When you file a lawsuit for a personal injury case, you become a sort of partner with your attorney. There are certain things they need you to do for your case to be a success, just as there are things you rely on them to do. It becomes a symbiotic relationship in which their success hangs on yours and vice versa. Because of this, there are a few rules that apply to every personal injury case in California that you should know about.
In order for your lawyer to negotiate your claim to the best possible settlement amount, there are six actions that must exist. When you understand the rules of the law arena that they are required to abide by, it can help you to make better decisions along the way, too.
Unfortunately, many personal injury cases settle for much less than they could have or are thrown out completely because of accidental actions the client makes without meaning to. Before you make your next move after your accident, read these 6 things that will make or break your case.
The Rules of the Personal Injury Lawsuit
While it can be hard to look at your injury as a game or a battle, the fact is that when you file a lawsuit, the final outcome is that either you win or you lose, and there are rules involved. You are playing for high stakes – your potential compensation – and you need to know all of the rules that everyone involved is following or you may make a mistake that causes your lawyer to lose the case for you.
The following 6 rules must apply in order for your lawsuit to end successfully. By working together with your attorney in a mutually respectful and knowledgeable relationship, you have a greater chance of winning your case.
Rule 1. There must be a documented medical injury that has occurred. As a direct result of the incident in which you are accusing the defendant, you must have sustained an injury. That injury cannot be your word against the defendant’s. There must be medical evidence that can be used by your attorney to prove you truly are injured.
In order to get this documentation, it is critical that you seek medical attention immediately after your accident, whether you feel that you are injured or not. In many trauma cases, your body goes into a period of shock, where it acts as a buffer between your brain and any injury. This means that it can take a few hours or even a few days before you feel injuries that were sustained in the accident.
In other cases, the injury was initially mild – so mild you may not even have felt it – but worsened over time or with use. This is common in back and neck injuries and in traumatic brain injuries. Unless you are a medical physician yourself, don’t play the role of the doctor and diagnose your own conditions. Head to the hospital or your trusted physician and get medical attention.
Rule 2. The treatment of that injury must have been followed through to its full course. If you show up at the hospital, get diagnosed with a head, back, or other injury, and then never seek treatment for it, the defense is going to accuse you of not being truly injured. Your injury must have gone away on its own.
To avoid this scenario, follow your doctor’s orders to the letter. If the hospital refers you to a physician, head there as timely as you can. From there, continue to follow the course of treatment prescribed.
If you disagree with a suggestion that your physician has made or have concerns about a medication, talk to them. Not everyone feels comfortable second-guessing their doctor, though, so if you don’t want to approach them directly, ask their nurse or make an appointment to talk to your attorney. Don’t make decisions on your own, since they may backfire on you later.
Rule 3. Your communication with your insurance company matters. Keep your discussions with the insurance companies as limited as possible. Yes, you must report your accident to your insurance company so they can open a claim and cover your bills. Failure to do this in a timely manner can result in the insurance company having a valid excuse to deny coverage.
However, your adjuster is trained in having a seemingly innocent conversation with you in which they will insert questions that are set up to trick you. They will attempt to coerce you into admitting blame, try to convince you that certain terms in your policy exist in which you don’t have coverage or rights, investigate your accident in a way that gives them more leverage, or find other ways to make sure they pay out as little as possible.
Once you have spoken to your adjuster and given them the bare bones details of the accident, let your attorney handle the rest.
Rule 4. The numbers and dates must be in order. When a personal injury victim tries to go it alone with their lawsuit, inevitably one of three things happens. Either they miss a crucial deadline in filing paperwork, skip a necessary piece of evidence in proving their claim, or they fail to calculate their damages fully and, although they may win, walk away with less than they could have had they hired an attorney.
In a personal injury claim, there are many deadlines for paperwork filing that have to be adhered to carefully. Your lawyer knows these better than you do, since it’s their job to do this daily. There is also a direct chain of events that has to be documented through evidence that shows your injury was caused by the incident in question, which was caused by the defendant. Finally, your damages must be calculated thoroughly so that you get the maximum amount possible for your losses.
Rule 5. Negotiation is an integral part of every personal injury case. At some point in your lawsuit, your attorney will come to you about a potential negotiation. This happens in almost every personal injury claim. Statistics show that more than 90% of these types of claims in the United States settle out of court, and with numbers that high, you can tell it’s not always a bad thing.
Taking a case to trial involves hundreds of extra billable hours for the attorney and many court fees. It can be more expensive than it is worth for the client, when a decent settlement would have netted you the same final outcome without the stress and hassle of testifying on the stand and going through a challenging court battle.
But your attorney should never settle for less than you deserve, and when you have a lawyer that you trust to look out for your best interests, like those at Hershey Law, your rights are the most important thing to them. A skillful negotiator knows all of the ins and outs of insurance policies and potential damages and will work to get a settlement in which you get the maximum amount for your injures.
Your attorney should never agree to a final settlement without sitting down to talk to you about the pros and cons of a trial case. He or she should discuss with you exactly what your chances of winning at trial are based on statistics of other similar cases, how much other cases like yours were awarded in settlements so you have a valid comparison, and what the monetary limits are of the defendant.
Remember that your final settlement, whether in court or in the negotiation chambers, will depend on the extent of your injuries, your adherence to your course of treatment, and the policy limits of the insurance company.
Rule 6. Much of your case’s winning potential depends on you. Yes, your lawyer must have the knowledge to take your case all the way to trial successfully. But without your full honesty and disclosure, cooperation with doctors and legal staff, and compliance with your course of treatment, even the best attorneys may not be able to win your lawsuit for you.
Ignorance of the Rules is Not an Excuse in a Lawsuit
Your lawyer is going to bat for you with your best interests in mind. You must do the same, as well. Getting caught out in the middle of the game because of mistakes you made but weren’t aware of the consequences of can have devastating repercussions for your case and, ultimately, your future.
Instead of going it alone and trying to learn the rules of this intense legal battle on your own, work cooperatively with your lawyer and your doctors. Your cooperation is important to them, but it is mostly in your own best interests. Your lawyer and doctors want you to have a successful resolution, but you are the one most directly impacted by your actions.
When you are ready to learn the rules of a personal injury lawsuit and sit down with a lawyer who will fight for your rights for you, call Hershey Law for your free consultation.