General Instructions For Injury Clients
Things Which You Should NOT DO:
- Do not give any statements, written, recorded, or
oral, to anyone concerning your accident or injuries without first
getting our approval.
- Do not make any incorrect statement to any doctor who may treat or examine
you respecting any prior injuries or accidents. If you don’t remember, say
- Do not change your address or employment without notifying
Things for you to REMEMBER:
- Address and Phone: Inform your attorney immediately
of any change of address and/or telephone number or employment.
- Car Repair: If your vehicle was damaged, try to obtain
pictures before you get it repaired. Use color film and take a whole
roll of pictures. Bring the film to us and we will have it developed.
If you do not have a camera, please call and we will make
arrangements to take the pictures.
- Medical Items: Save all pill bottles, casts, braces, and any
other items from your doctors.
- Photographs: Give us any pictures and videos of the accident
or accident scene that you or anyone else has taken for you.
- Your job: Tell us of any changes in your job, job duties,
salary or anything.
- Receipts: Be sure to obtain and save all receipts itemizing
any and all expenses you incurred as a result of your accident.
Receipts must be dated and contain legible and complete vendor
- New information: Inform us of anything you think has a
bearing on the case, including extensive medical treatment or
Five BIG MISTAKES clients make:
- Not seeing the doctor if you are in pain.
- Not doing what your doctor tells you.
- Not keeping your doctor appointments.
- Discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney or your doctor.
- Failing to tell your doctor about medical problems due to the accident.
Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
Be sure to do what your doctors tell you. There is never a reason
or excuse to miss a doctor’s appointment. By missing a doctor’s
appointment, you are saying to the doctor and to the insurance company
that you are not hurt and that it doesn’t matter that much. Our job is
to make a recovery for you for the pain and suffering that can be
proven. Not going to the doctor is a good way to prove that you are
not hurting and that you don’t care. If you don’t care, the doctor
may not care. It is very important for you to work hard to get well
and to go to all of your appointments.
If you are in pain and you do not see a doctor, the insurance
company and the jury will not believe that you are having pain.
Each time you go to the doctor and report that you are still
having pain, your doctor makes an entry in his records. It is
important for your doctor to have up-to-date information on your
condition. Some clients get discouraged and do not see their doctor
even though they are having pain. This may harm your claim. It is
important that your doctor knows how you are feeling.
First Steps In Representing You
When you are first interviewed, general information regarding
your case is obtained. Materials relating to things you should or
should not do will be furnished to you. You will be requested to sign
certain authorization forms which will allow us to obtain your medical
records and other necessary information.
We will notify the person who was responsible for your injury
and/or their insurance company that you have retained us as your
attorneys. Requests will be sent to all of the doctors and hospitals
involved in your care for your chart and billing information.
Who To Talk To
Do not talk about your case with anyone except this office and
your doctors. If your own insurance company wants to talk about your
case before they pay your medical bills, please refer them to us.
What To Sign
Any necessary information from employers, schools, or other
persons will be obtained by us. You should not sign anything for
anyone else until you check with us first.
Medical Payments Before Your Case Is Settled
While your case is pending against the insurance company of the
person that caused your injury, we try to arrange to have your medical
bills paid by your own insurance company. This could be from the
medical payments provision of your own automobile insurance policy or
your own health insurance policy, or if applicable, worker’s
compensation insurance. Please be sure that all medical bills that
relate to your injury are sent to our office, so that we may forward
them to the appropriate insurance company.
Keep Detailed Records
Please be sure to record the following:
- Lost work time and wages.
- Other expenses resulting from your injuries, i.e.,
transportation, home care, etc.
- Pain and suffering.
- Your physical limitations.
It is important to make your entries on an ongoing basis. A
summary at the end of each month will not be as helpful to us. Copies
of checks and receipts of payment, as well as the above records, will
be very helpful when you may be asked by the insurance company or an
attorney to recall your pain, physical disabilities, and any
out-of-pocket expenses including medication.
Some of our clients are involved in an accident where there is no
medical payments insurance, worker’s compensation or private health
insurance. In such cases, your doctor will expect to be paid by you
at the conclusion of this case. Often they will require you to agree,
in writing, to have us pay them directly from the proceeds you
receive. State laws sometimes permit health care providers to file a
“lien” which must be paid out of the proceeds of your case. If your
doctor asks you to sign what is often called a “lien letter”, be sure
to contact our office. In some cases, it may not be appropriate for
you to sign such an agreement.
If any insurance company pays some of your medical or other
expenses arising from your injury, the law provides “subrogation”
which means that the insurance company stands “in your shoes” and can
recover from the liable party some or all of the amounts paid on your
behalf. If this is the case, they usually are required to pay their
proportionate share of the attorney’s fee and costs in connection with
the recovery. This is handled on a case-by-case basis.
You May Be Watched and Photographed
When a claim is filed by an injured person, insurance companies
routinely conduct a detailed investigation of the injured person’s
background. It is not uncommon for an insurance company investigator
to park his surveillance van near your house and videotape your
activities. These investigators work very hard to obtain videotapes
of claimants lifting heavy groceries or engaging in strenuous physical
activity. However, these same surveillance tapes have been useful to
corroborate our client’s limitations, including the use of canes,
If you believe you are being watched, please call us and try to
avoid the camera. Do not exaggerate your limitations or pose for the
If you are considering filing bankruptcy, you should know that
you may lose all rights to your personal injury case. The Bankruptcy
Court can take over your case, settle your case and give your
settlement money to your creditors, and you will receive nothing. Be
sure to talk to your lawyer before filing bankruptcy.
Why Does It Take So Long?
We cannot make your claim until after the doctors have given us
reports stating exactly what your medical condition is and what they
expect it to be in the future: in other words, until you have reached
“maximum medical improvement.” Many times the doctors will be very
slow in making these reports. We may even, on occasion, ask you to
contact your doctor to speed up this report. If we try to settle your
case before your medical condition is stabilized, you may lose money
that you might be entitled to for a condition that did not show up
until after your case was settled.
It is important to know that your case will not be settled until
the damages have been determined and all investigations to determine
who is liable have been completed. It generally takes several months
to gather the necessary information. If a trial becomes necessary, it
can take several years to complete a case. One of the most difficult
requests we make of you is to have patience. We will work as hard and
fast as possible to settle your case quickly.
What is the Value of My Case?
It is impossible for us to tell immediately how much money, if
any, you will recover in connection with your case. There is no
formula and each case is unique and different. In cases of serious
injury, the ultimate recovery is often related to the amount of
insurance coverage available, as well as the nature, extent, and
duration of your injuries, along with an assessment of liability. As
your attorneys, we feel it is our primary duty to obtain an amount of
money which will fairly and justly compensate you for your injuries.
We will make every effort to do this by locating all sources of money.
We will advise you of our evaluation in this regard.
In general, most states allow recovery of damages for the
- The nature and extent of injury, including whether the
injury is permanent, and the amount of disability.
- Medical expenses, both past and reasonably certain to be
incurred in the future. This includes mileage to and from the doctor
- Wage loss, past and future and loss of capacity to earn a
- Pain and suffering.
- Damage to your motor vehicle and other items of personal property.
- Loss of consortium for your spouse, past and future.
Filing a Lawsuit
It may be necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain an adequate
recovery. This is a legal decision that should be made by your
attorney with your input. Before filing suit in your case, we will
obtain your permission and explain to you why we believe a lawsuit
should be filed.
Although a lawsuit may have to be filed, settlement is always
possible. Negotiations continue and only a small percentage of
lawsuits actually go to trial.
The following are the steps necessary to bring the case to trial.
Pleadings are the documents parties file in court that form
the basis of a lawsuit. This is intended to be general information
only. Each case is unique.
- Complaint or Petition. A lawsuit is filed against
an opposing party by filing a document in court known as a complaint
or petition. The person who brings the action is the plaintiff – you.
The person against whom the action is brought is the defendant. The
petition is a statement of facts alleging the names of the parties and
alleging why the conduct of the defendant entitles the plaintiff to
- Summons. Once the plaintiff’s petition is filed, a
“summons” is issued to be served on the defendant by an officer of the
Court, usually a Deputy Sheriff or process server, informing the
defendant that suit has been filed and that a response must be made
within a given period of time or a judgment will be taken against
- Answer or Motion. The response filed by the defendant
is called an Answer, which is prepared by the attorney for the
defendant. Alternatively, if a defense attorney feels there is a
fatal flaw with the lawsuit a motion to dismiss the complaint or to
strike portions of the complaint may be filed
Once an action is filed, both sides have a right to “discover”
facts concerning the opposing party’s case. Normal discovery
proceedings include written interrogatories, depositions, production
of records, and sometimes medical examinations.
- Interrogatories: Each side may serve written questions
on the opposing party, called “interrogatories”. You are required to answer
these questions within a prescribed period of time, in writing and under oath.
We will serve interrogatories on the defendant on your behalf, and the defendant
will serve interrogatories on you, which you must answer. Our staff will assist
you in preparing your answers.
- Depositions: A “deposition” is an oral and transcribed
statement, under oath, which may be used by either side in a lawsuit. It has
the same effect as testifying at trial. It is used to learn as much as possible
about the other side’s claims or defenses. Those present are the parties concerned,
their lawyers, sometimes an additional witness or two, and a court reporter
who records the questions and answers.
The lawyers normally agree in advance where the deposition will be held. It
is usually in the office of one of the lawyers.
You are required by law to give a deposition. This is not something in which
we have a choice. Because of this, we will need your full cooperation. Prior
to the deposition, your lawyer will go over the facts of the case with you
and answer any questions you might have.
YOUR DEPOSTION IS OFTEN THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR CASE.
It is important that you be prepared well in advance of the deposition date.
In giving a deposition, there are a few rules to follow:
- Always tell the truth, even if it hurts your case.
- Answer only the questions. Do not make any voluntary statements or speeches.
- Think before you make any answer to any questions. If it concerns a matter
about which you do not know, or a detail you do not remember, you may so state.
However, once you have stated that you do not know or remember, it’s hard
to change your testimony at trial.
- Always be polite.
Frequently the other attorney will ask you many questions which will seem
to you to have no bearing upon the case. Nevertheless, it is your duty to answer
these questions, notwithstanding the fact that they may irritate you. Never
conceal prior injuries or prior illnesses. Remember, the other side has the
means of obtaining such information.
There are occasions when the parties submit the dispute to
“mediation”. The parties meet with an independent third person,
usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge, who assists the
parties in arriving at a settlement. The results are not binding. It
is informal, and less expensive than a trial. If that is an option to
your case, your lawyer will discuss it with you.
If you were hit by an uninsured motorist or underinsured
motorist, you may be eligible for benefits under your own policy or
the policy that covered the vehicle you were in. Many insurance
companies have special provisions if you desire to proceed against the
uninsured motorist provision of the policy. In most cases, you will
be able to collect for your lost wages, medical bills, pain and
suffering, etc., in the same way as if the driver that hit you did
have insurance. We ask that you provide us with a complete copy of
your own insurance policy in force at the time of the accident.
Claims Against the Government
Any injury claim, whether it stems from a car collision or other
event that involves the government, is subject to special rules. The
governmental entity involved may be the state, a city, a county, local
government, or the United States. Generally, a Notice of Claim must
be filed with the appropriate governmental agency very soon following
your injury. If you believe that the government may be involved in
your case, please notify us immediately.