1. Get IMMEDIATE emergency medical assistance. Insurance companies and their lawyers often claim that an injury was not caused by a particular accident, or did not cause pain, suffering or severe trauma on the grounds that the plaintiff never sought emergency-room assistance. They will use any delay in medical treatment to their advantage. Juries have bought into this argument over the years, so it's important to get to an ER or a doctor quickly and start your physical therapy or chiropractic treatment right away and to go consistently.
2. Memorialize in writing or on your computer every detail you can possibly remember about the accident. Be sure to write "communication to my lawyer" at the top of the page in order to maintain confidentiality. It's also a good idea to make a daily diary of the pain, suffering and inconveniences that result from your injuries.
3. Photograph immediately and comprehensively (i.e. multiple distances and angles) all visual evidence of bodily injury and property damage. Take your photographs digitally or, if you are using a 35mm camera, do not wait to develop the photos, because if they come out unclear they need to be retaken quickly so as to memorialize physical injuries before they heal or subside. At the same time, take photos of bodily injuries every day or every week (as necessary) to memorialize each visible stage and length of time of the healing process.
4. Photograph immediately and comprehensively any dangerous conditions, items or vehicles that caused or were involved in the accident (such a vehicle, a piece of hardware, a loose staircase). It is important to photograph these items before they are fixed, improved, or removed from the scene. Also photograph any relevant road signs, traffic signals and intersections.
5. Do not give an insurance company your statement before consulting with an attorney, whether verbal or in writing. Simply ask the claims adjuster requesting the statement to contact your lawyer directly.
6. Never sign any document pertaining to the accident, including (without limitation) an insurance company's release of claims, authorization to obtain information, or written statement describing what happened. Have your lawyer review any such document before executing it.
7. Request the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident, and persons involved or injured in the accident.
8. If you must take time off of work because of the accident, always secure a doctor's note confirming that the time off was doctor-recommended or ordered.
9. All physical evidence should be marked and preserved. For example, a defective product that caused injury, shoes worn in a slip and fall injury, documents (such as receipts) proving that you were present at the scene of the injury, etc.
10. Medical treatment should be continuous and as frequent as necessary. Long gaps between treatment are often cited by defense attorneys as evidence that an injury is not serious, that medical treatment is not really necessary, and that the plaintiff is malingering.
Immediately. The value of your case is directly related to the evidence collected that will prove your claims. The sooner you hire a lawyer, the sooner he or she can begin interviewing witnesses, investigating the scene, memorializing relevant details (such as through photographs, written statements, business or medical records, etc.) You might be surprised at how much the smallest and seemingly most insignificant evidentiary details can actually affect the amount of damages awarded by a jury at trial. Every little thing counts! Moreover, your attorney will prevent you from doing things that may damage your case, such as giving statements and signing documents that may later be used against you.
How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer? Shouldn't I wait as long as possible before hiring one in order to save money?
We will represent you on a contingency basis. This means that instead of being paid hourly, we are paid a pre-determined percentage of your recovery. If you do not obtain a recovery, we don't get paid. The reason for this arrangement is that hourly fees for a good lawyer are typically hundreds of dollars per hour. Most people simply cannot afford to pay this, especially in this economy! Thus, in order to provide you with the opportunity to be represented effectively, we will assume the risk inherent with any contingency arrangement in exchange for an extremely reasonable interest in the recovery. In addition, your fee arrangement with your lawyer typically calls for a smaller percentage fee if the case settles earlier on in the litigation or if the claimant is a minor.
Your personal injury case will be resolved either through a settlement or through a jury trial. Settlements can take anywhere from a few months to the day before trial. Trials typically occur within one year of the filing of a lawsuit for non-complex injury cases, and within two or three years for complex cases. We make every effort to settle your case without the necessity of litigation unless there are complicating issues which require us to file your case early.
Trials in non-complex cases normally last 4-5 days. Trials in complex cases (relatively high number of witnesses, expert testimony and documents, normally associated with catastrophic injuries) can last from a couple of weeks to several months.
For a FREE initial consultation with an experienced Orange County accident attorney, please contact the Kenneth G. Marks Law firm today!