Automobiles and other modes of transportation cause most personal injuries today. The injuries suffered are often severe, causing significant bodily harm, permanent disability, lost wages, and a lengthy recovery period. This is a broad area of personal injury law that involves drivers, pedestrians, and passengers and encompasses automobile, motorcycle, semi-trailer, boating, airplane, bus, taxi, train, 4-wheeler accidents, rollovers, and collisions.
Obtaining compensation in automobile liability cases is a complicated, lengthy, and detail-oriented legal process. Within this legal framework, these motor vehicle accident victims must confront large insurance providers who have adjustors skilled in the art of negotiations and experienced, skilled attorneys working on their side. Without competent legal representation, injured parties are vulnerable to attack, and hardball negotiation tactics, and their right to recovery can be seriously damaged or even lost forever.
Do's and Don'ts for Injury Cases
For most injury victims, this is completely foreign territory. They don't understand that doing, or not doing, seemingly insignificant things, can sometimes have a huge impact on their case. Our law office has handled many injury cases, and in doing so, we have learned that there are a number of important "rules" which must be followed in order to have a successful outcome in your case.
The following is a list of the basic rules to keep in mind as your case progresses:
- Do seek medical assistance immediately. The most important thing you can do when you suffer a personal injury is to make sure you receive the necessary medical treatment. You do not want your health to be jeopardized, either short term or long term, because of a failure to go see your doctor following the injury. Don't make the mistake of trying to "tough out" the pain or a new symptom because you don't want to make a big deal out of the injury, or in an attempt to save medical expenses.
- Do take photographs and collect evidence which will be valuable for your case. Take photographs of all the important elements in your case, such as the injured areas of your body, the bandages or other medical treatment of your wound after you have first gone to the doctor, the scene of the accident, and the damages to the vehicles involved. Take three (3) times as many photos as you feel are needed, from several angles with different lighting conditions, and in the days and weeks following the injury.
- Do acknowledge and accept that your situation is essentially "you" versus the insurance company. "They" (the insurance company) are not on your side – "We" (the law office) are here to help you. With the exception of a few pleasant insurance representatives and case nurses, "they" want you to give up on your claim or to prove you are a fraud. "They" will try to frustrate you into giving up by denying or delaying medical treatment or property damage payments. "They" will not inform you of your legal rights (not required to), and will sometimes give you misinformation. Don't lose hope – "we" will do our best to help you through this tough time.
- Do keep in mind that from the day you are injured the insurance company is watching, researching, reading, or in some way observing you. They do this through surveillance (taking photographs or filming you when you are not aware), reviewing your medical records, and sometimes by talking with you or someone you know over the telephone. Protect yourself by restricting your contact with the insurance company, and its representatives; and avoid activities that your doctor has warned you not to do.
- Do stay in touch with our law office. Keep us informed of significant events. We do not recommend that you call every day, but you should contact us after each medical appointment with your primary doctor.
- Don't assume that all doctors are equal, or that it really doesn't make any difference which one you see. One of our major objectives is to help you find the best medical care available. We would like to review the names of medical specialists, in your area, with you before you make a decision. Remember that we have done many, many injury cases like yours, and we know there are some medical specialists you really should not see – trust me on this.
- Don't make an appointment to see a specialist yourself. The appointment should be made by your family physician. This is called a "medical referral" and is usually accomplished by a telephone call, or letter from your doctor to the medical specialist. If you try and do this on your own, it will be viewed as "doctor shopping", and it will hurt your case.
- Do follow the advice of your medical doctor. The doctor's advice will always appear in his or her medical records. When you do not follow the advice of your doctor, the insurance company assumes that you are healed, or are no longer in pain, or you would follow your doctor's advice. This too hurts your case.
- Do get a note from your doctor if you are not able to return to work. Make sure the note is faxed or emailed to your employer – so that you don't lose your job. The note is also necessary to convince the insurance company that you really could not return to work because of your injury. This "no work" note should have a starting date and an ending date. Typically, your doctor will use your next medical appointment as the ending date. After the doctor sees you on that ending date, if you are still judged to be unfit to return to work, you will get another "no work" note from your doctor, so on and so forth.
- Do follow any "restrictions" given to you by your doctor. Your restriction may be that you can only lift a certain amount, or work a certain number of hours, or not move in certain ways (bending or twisting as examples). You need to pay careful attention to follow these restrictions for two reasons: (1) for the sake of your health – if you push yourself beyond these restrictions the chances are good that you will hurt yourself worse; (2) if you are observed not following these restrictions, the insurance company assumes that you are a fraud who has lied to their doctor, and can do more than what they are telling their doctor. Insurance companies will spend thousands of dollars trying to catch you doing something you shouldn't in order to prove that you are a fraud. Legally they can photograph you anywhere outside your home. They hire trained investigators to follow you, and film you, hoping to find evidence of fraud. If they accomplish this, your case becomes virtually worthless.
- Do take the medication which the doctor prescribes. If, for example, a doctor prescribes pain medication, and you do not use it, the insurance company assumes that you are not in pain. While you may have a personal reason for not taking the prescription (for example it makes you nauseous), the insurance company will not view it this way unless you explain this to your doctor and ask him/her to put this explanation into your medical records. Also, some people who are in pain choose to take only pain killers and not other medications – like muscle relaxants. In the case of muscle relaxants, these medications help you heal, and also help with the pain. If you have a problem taking the medications which have been prescribed to you, please review this with our law office for further advice.
- Don't discontinue or put off medical help just because an insurance company won't pay for it. There are typically other alternatives. If you have private health insurance, we usually ask that you move ahead with medical treatment by using your health insurance company. When your case settles, your health insurance carrier can be repaid. By passing up medical treatment when it is needed, your injuries can worsen, and you can lose more time from work. Your best strategy is to receive medical treatment as soon as possible, and not to wait.
What to Expect from Steffens Law Office
Should you choose to hire the Steffens Law Office injury attorneys to represent you in your personal injury case, you can expect our office to do the following:
- Thoroughly investigate the incident, and help you memorialize important information with photos and interviews.
- Advise you regarding medical treatment.
- Protect you from unscrupulous insurance companies who want to diminish the value of your case.
- Monitor your medical records for accuracy and treatment.
- Advise you regarding what needs to be done, and when, in order to reach maximum medical improvement, and to receive fair compensation for your damages.
- Contact you on a frequent and regular basis for personal status reports.
- When the time is right, prepare a detailed "Demand Package" with an eye toward settling your case, if possible.
- If the insurance company is unwilling to pay you a fair value to settle, then file a lawsuit to pursue your claim.
Steffens Law Office represents personal injury victims on a contingent fee arrangement. We collect no fees if you do not. If we are able to obtain a recovery for you, we will be paid a percentage of the recovery from the award.
Please call William Steffens or Jeremiah Luebbe at Steffens Law Office, P.C., at (308) 872-8327 or contact us online.