5 Steps to Take For a Personal Injury Case
If you’re injured due to someone else’s negligence, fear and pain can quickly give way to anger, especially when those medical bills start rolling in right after you realize how much money you lost when you were off work. But it’s important to keep your cool and make sure you take the steps necessary to help your lawyer build a successful case.
Step 1: See a Doctor
Even if you don’t think you’re injured, if you have an accident, you need to seek medical attention. There are several types of injuries that may not be immediately evident, but a doctor will know what to look for based on the type of accident you’ve had.
If you wait to seek medical attention until you’re experiencing problems or until you decide a lawsuit is necessary, you may give the defense just what they need to claim your injuries were the result of another incident, which can make things difficult for your attorney.
If you do fail to seek treatment immediately, get to a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you’ve had your free consultation with the attorney if you have one scheduled. Just go. The sooner the better, especially if you have a job or hobby that’s in any way dangerous.
Step 2: Collect Evidence
A lawyer can certainly help facilitate the collection of evidence, especially if it’s evidence you have a hard time making sure another party gives up. But there’s no substitute for what you can collect before you call us.
You shouldn’t take any undue risks, but if you’re physically able to do so without risking further injury and without endangering yourself or others, take photos, make detailed notes of what you remember immediately following the accident. Try to get as much information from anyone who witnessed it as possible — not just their contact info, but what they witnessed if they’re willing to give you that information on the spot. You can use your phone’s voice memo feature to record anything they say.
But you should also keep detailed records about anyone you see to treat your injuries, including doctors, therapists and anyone else you never would’ve seen were it not for the accident. If your doctor asks you to purchase special equipment to deal with your injury, keep the receipts for that too.
You’ll also want to keep records of any financial losses that occurred as the result of the injury. For example, if you lost wages or other opportunities. Your lawyer can let you know which expenses are recoverable, but he or she would rather discard irrelevant information that have to look into (and risk not finding) important ones.
Step 3: Informing the Defendant
If you plan to file or may file a lawsuit against someone, it’s best to inform them of your injuries before the lawsuit. Especially if the medical bills don’t add up to much in the defendant’s mind (no matter how high they seem to you), they may simply agree to pay your expenses, and you can avoid the lawsuit altogether providing they follow through.
Note that you don’t need to wait until you’re sure you’re willing to sue to inform them you may. You can always change your mind later, but in the meantime, you give them time to think it over and come to a conclusion you both think is fair independently.
Step 4: Consider the Timeframe
Lawsuits do take time, which is why it’s important to jump on it quickly. Don’t wait until the medical bills have piled up so high you can’t see over them to get started. It will take plenty of time on its own.
But there’s another reason not to wait. There are statutes of limitations on every kind of lawsuit, and those statutes of limitations (the timeframe during which you must sue or your case will no longer be valid) vary based on what type of claim you have. Make sure you’re aware of the limitations. The easiest way to know is to consult a qualified personal injury attorney, as they can help you understand the various claims you have (and there could be more than one depending on the circumstances) and what the limits are. Note that the clock starts ticking from the time of the accident, not from the time you realize you’re injured or the time you decide to sue.
Step 5: Understand How Who You’re Suing Affects Your Case
In some cases, you’ll be suing an individual, but you may also be suing a company or even a government agency. It’s important because it could have a serious impact on your case. For example, the statute of limitations for suing the government may be shorter than for suing an individual or company. Additionally, there may be higher degrees of diligence required of companies than individuals or (especially) those with professional training than of others.
Do You Need an Attorney?
It’s possible to successfully sue someone without a lawyer, but generally, it’s best to have representation. If your case is complex, if you already skipped one of the steps above (especially one of the first two), if the other person hires an attorney or if an insurance company is involved, you definitely need a lawyer.