Contacting an Attorney Soon After Your Injury
In Pennsylvania (and elsewhere), if you have been injured in an accident that was caused by the negligence or wrongful misconduct of another, it’s important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Early consultation with an attorney is advantageous in a number of ways.
Statute of Limitations Deadline is TickingThe statute of limitations establishes a deadline for your injury claim -- for example, in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations period for a standard personal injury claim is two years from the date of injury (though there is a shortened, six-month notice requirement for claims brought against public employees and agencies). If you do not file your claim before the deadline passes, then your claim will no longer be actionable in a Pennsylvania court of law. As such, it's absolutely critical that you consult with an attorney soon after an accident so that they can evaluate the claims at-issue and file the necessary documentation with the court in a timely manner.
Evidence Gathering Will Guide LitigationAttorneys serve multiple roles in litigation, including that of the investigator. Once you have started working with an attorney, he or she will begin to investigate the facts surrounding the case and will gather evidence to strengthen your claims. The attorney will also identify useful witnesses (both eyewitnesses and expert witnesses) to assist you in litigation.
Early evidence gathering can change the trajectory of litigation quite substantially. For example, suppose that you are injured in a car accident. Initially, the case seems like a straightforward lawsuit against the defendant-driver for negligence. After further investigation, however, your attorney finds that the braking mechanism in your car was defective. You might therefore want to bring an action against the manufacturer.
Attorneys Communicate on Your BehalfCertain statements that you make -- whether to law enforcement authorities, or to insurance companies -- may be used to undermine your claims. For example, after an accident, your insurer may connect with you over the phone and attempt to secure some statement about the accident that they can use to deny your claim.
Attorneys are more than just legal advocates at trial. Your attorney will communicate on your behalf throughout the litigation process -- this includes speaking with relevant parties (such as insurers) and handling any negotiations that may arise.
Settlement Negotiations May Resolve the Dispute EarlyGenerally speaking, trial litigation is best avoided (when possible), as it can be rather time-consuming, expensive, public, and emotionally draining. Further, there is an inherent uncertainty that accompanies all litigation -- it is rare that you can be certain that you will not only "win" by proving that the defendant is liable, but also that you will secure maximum compensation.
Settlement offers an opportunity to -- in a less hostile environment -- negotiate a win-win compromise with the defendant. If you could potentially be entitled to $1 million in damages, but you have a 50 percent chance of "losing" your case at trial, then it may be more sensible to negotiate a settlement compromise to ensure that you obtain at least $500,000 in the form of a settlement.
Attorneys Can Clarify Confusing Aspects of LitigationAs an injured plaintiff, also, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of litigation. You may also have a number of questions and concerns that you'd like to have addressed. Your attorney can help.
Experienced attorneys understand the value of having an engaged client and will keep the lines of communication open so that you can have any lingering questions or concerns answered. It is important that you know your rights, and that you know how the case is developing so that you and your attorney can be on the same page, strategically speaking.