A personal injury claim is when a person has sustained a significant injury as a result of trauma. The trauma can be as a result of a defective product, an automobile collision, or a trip and fall/slip and fall on public or private property. The injury must be of such significance that the person has had to seek out medical care and the medical care provider has indicated that this injury is significant and they’re going to require some type of treatment.
The steps that are required in a personal injury case depend on the type of injury and the manner in which it was sustained. If a person has suffered injury in an elder abuse case, depending on how that injury happened and whether it was due to the neglect or negligence of a healthcare provider, there will be specific steps that one takes. Other types of injury claims have a variety of other steps. As an overview, the first thing a person has to do with an injury claim is to get medical attention.
At the scene of where the event happened, it’s always advisable to document what has happened, who are witnesses, the day and time, the location, and the circumstances. Take photos, if possible. Those are part and parcel to explaining the claim later. Of course, once contacted, we do our own investigation if I think there is a valid and a meritorious claim. I have investigators and other professionals that we call into the case very early on to help us establish what the facts are, what happened to the person, and who might be responsible.
Many times, in an auto accident situation, the officer will provide the person with identification of the other party or at least with the traffic collision report number, so we can later get that information from the report. Once I am contacted by an injured party, if I believe it’s a case that we can handle, we investigate the case and gather all the evidence that’s necessary to assist us in representing our client. From there, we have pre-litigation. At that stage, we are keeping in contact with a client and having them contact us regarding any changes that they experience, and their recovery from the injury. Sometimes, a person has to go to several health care providers to get their condition assessed and treated. We want to know about that all the way until treatment is completed. If there’s still ongoing care and treatment, it is not advantageous for the injured party to approach the other side to try and work out a settlement. We don’t yet know how severe the injury is or how long the treatment might be. There are exceptions to this rule. If a person sustains a substantial injury and we recognize that the responsible party has a very limited insurance policy, it may behoove us to get that case settled as expeditiously as possible. If, however, we find out that the insurance for the other party is a more substantial policy, it behooves us to wait until the client has stabilized. Generally speaking, if you try to settle a case prematurely, you’re not serving your client well.
Attorneys who work in the field of personal injury claims typically work on a contingency fee. The attorney fee is paid out of the recovery, so that the injured party doesn’t incur any cost in retaining counsel to represent them. In meritorious cases, the attorney will also advance the cost on the case. Even something like getting a police report or medical records has a cost.
I advance the costs that are necessary on cases that I handle and at the end of the case I am paid for the costs I have incurred. This is just about the only way it can happen on substantial injury claims because the injured party is probably out of work or not working up to their capacity, since they’re injured. They’re not in a position to be able to afford to retain us on an hourly basis or to advance costs.