FAQ

Here are 8 reasons why you should hire an attorney when you have been injured in an accident:

1.To show you were not at fault, a thorough investigation should be made soon after the accident. Your attorney can arrange for case investigation by an experienced investigator at no initial cost to you.

2. Your case may need experts to answer technical questions about the accident or your injuries. Your attorney can hire such experts at no initial cost to you.

3. If your case has a problem that could lower your recovery or defeat your claim, your attorney may be able to act soon enough to minimize or solve the problem.

4. There are pitfalls in dealing with insurance companies. The adjuster is not obligated to tell you “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Your attorney can steer your claim around these pitfalls.

5. Your attorney can provide help along the way. At times you may be confused about what to do next. He will guide you step by step through your claim. You can focus on getting well and he will focus on proving your case.

6. Your attorney will seek to recover the highest amount your claim is worth under the law. You may not know what your claim is really worth.

7. Many injury claims are settled through negotiations without filing a lawsuit. However, negotiations can be harsh and unpleasant. Your attorney can aggressively argue your case for you so that you do not go through the emotional stress and strain of “hardball” discussions with an unfriendly adjuster over the weeks or months it may take to settle your case.

8. The other side may not offer you a fair settlement. Some cases must be tried to a jury to obtain full justice. So that you have the best chance for winning at trial, your attorney will want to actively develop your case from the beginning.

Usually the best time to settle your claim is after your doctor has released you from treatment or your doctor tells you that your physical condition is as good as it is going to ever be. If you settle before then, you risk settling for less money than your case is really worth. You may later find that your injuries were much more serious than you thought they were when you settled.

Generally, the more serious the injuries, the higher the value of the case. For example, a broken arm obviously is more serious than a bruised arm. An arm that is permanently weakened is more serious than a broken arm, and so on.

Answers to the following questions are important in determining the value of your claim. “Yes” answers mean the claim is generally worth more than “no” answers.

Do the witness statements, photographs, accident report, and other evidence show you did nothing wrong to cause the accident? If fault is clear, your claim is likely worth more than if fault is contested. Insurance companies often are very creative in coming up with ways that you may be at fault, even if you know you did nothing wrong.

Do the independent witnesses say the party you believe to be at fault was at fault?

Do you have recorded statements from the accident witnesses?

Do you have photographs and videos of the accident location, your injuries, the object(s) causing your injuries, and any property damaged in the accident?

Was a report of the accident made to the police, to the property owner where the injury occurred, to your employer, or to other appropriate persons soon after the injury such as the employer of the person who harmed you?

Did the person who harmed you say they were at fault at the scene or elsewhere?

Did any disinterested witness hear the other person admit fault?

Was the conduct of the person at fault bad enough to make a disinterested person believe that the conduct was outrageously reckless?

Did any of the witnesses volunteer that the other person’s conduct was especially bad or outrageous?

Did the person who harmed you harm someone else in a similar manner either before or after your accident?

Was the person who harmed you working for an employer at the time of the accident? If so, do you know who that employer is?

Did you loose consciousness after the accident?

Did you seek medical care soon after the accident?

Did you follow your doctor’s orders in all medical treatment after the accident?

If you did miss any doctor’s appointments, did you call and cancel the appointment and giving the doctor a clearly understandable reason to miss the appointment, such as illness of other family members or funeral attendance?

Did the doctor’s staff write the reason for the cancellation in the medical records?

Did your doctor ask to see you frequently?

Did your doctor prescribe physical therapy?

Have you had any special tests that were “positive,” such as an MRI, CT Scan, EMG, Discogram, lung function test, blood chemistry analysis, urinalysis, and the like?

Do you have any loss of mental function such as long-term or short-term memory loss, frequently forgetting planned activities shortly after planning to do them, or problems doing mental calculations as quickly and accurately as you did before the accident?

Did you see any medical specialists after the accident?

Have you seen a neurologist, neurosurgeon, internist, physiatrist, orthopedist, pain specialist, or other board certified specialist in physical injuries?

Have you seen a psychiatrist, psychologist, neuropsychiatrist, neuropsychologist, or other board certified specialist in mental injuries?

Do you have large medical bills?

Were your injuries particularly painful, such as a broken bone, a burn, or a deep cut?

Have your injuries caused you to miss work?

Will your injuries permanently interfere with your ability to work like you did before you were injured?

Do you need to be retrained to learn new skills to make a decent living?

Has any loss of ability to work been documented by a vocational rehabilitation specialist?

Will your injuries cause you to experience permanent pain, either occasionally or constantly?

Has your doctor prescribed a pain management program with a pain specialist?

Will you need future medical treatment?

Have you suffered disfigurement such as scarring, loss of a limb, or permanent limping?

Have your injuries permanently hurt your ability to do any sports, recreation, exercise, hobbies, and other leisure activities?

Will your injuries permanently harm your ability to do chores around the house such as cooking, cleaning, sewing, laundry, caring for children, lawn mowing, raking leaves, and car and home repairs and maintenance?

Have your injuries interfered with your relationship with your spouse and other relatives by making you moody, irritable, depressed, feel guilty in not providing for your family as you did before, or cause you not to want to get out of the house and socialize with family and friends as you did before?

To help you decide what your case is worth, at the proper time your attorney can sit down with you and discuss with you cases that may be similar to yours, including what sums of money juries have awarded at the trial of similar cases, what settlement amounts have been voluntarily paid in cases like yours, and the pros and cons of trying your case versus settling your case.

Be aware of these pitfalls in dealing with the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim:

No matter how friendly the adjuster is at the beginning, later you may learn the adjuster has been working hard behind the scenes to defeat your claim. Usually the adjuster will ask you to give a statement soon after the accident. Legal traps may be set by recording your answers to what appear to be innocent questions. For example, you may be asked about your injuries. If you do not describe each injury in complete detail or you forget to talk about an injury, the recording can be played to the jury to show you did not mention that injury soon after the accident when asked to do so. Your own words make you appear dishonest to the jury. There are other traps. Let your attorney speak for you. Do not give any interviews or statements to investigators or adjusters.

The adjuster is trained to do certain things to weaken your claim. For example, chances are you will try to maintain as much of your daily routine as your injuries and your doctor will allow, even if pain forces you to stop and rest after only a few minutes. To try to show to the jury that you really were not seriously injured, the adjuster may secretly take videos of you trying to go about your daily activities such as mowing the lawn, caring for children, walking, working, grocery shopping, and so forth. The jury will not see that part of the video where you were in obvious pain.

If you are making innocent mistakes that will weaken or destroy your claim, the adjuster will not tell you so. Do not assume because the adjuster has the purse strings that the adjuster really wants to pay you the full value of your claim. Adjusters do not get pay raises and promotions for voluntarily paying you and other accident victims top dollar.

Time is not on your side. Critical evidence to win your case may be lost soon after the accident unless a trained investigator captures it.

Do you really know the true value of your claim? The adjuster may offer to pay your medical bills, lost wages and property damage. This may seem fair to you, but the facts of your case may entitle you to much more than this. For more information on the value of your claim, read this article.

If you do not have medical insurance, getting proper medical treatment can be a real problem. Medical care is expensive, and untreated injuries may last a lifetime. Money is important, but there is no substitute for good health.

You have 3 basic options for immediate treatment:

Consider going to a hospital emergency room. Under federal law, you cannot be turned away even if you cannot pay. The hospital may later assert a lien for the services rendered under the Texas “hospital lien law” against any recovery on your case.

If you live within a county that has a county hospital supported with taxpayer funds, such as John Peter Smith Hospital in Tarrant County or Parkland Hospital in Dallas County, consider treating there. The hospital also may later assert a lien for the services rendered under the Texas “hospital lien law” against any recovery on your case.

If you qualify under the governmental rules, you may be eligible to be treated under Medicare or Medicaid. Medicare/Medicaid also may later assert a lien for the services rendered under the Federal regulations against any recovery on your case.

The liable party is ultimately responsible for an accident victim’s medical bills if a jury makes that determination after a trial. If the person at fault for your injuries has liability insurance, the insurance company usually will not voluntarily pay the victim’s medical bills on a pay-as-you-go basis. They usually use the excuse that they do not want to fund the claim against their own insured. If a settlement is possible, the insurance company usually wants to write just one check for all bodily injury damages caused by the accident, including all medical bills.

You may also qualify for Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) or Medical Payments (“Med Pay”) coverage for your medical bills under a policy of insurance on your car, on the car in which you were riding, or on a car owned by someone you live with and you are related to them by “blood, marriage or adoption.”

Some doctors near you may be willing to treat you and wait to be paid until there is a recovery on the case. Talk to an attorney about this possibility. Usually, if there is no recovery on your case, you would be responsible for setting up a payment plan with that doctor.

If you have been involved in an accident, follow these suggestions to protect your legal rights:

1. Even if you feel you may be at fault, do not say so to anyone or agree with any person’s suggestion that you could be at fault in any way. You may learn later that another person was equally at fault, or more so. How fault is determined in a court of law is often quite different than what a lay person would think would determine fault.

2. Be careful what you say about your injuries. Serious injuries do not always cause immediate pain or bloodshed. If you feel nothing unusual, say you will see your doctor to determine your injuries. Let him decide if you are injured after enough time has passed for all injuries to surface.

3. If there is the slightest chance you are injured, see your doctor right away, or the other side may argue that you could not have been seriously injured in this accident because you would have seen a doctor sooner.

4. In filling out paperwork in the doctor’s office, be truthful and complete about prior injuries and claims. The other side will get copies of these records after your claim is received and look for inaccurate answers. They will then often argue that you cannot be trusted to tell the truth because you hid important medical events from your own doctor. List all prior injuries you do remember and use “about” in giving dates that you are not absolutely certain. Instead of “no” answers to questions about prior injuries, say you “do not remember any.” If you remember any later, your may want to consider writing a note to the doctor describing the injury and the date and saying simply you forgot it when filling out the paperwork. You may want to ask that it be placed in your medical records so that they are accurate and complete.

5. Tell your doctor all your complaints without minimizing or exaggerating them. At every appointment tell the doctor about any change in your physical condition so the doctor can decide if it is caused by your accident. Do not discuss with your doctor whether or not you are considering hiring a lawyer. Be noncommittal. Some doctors are anti-plaintiff and may write down comments in the medical records that could harm your claim.

6. Do not miss appointments unless the reason is clear and understandable, such as a death in the family, a trip to visit an ill relative, and the like. If something serious comes up and you will miss an appointment, call and cancel the appointment as soon as you know of the conflict and explain the reason. ‘No show’ notes in the medical records without any excuse noted are often interpreted as evidence of minor injury – otherwise why would you not have kept the appointment?

7. Save everything the doctor or pharmacist gives you, including empty prescription bottles and any orthopedic devices such as crutches, collars, casts, and braces.

8. Write down important information about the accident. List names, addresses and telephone numbers of every witness to the accident, including those who came on the scene afterwards.

9. Take color photos and video tapes of your injuries, all property damage, the objects involved in the accident, and the accident scene soon before any evidence is lost.

10. Save everything that is even remotely related to the accident. Do not throw anything away. What may appear unimportant now could later prove critical facts about your case.

11. Keep a record of all time missed from work, the reasons you missed work, and any out-of-pocket payments, including receipts, for treatment and prescriptions.

12. Keep records of how to calculate the wages, salary, and benefits you lost as a result of your injuries. Save paycheck copies, performance evaluations, overtime records before the accident, disability notes, and return to work notes from your doctor. Note all overtime or bonuses lost and promotions or raises as a result of your inability to work. List any job training interrupted that would have given you a promotion. Explain any benefits delayed or lost as a result of your injuries.

13. Keep a daily record of how the accident has affected you, including pain, headaches, stress, depression, and inability to socialize with friends and family or do the things you do for recreation.

14. Consult an attorney immediately. The sooner your attorney begins working on your case, the better he can protect your rights – he may have a trained investigator take witness statements while witnesses’ memories are fresh, have a trained photographer take photos and videos of important evidence, and do many other things to preserve the true facts.

15. Do not sign anything that says “release,” “satisfaction,” “assign,” “full,” “all,” “total,” “in full satisfaction of all claims,” “payment of all claims,” or any words or phrases similar to these in any way, even when printed on the back of a check. Insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart and are not required to explain documents to you or give you legal advice or even suggest that you may want to talk to an attorney. The adjuster’s primary goal is to pay as little as possible on your claim. You are responsible under the law for reading and understanding everything you sign. The maxim “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is accurate.

16. Do not sign any papers without your attorney’s approval, or you may be signing away your right to a full recovery.