The First Step
Once you have been injured and are receiving/in need of medical treatment, the first step is to consult with a lawyer who can properly advise you on the law, your rights, from whom you can seek compensation and what to expect from the other party's insurance company (hopefully they have one). Most lawyers who handle injury cases will offer you a FREE consultation in which your case is discussed, evaluated, and either accepted or rejected.
Talk to No One
You hire a lawyer to handle your claim. Don't let insurance adjustors, investigators, or potential defendants pressure you into making statements on the telephone or agreeing to their leading questions (such as, you're feeling better, right?) because if you do, your case may be significantly damaged and you may be impeached at trial by an adjustor who testifies about these so-called phone conversations you had with him saying how much better you were... If you don't talk to them, they can't lie about what you said...
Paying the Bills
If your bills are being paid for by the automobile insurance company they will be sending you a medical record release (if they have not already) to sign. Many of these releases include language which gives them access to all of your medical records to include counseling, drug treatment, mental health, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. Once they get this information and put it in their computer it is there for anyone with access to see. The Insurance Medical Records Company maintains a huge database with information gathered in this manner for use by insurance companies in defense of your claim. Your ally today could be your enemy tomorrow.
Getting the Right Treatment
The first goal of this case is to get you the proper treatment you need and help you get better. To do that, you need a proper diagnosis and treatment. After receiving any emergency care required, you need to consult with a medical doctor whom you trust and has experience handling cases like your own. Don't rely on the emergency room physician's initial assessment as the final word. If your family physician can not get you a referral, give me a call but the bottom line is that you must seek medical advice from the appropriate person and be able to rely upon their opinion. If you get a misdiagnosis of a lumbar strain and settle the case for $1000 you will not be able to go back and void that settlement if it turns out you have a herniated disc which requires $50,000.00 in surgery and months of recovery. That's why you need to be confident with the diagnosis before we start settlement negotiations. Likewise, some injuries will appear long after the initial assessment. After your
Time is Your Ally
Often we wait for a year or two before filing suit. During that period of time you have an opportunity to clearly see if your condition is fixed and stable. You also have the opportunity to see if any hidden injuries are going to come up. It is not necessary for you to settle your claim to get your car fixed/replaced, even through the insurance company might tell you otherwise. Remember their goal is to close the file (with a settlement and iron clad release of all claims preferably) so they may rush you to take the check, but remember the check has a string the size of a noose attached to it. Generally the law provides you have three years to file suit before the statute of limitations run and the court bars your claim from being filed. Once the lawsuit is filed, you may have up to another two or three years before you get to trial so with all of that time, you can afford to wait for your condition to become fixed and stable.
Keep Your Lawyer Informed
It is important that you stay in regular contact with me and that I have your current address and phone numbers. If I can't get in touch with you, important dates or opportunities may pass and if enough time goes by and I can't find you, I may withdraw from representing you and you'll be on your own!
If you have questions, ask them! Lawyers and doctors are in the professional service business. That means they work for you and provide you with advice and counsel. You may get their opinion whether you ask for it or not, but if you have questions or concerns it is incumbent upon you to make them known and communicate! I had a client who waited until a week before trial to tell me they had been in another accident, think that made a difference in our case? You bet - it almost got it thrown out because they had a legal obligation to disclose that when it happened and not the week before trial.