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The earlier you get an attorney, the better off you are.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2016

As an attorney representing people who have been injured, I often don’t have the benefit of getting involved early in the case. Most of my cases involve injuries or death from motor vehicle crashes. Others are related to injuries from industrial accidents, dog bites, falls, and medical negligence. The reasons clients don’t get attorneys involved early usually fall into one of the following categories:

– Client is not “the suing type” and doesn’t want to get an attorney;
– Client doesn’t think his or her injuries are serious enough to warrant attorney involvement; or
– Client believes that the insurance company is going to be fair in resolving the case.

A separate blog will have to explain why these are not good reasons to delay in hiring an attorney. This blog deals with the practical consequences of waiting to get an attorney involved until months, or sometimes years after the injury-causing event.

1. Insurance Company getting the jump
The insurance company representing the responsible party has financial interests which are adverse to the injured party. Some insurance companies, such as Progressive, are very aggressive in getting its adjusters involved immediately after the injury. It is not unusual for me to hear stories about how the adjuster offered “$500 plus they will pay all my medical bills if I signed the release.” Some may even be fooled into thinking that is a good deal, even if their injuries are still bothering them. An injury claim should not be settled until the injury is completely healed or in the alternative, until any long term impact is explored by a doctor.

Insurance adjusters can also be aggressive in getting statements, sometimes recorded, of the injured person. If not represented, the injured person does not have the benefit of understanding how such a statement can be used to undermine his or her claim. On the other hand, the insurance adjuster is trained at getting information from these statements that can be used against the injured person in the event a dispute arises over who was at fault or the extent of injuries. And for those out there who are thinking – “either you tell the truth or you don’t” – it’s not quite that simple. An injured person who has nothing to hide can still fall into a trap if she gives a statement to an insurance adjuster at an early stage without an attorney present. This is comparable to a person under investigation giving a statement to the police without representation. One is much more likely to give information that can harm her case as opposed to help it. Trust me – don’t give a statement – especially a recorded statement – to the insurance adjuster without talking to an attorney first.

2. Preservation of Evidence
Another important reason for early involvement is investigation. The investigation of the event is often an important responsibility for an injury attorney. Investigators are sometimes hired to obtain statements from witnesses. The fresher the event, the more information can be obtained from witnesses. This is another inherent advantage for the insurance company that comes with its early involvement. Insurance companies often employ investigators immediately after the event. Statements obtained by the insurance company are “privileged” and not available to us, even during litigation. Other important aspects of the investigation process where early involvement is helpful are photographic evidence of accident scenes, damaged vehicles, and of the injuries themselves, and for the preservation of evidence to prove lost income opportunities, such as for a self-employed businesses.

3. Cell Phone Records
A recent wrongful death case I handled highlighted the importance of early involvement in a case where cell phone records became important evidence. With most cell phone companies, records of cell phone data are only available for one year. After that one year period, all you can get is a re-print of the cell phone bill. Some bills do not include details showing the time texts were sent or received, or details of incoming calls. Also, calls or texts made with use of visiting towers will not always show up on those bills. For instance, if your cell phone provider is U.S. Cellular, and you make a call out of your normal area that pings off a Verizon tower, that call will not be shown on your cell phone bill unless Verizon submits a bill to U.S. Cellular for the borrowed cell tower time. Many times that does not happen and the information is not accessible from the visiting tower owner. The bottom line is that whatever information that may have been available to document call, text, or browsing details will likely have been been purged forever after one year.
The takeaway? Get a lawyer involved early so cell phone record requests can be made within the year after the subject incident.
These are just some of the reasons why early involvement is helpful for an attorney handling your personal injury case. For more information about my personal injury practice, please visit the website www.meinjurylaw.com, or email me at jason@jldme.com.