
Insurers for opposing parties are not on any claimant’s side but are not averse to suggestions or implications not truly unintentional that in fact they want to help claimants resolve their cases, a half-truth because they want the cases resolved but in favor not of the claimants but of the opposing parties whom they serve. To protect themselves in negotiations with insurers, claimants should be accompanied by attorneys to advise and advocate for them. Most personal injury lawyers agree to work for contingency fees to help claimants for no cash up front and no fee at all if the claim turns out not to be a winner or, if it wins, as a fee a portion of the proceeds from the settlement or judgment.
8. Sign nothing without clear and complete comprehension
Any document or form for ratification by signature should be fully comprehensible to the claimant invited to sign. If not entirely certain of the long- term consequences, do not sign. Take it to an attorney for help by clarification and explanation. Any documents that purport to release a party from any claim or any that require surrender of a right or privilege are always suspect. Unrepresented claimants confronting such situations should consult with legal counsel before any contemplation of ratification.
9. Make no pro se settlements
Settlement means the end of the case with no further proceedings however necessary in the interests of justice. If the unrepresented pro se claimant discovers or realizes after the fact that the opposing party’s insurer has agreed to pay less than fair damages, there is no recourse. Settlement can be a complex process, and insurers can construct complexities to encourage misunderstanding. Claimants unsure of what to do should consult with an experienced Tacoma personal injury lawyer. Again, retaining a personal injury lawyer makes perfect sense financially because the client pays no legal fee if the lawyer fails to recover compensatory damages for the injury.
10. Know the type of lawyer needed
Personal injury lawyers are a motley sort. Some are specialists in certain torts, others more into general personal injury practice. There are as many types of Tacoma personal injury lawyers as types of personal injuries, and one may be better for a case than another. When interviewing personal injury practitioners, ask about their case histories and the personal injury cases they prefer.
Consult Our Tacoma Personal Injury Attorney
Accidents are common, everyday occurrences, but they can have grievous, lifelong consequences. Accidents not only cause pain and suffering from severe and sometimes life-threatening injuries, but they also require transactions with insurance companies and lots of claim forms, correspondence, and red tape for which the tort victim may not have the time or resources necessary to confront while in recovery.
At Greene & Lloyd, PLLC, caring and compassionate personal injury attorneys are dedicated to seeing clients through such difficult times by assisting them with medical treatment, helping them organize insurance benefits for proper treatment, exhausting every monetary resource to cover all expenses, and fighting for full and fair compensation by negotiation, mediation, litigation, and all other lawful means necessary. Call 253-770-0808 today to schedule a free case consultation with a Tacoma personal injury attorney.