Personal Injury 101: What to do if you suffer a Personal Injury (US Law)

by LYSlaw on June 27, 2012

Today’s average consumer faces an ever-increasing variety of personal injury dangers. These include everything from unsafe foods and untested products to burns, assaults, dog bites and poisoning. Many personal injuries are the result of car and truck accidents (9 out of 10 motorists will eventually be involved in an accident in their lifetimes). An average of 11,000 personal injury accidents occur every hour in the United States.

If you sustain a personal injury, there are certain things you should and should not do. These include:

Consult a Personal Injury Attorney ASAP

If you suffer a personal injury through the negligence or fault of another, you only have a limited time to file a personal injury lawsuit. Going it alone means dealing with the other person’s or company’s attorney, whose goal is to pay you as little as possible for your losses. An experienced personal injury attorney can even the odds. He or she can be an effective advocate for your rights. They will make certain you are justly compensated for your medical bills, as well as any future medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and payment for your emotional suffering.

A skilled personal injury attorney will also know how to deal with the paperwork, courtroom strategies, trial procedures and other details of your personal injury case. They can also gain access to expert witnesses, medical professionals, and other resources that ensure you prevail in court or at the settlement table. Try to find an attorney who has a track record of success. And hire an attorney on a contingency basis–you pay no fee unless they win your case. A reputable personal injury attorney will advance all costs and expenses connected with your lawsuit. Some of the best personal injury lawyers can be found using the Super Lawyers service.

Everything you say can be used against you

Keep in mind that when you talk to an insurance adjuster, everything you say can be used against you. So don’t talk to an insurance adjuster until after you’ve talked to a personal injury attorney. The best personal injury law firms will offer free initial consultations. This is a valuable service.  So be sure to take advantage of their experience and expertise.

Above all, don’t consent to a recorded interview when the insurance adjuster asks for it. The law does not require you to offer a recorded statement to any insurance company. If the insurance company insists they “can’t settle your claim without a recorded statement,” you can agree to one—but only after you’ve talked with your attorney and with your attorney present during the entire recording. Insurance companies have been known to harass, coax and trick people into making statements that can be used against them in court or during the final settlement. A good attorney will also insist that the insurance company provide a copy of your recorded statements within several days.

Don’t sign that release!

Insurance companies will ask you to sign a release to “gather the necessary information for processing.” Don’t sign it. A release like this gives the insurance company carte blanche in obtaining all sorts of unnecessary background information on you—decades old medical records, school records, employment records, divorce settlements, the sky’s the limit—whatever they need to build a case against settling your claim. Read more about Insurance Company Releases.

Give your injuries time to heal

A broken arm is one thing, but a back or head injury will take time to heal. It may even take months before you get a clean bill of health from your doctor. Granted, you need cash to pay those mounting medical bills, but don’t be so eager for cash that you settle your claim without allowing your body to fully recover from the injuries you sustained.

Beware the Medical Lien

Put simply, a medical lien requires you to pay for your medical expenses directly by what you get from your claim. Normally, your medical insurance company will review the medical bills and make sure you’re not being overcharged. When you sign a medical lien and you don’t get a settlement or one that’s far less than you expected, the lien will force you to pay for every medical bill you put on the lien. Sure, you want to pay for all your medical services, but services and medical bills placed on a lien are generally much higher than those normally charged.  That’s because lien doctors know that their services won’t be scrutinized by an insurance company.

Keep accurate and timely records

It goes without saying that you should maintain accurate and timely records of all your injuries and related expenses. Insurance adjusters hope you won’t do this. But you must be vigilant and keep track of your economic and non-economic losses. Non-economic losses might include humiliation, embarrassment, loss of companionship, guidance and upbringing, to name just a few. A personal injury attorney will help you assess the monetary value of these and other losses.

To find a qualified  personal injury attorney near you, check out the AVVO website.

Guest post contributed by LYSlaw

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