What Are the Steps in a Personal Injury Case?
Interviewer: What are the stages that someone will go through with any in a personal injury case? They have an accident, they wake up and they realize at some point something’s not right, they’re hurting, and something must have happened. What are the stages they go through once they contact you?
It Is Important to Receive the Appropriate Medical Care
Stephen: Every case is different. The first thing is I need to get people into quality medical providers as soon as possible, because when someone’s been injured, the sooner that they get to a doctor and get a proper diagnosis and get into the proper treatment plan, the sooner they’re going to get better.
Accepting a Settlement or Going to Trial: The Personal Injury Attorney Will Review the Facts and Liability of the Case
I want the health and welfare of our clients is our ultimate priority, so I get people to doctors right away. We examine the facts and the liability and obviously we have to make sure that there’s insurance in place. Then we make a determination of whether we’re going to file a suit immediately, if that’s in a client’s best interest, or if we’re going to defer filing suit because we think it’s a case that’s going to be more easily resolved in settlement.
I look at every case. Every case has its own strategic plan that we set in at the very beginning of the case. The most important thing is that we get people the proper medical care that they need right away.
How Does Your Attorney Review the Events of an Accident When Determining the Viability of a Personal Injury Case?
Interviewer: Is there a particular back story people have on what happened in an accident? Provide some of examples of cases and what happened to cause them to be viable cases.
Stephen: Everyone has a story and what I have to do is we just have to learn the facts as to what happened and what type of injuries someone sustained, then I investigate a case. If it’s a car crash, I can collect the police report, talk to witnesses and look at the property damage and make a determination of whether there’s liability.
In an Auto Accident, Did the Drivers Have Insurance?
I have to verify that there’s insurance in place. The insurance I look for is liability insurance on the person that caused the crash. This is because about twenty-five percent of Texas drivers don’t carry liability insurance. That’s why it’s advisable to carry what’s called uninsured motorist coverage on your own insurance, which means that the same claim you could have made against the liability insurance had the person who hit you had insurance, you can now make on your own insurance.
Underinsured Motorist Claim
You can also make what’s called an underinsured motorist claim, which is if the person that hit you doesn’t have enough insurance to pay for the damage they’ve done, then you have underinsured motorist coverage on your own insurance. These are things that I make determinations of in our investigations: facts, liability, how much insurance there is, who’s insured.
It Is Advisable Not To Negotiate with the Other Party’s Insurance Company on Your Own Behalf
Then we set the proper claims in place. We always tell our clients that the most naive and damaging thing that you can do after you’ve been involved in a car crash case is to talk to the insurance company of the person that hit you before retaining an attorney because their contract is with the person that caused the crash. Their concern is their insured’s best interest and paying as little as possible, if at all.
The Insurance Company Is Typically Only Looking to Protect Their Interests
When they speak with the insurance company, sometimes people naively believe the commercials on TV. Ones such as: “We’re on your side,” or “You’re in good hands,” or “Like a good neighbor.” That is advertising that is designed to entice naive people to deal with an insurance company, when that insurance company never has any intention whatsoever of placing priority on your best interests. They place priority on their own best interests, their own money, and the best interest of the person that caused the crash.
They’re just trying to get statements from you so that you can unintentionally do damage to your case. Many times, people are hurt in a car crash and they don’t know the severity of their injuries. The insurance company will entice them to say things like, “You’re okay,” “Aren’t you okay?” and, “You’re not really hurting that bad,” or it’s, “Your injuries are very minor,” or something like that. Then when it turns out that you had more severe injuries, then they take the statement that you gave them and they attack you with your own words that you honestly made at the beginning.
I tell our clients to never talk to insurance companies.
The Other Party’s Insurance Carrier May Act Very Quickly before the Extent of Injuries Has Been Determined
Interviewer: Do people feel compelled to give a statement? Do the insurance companies call them up and say, “Look, we need to get this from you right away. We need this.” Do they pressure people into making statements?
Stephen: Of course. They pressure you. Progressive has these emergency response vehicles where they’re trying to get to an accident scene before an ambulance even gets there. They want to hurry up and arrive while you’re still in shock of having been in a car crash, so they can get evidence from you that will ultimately damage your case or minimize the value of your case.
People do feel compelled into cooperating and sometimes insurance companies threaten people, “Unless you do this, we’re not going pay your property damage.” They feel like they have all the leverage at the very beginning when people don’t have a lawyer and they try to use that leverage. It’s all about money at the end of the day.
Are You Required to Provide a Statement to the Other Party’s Insurance Company?
Interviewer: To be clear, are you legally obligated to give a statement to the other party’s insurance or no?
Stephen: Absolutely not. You’re legally obligated to give a statement to your own insurance company, but the insurance company of the person who caused the crash, the other party, you’re not legally obligated. In fact, that’s a very uninformed and naive decision to make statements to the insurance company of the other person.
The Right Personal Injury Attorney Will Compel the Insurance Company to Fulfill Their Responsibility
The overarching theme of what we do is that insurance companies do the right thing. Not because they’re morally convicted to do it, but because lawyers put them into a position where it’s financially unwise for an insurance company not to do the right thing.
It’s financially wise for an insurance company to do the right thing. It’s the threat that the lawyer brings. Not hiring a lawyer is the same as a truly injured or sick or ill person trying to treat themselves. If you have a specialized problem, you hire someone in a specialized profession to handle it.