Your 1st thoughts must be obtaining medical treatment and in a non emergency setting providing notice to appropriate authorities. For example, when you are in a car accident, call the police. If you slip or trip and fall notify management, wherever you are, store, mall, school, business or to the owner(or their agents) if on a boat or cruise ship a crew member. Often a defendant will claim later they knew nothing about your incident and were prevented from investigating. Depending on your wits and the severity if the injury, note the scene, what caused your injury, fall etc, and if you have a cell phone camera photograph whatever is potentially relevant evidence. More is better. Ask for names and phone numbers of potential witnesses who
Medical care - the importance of follow up and Compliance
You have a personal INJURY case, and the injury is the essence of your claim. Often Emergency rooms are busy, understaffed and tend to under or mistakenly document your chart, in the interest of expediency and what they call triage. Your injuries are rated on some priority scale so as to get the most serious injuries seen first. In the typical non life threatening injury presentation you will often have a mid to lower level triage rating, characterized as a MVA with a certain type of injury(s).when seen be clear in what happened but focus on affects to your body, not so much the fault if the other party, as that will come later, and us most often mis-stated, or incorrect burdening your liability case. You will be discharged with instructions to follow up, usually with the doctor in whose specialty you were seen in the ER. This may or more often may not be the best doctor for your case as many Orthopedic or Neurological doctors do not want to become involved in litigation, further affecting the quality of your case. At this time you should look for a good lawyer, who will likely refer you to 1 or more doctors.
Impacting your File
In order for your lawyer to fully evaluate your case, it is critical that you provide as much information as possible. This starts not only in the initial interview, but in thoroughly completing whatever intake documents you are given by your lawyer. We use an Interview form which goes beyond the verbal interview and includes much historical information. Your medical personal and employment history will help find respectively, pre-existing medical conditions, contributing factors ( are you a diabetic, do you have osteoporosis, etc, which the defense lawyers will try to exploit and minimize your damages), have you been arrested, served time in prison, filed Bankruptcy, been divorced, filed several lawsuits, have you had many short term jobs, etc. Being complete in providing doctors and hospitals from whom you have obtained care, insurance companies who paid these bills and surgeries you gave had, allow your lawyer to get records which will help manage issues that your opponent will use against you). Information early and first is best .
Communication is Key
You must stay on top if your medical care, changes in your condition, medications therapy, consults, diagnostic tests, and keep your lawyer( or their secretary or paralegal, who will share thus information with your lawyer and document your file). We have often discovered more serious and undiagnosed injuries or related conditions by regularly talking to our clients, timely reading medical records and making suggestions or when necessary medical referrals are indicated. For example, by finding that a client who hit their head in a fall, or car accident is developing headaches, losing concentration, forgetting things, etc had a developing Traumatic Brain Injury, previously undiagnosed. Orthopedic injuries can lead to nerve injures needing neurological consult such as for RSD/CRPS, neuromas, and contracture of hands, fingers etc. Don't assume your damages are done at the ER. Also take pictures as conditions change, scars heal , or deepen, darken, contracture improve with therapy, and this photo documentary opportunities are lost.
When you must file suit.
The same rules as above apply as the longer your case takes to work its way through the court system, which depending on your jurisdiction and type of court( or venue) in which you file (State, Federal, Arbitration, Administrative) your final hearing or trial can be set from 1 year to much longer. Practically, long delays or gaps in treatment can influence a jury or to a lesser extent a Judge or experienced Arbitrator, by making it appear that you are fine and fully healed. We advise our clients to keep a diary containing bad days, changes in condition, pain level, inabilities to function, new medical needs, etc and write at the top of any such written document "Attorney Client Privileged" or made at the request if my attorney to shield it from subsequent discovery ( unless it's so good we want to produce it).
Take all Discovery Seriously -Be Thorough!
You will be questioned upon your written interrogatory answers, so don't omit facts, don't gloss over questions and don't write glib answers. Your answers will form the basis of but won't necessarily be the complete and final answer as your lawyer may modify them. When you get them back and certainly before your deposition read them carefully not only for errors or oversight but so when you are invariably asked by defense counsel in your deposition- Did you see and read these answers- the best way to harm your case is say no, I didn't say that. Communicate with your lawyer and make sure he or she us communicating with you. We always have pre-depo conferences in my office at least the day before and for 1-2 hours or more as needed.
Pain and Suffering, Non economic Damages are the best way to get large Damage awards but are the hardest to Obtain from today's Juries.
Your pain, your suffering your mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, shame, embarrassment and other non economic damages testimony starts with you. The better you ( and your lawyer) handle thus critical aspect of your case presentation, will allow your experts, medical providers and lay- " before and after " witnesses to bring these damages home to the jury and give support and credence to your words. With one treating neurologist, my client her husband son and daughter we were able to settle an RSD/ CRPS case at a lengthy mediation for over 20 times policy limits ( in a potential Bad Faith case by the insurance company who paid the settlement) by demonstrating with photos photo albums letters and testimony how dramatically this debilitating nerve disorder affected every aspect of my clients life. All individuals played there role perfectly and you too can achieve this type of result with thorough preparation.
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