When people find out that I am an attorney, it is not uncommon for them to share with me their own experiences with the law. Most often, these recollections involve a claim for personal injuries they suffered due to the negligence of a third party, like in a car crash or a slip and fall. As a member of the legal profession, it is gratifying to hear when someone had legal representation and was pleased with the assistance they received. All too often, however, the stories conveyed to me involve their dissatisfaction with the attorney retained or, for those who decided not to retain counsel, with the claim process and the results achieved. In order to avoid regrets, I recommend awareness of the following:
- Getting better should be your first priority. Get the care that you and your physician(s) or provider(s) believe is necessary and proper for the injuries you suffered, and follow the instructions and recommendations of your physician(s) or provider(s). (Keep in mind that, attorneys are not, generally, medical doctors and should not dictate the care you receive. Likewise, you should be leery of “recommended” attorneys pushed by a medical provider.) While you are treating, keep records of who you saw, what your condition was like, how it impacted your life, and what it cost you. Only when you have reached your maximum, should you move forward to resolve your claim for the injuries you suffered.
- You should not bypass or forego the assistance that an attorney knowledgeable and experienced in handling personal injury claims can provide. Unfortunately, not even the best attorney can undo what happened to cause your injury or give rise to your claim. However, a good attorney, experienced in handling personal injury claims, can and will assist you in navigating the claim process and achieving the best possible results. Moreover, since claims take time to resolve and because your personal information will be disclosed to your attorney, it is important that you have a good relationship with and feel positive about the person you choose to represent you!
- A personal injury claim is just what it sounds like—personal. Resolution of that claim will necessarily involve your personal, often medical, information. To that end, be aware that your statements to your provider will be reflected in your records and will likely be need to be produced to the at-fault party’s insurer. Hence, if you are hurting when you see your provider, you should be candid when asked. Likewise, if you are seeing the doctor for an injury that may have occurred in a motor vehicle accident, for example, you may wish to hold off on speaking to your provider at your appointment regarding an unresolved and completely unrelated medical condition. Finally, with only a few exceptions, any statements you make about the events giving rise to your injury, your injury and the treatment you are required to undergo are discoverable. Thus, until your claim is resolved, it is best to keep such matters “close to the vest.”
- Unfortunately, your claim is not personal to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Their goal is to resolve your claim for as little as possible in order to keep the costs to their insureds down while maximizing their profits. No matter how friendly the adjuster might be, don’t trust him or her to look out for what is best for you or to be “fair.” Even innocuous questions or comments can and often will be used for their benefit—not yours! Having an experienced attorney will take much of the stress and burden in dealing with the insurer off of you; moreover, if it becomes necessary for you to speak to the insurer, you will be well prepared to do so with your attorney by your side.
- A good personal injury attorney will always keep the needs and wants of the client first and foremost in mind when handling the claim, while also helping the client keep a proper perspective and awareness of what he or she might expect to recover for the injuries suffered. A good personal injury attorney will help to personalize your claim in order to maximize your recovery, while protecting as much as possible your personal information. Finally, while a good personal injury attorney will give you input and make recommendations regarding the resolution of your claim, the claim remains at all time your claim and can only be resolved with your participation and your consent.
At Black, Slaughter & Black, P.A., our clients’ matters and claims are not just another case—we recognize that each claim is personal and has a real impact on the lives and well-being of our clients. As such, we work hard to gain and maintain the trust and satisfaction of our clients and appreciate the opportunity to assist them. If we can be of assistance to you, we hope that you will not hesitate to contact us.