The do’s and don’ts when you’re in the midst of your personal injury case
When you’ve been injured to the point where you are unable to resume your normal daily activities and your quality of life has been affected, working with a personal injury lawyer to make sure that you get everything that you’re entitled to from insurance companies is a smart choice.
Once you’ve made that decision however, there are things that you should and shouldn’t do in order to mitigate any issues with your case.
Your lawyer can only help you if you help them, so here are some ways that you can ensure you both move forward on the best possible footing.
Ask A Lot Of Questions
Before you decide to work with a personal injury lawyer, you need to ask them a lot of questions. They will ask you many as well, but the point is to make sure that you have the best possible representation in what is going to be a relatively lengthy process.
Unlike the claim to have a car repaired, which can be resolved in just days, a personal injury claim—whether as a result of a motor vehicle or other accident—can take far longer to negotiate and settle. You want to be comfortable with the lawyer that you choose.
Here are some sample questions that you might want to ask:
1. What is your specialty?
This may seem like a silly question, but I’ve met with many clients who were considering hiring their brother-in-law to handle their case.
The legal system is complex, which is why a talented lawyer who practices real estate or family law may not necessarily be equipped to get this job done right.
A lawyer who focuses in personal injury law will be up to date on the latest case law and have an extensive network of contacts in the industry, to say nothing of relevant experience in the simplest to the most complex cases.
2. Do you have experiences with cases like mine?
Motor vehicle accident injury cases are different from workplace injuries.
If the lawyer you’re talking to only has experience with the latter, but you were injured in a car crash, you might want to keep looking.
3. How much success have you had obtaining settlements for your clients?
In all fairness, thanks in part to the fact that you don’t pay a personal injury lawyer until the settlement has been reached, most quality PI lawyers will not take on a case that they don’t have a reasonable expectation of settling satisfactorily.
In other words: they won’t take on a case they can’t win, because if they don’t win, they don’t get compensated for their time and effort.
4. Do you know how the insurance companies think and work?
While many lawyers have only ever worked for the injured party, finding one who has worked on the other side defending the insurance companies, as I have, is important.
Having that level of inside knowledge on how everything works can be very useful in any negotiation situation.
Once you’ve decided on a personal injury lawyer that you’d like to work with, and they’ve reciprocated, make sure that you ask them to outline how payment will work: what they will bill for and when.
Typically, there are expenses beyond the percentage of the settlement that will be added to a final tally. You need to know up front what those might be and approximately how much they could add up to.
For example, if independent medical reports are required, the cost of these would be added on.
Because of the long duration of a settlement of an injury claim, it’s worthwhile to make sure that the lines of communication between yourself and your lawyer stay open. Keep them updated on your condition, your treatment and your overall wellbeing.
Related to the last point, above, is the fact that you must be 100% honest with your lawyer at all times. They can’t help you if you omit or even outrightly lie about certain information about your health, injuries, the accident or any other aspect of the case.
This happens in particular if a person is progressing with their treatment in the two years leading up to the settlement and find that they can return to some level of the previous activities.
They worry that in admitting this to their lawyer, they will dash all hopes of obtaining a settlement.
Ultimately, it will come out during negotiations—insurance companies do their work and research too—and it could damage your case very badly.
I can’t very well defend you by stating that you can barely walk and then have the defense lawyer show me video of you tarring your driveway three months ago.
Information that you might forget to mention to your lawyer, thinking they aren’t relevant (but they are):
- Changes in your injury condition – whether improvement or not.
- Changes in your doctor’s reports concerning your injury condition.
- Any pre-existing medical conditions or previous injuries that could impact the settlement
- Changes in your work. If you decide, for example, to return to work part time, you need to tell your lawyer about it right away (preferably even before you go back).
- Any life activities, trips or other events that if captured on surveillance might make it look like you’re not that badly off. If you’re planning to go on vacation, tell your lawyer.
Watch What You Say Online
In the same vein as being honest and sharing changes in your situation with your lawyer, it’s also important for clients not to share much of anything online.
The internet and social media have become a harvesting ground for insurance companies to collect data on claimants. Even with privacy settings on, you don’t know who your friends know and the picture of your salsa dancing on vacation a month after your accident won’t help you, particularly if you didn’t share with your lawyer that you were going on the trip in the first place.
Keep Up With Your Treatments
As the saying goes: do what the doctor orders. If you are given a treatment schedule, follow it.
If you are meant to be seeing a physiotherapist or other practitioner, do it. Follow your doctor’s orders carefully and to the letter.
If you have any questions about your therapy, ask. What you don’t want is to decide that you feel better, letting your treatment appointments lapse. This will appear to the defense as if you are not doing what you can to mitigate the impact of your injuries—in other words, that you aren’t acting in good faith.
It will not help the outcome of your settlement negotiations one bit, so keep going to those appointments.
Whatever happens, you have to view your relationship with your personal injury lawyer as a partnership: together, you’re going to get to an end result that works but not if you’re working against one another.
If you have any questions about an injury you sustained in an accident, call my office.