Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tip #2 Pick the Right Lawyer for Your Injury Claim

After your accident, you may be quite surprised to receive multiple letters and brochures from personal injury lawyers in the mail. You probably wonder: "How did these lawyers even know I was in the accident? How did they get my address and information?" Some people feel flattered that several lawyers are contacting them, making it easy to hire a lawyer without even leaving their house. Other people feel pressured and annoyed by receiving multiple solicitations and expensive brochures at a time when they are coping with pain and loss from the accident.

You are NOT required to choose one of the lawyers who sent you a letter or a brochure. There are many good lawyers who generally don't send such letters. If you don't know any lawyers, you can ask friends, relatives, neighbors or co-workers for recommendations. You can look on-line or in the phone book. You can consult the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Schedule interviews with several lawyers before you make your decision. Bring a list of questions and take notes. You can ask questions about your claim, the lawyer's experience with similar claims, where the lawyer went to law school and where the lawyer has worked. Ask the lawyer to explain what he or she would do to help you. If you like, ask for references from past clients. Look around the office--does it make you feel comfortable? Pay attention to the lawyer's personality--do you think you could work well with this lawyer and his/her staff? Is this lawyer tough enough or understanding enough for you? Note what impresses you favorably or unfavorably during the interview. At the end of the interview, you do not need to sign anything. Explain you are researching how you will proceed with the claim and you'll get back to the lawyer with your decision. Then thank the lawyer for spending time with you.

After you have completed your interviews, compare your notes about the lawyers' backgrounds, legal experience, claim results and personality as well as any comments from recommendations that you received. This way you can make an informed decision and pick the right lawyer!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tip #1 Keep Notes After Your Injury Accident

An injury accident is an extremely stressful event. Post-accident pain and anxiety can negatively affect your ability to accurately remember important accident details--details that you will need to remember to effectively make your claim to the insurance company. 

The solution? After your accident, keep an on-going  written journal. Write everything down in a notebook or in your computer.

Write notes about what you were doing/where you were headed just prior to the accident. Include location, time of day, condition of the surface of the road, parking lot or interior floor, traffic at that time. Who else was at the accident scene?

Then write out the details about what happened in the accident. What did you see? What did you hear? What happened first? next? and then? Describe what you know of the injuries and property damage on the scene, both for yourself and others. 

Did you have pain right away? Note the area of your body that hurt and rate your pain on a  scale of 0-10 where 10 is the worst pain imaginable. Who called for the ambulance? How long did you need to wait for help to arrive?

If your pain came on later that day or night or the next morning, describe what you felt and note when you contacted your doctor or chiropractor. Keep a list of all of your medical providers post accident including the dates you had medical care, the names of your doctors, their contact information, and what happened in each appointment.  

Each day after the accident, note the date, the pain level in the areas of your body that were injured, any activity restrictions and your emotional state.  Note changes in your normal routine due to the injuries. For example:  "My back hurts if I try to put the wash into the dryer, so I have to ask for help. I can't turn my neck to look around while driving--I have to turn my whole body to see to the left or right. I am feeling frustrated and...."

Injuries affect you but also can negatively affect the life of your family members. If you cannot drive, then you cannot transport your son to his soccer matches. Maybe you cannot dance with your spouse at a friend's wedding, or accompany your family on a planned car trip. Include these details in your notes.  

Keep track of the dates and hours of any time off work due to the accident. When you return to work, note any changes in your usual work tasks you need to make due to your injuries.

Each time you hear from an insurance representative, write down his or her name, telephone number, the date and a summary of what you talked about. This is VERY IMPORTANT!  With this information, you can deal much better with the insurance company when making your claim for injury, car damage or other property damage and even bill payment. You probably will deal with several different  insurance companies. For example, an auto case often involves three insurance companies:  the liability insurance company for the at-fault party, your own auto insurance company and your health insurance company.  In some accidents, there may be a workers compensation insurer, Medicare or Medical Assistance as well.

Your notes don't have to be perfect--don't worry about spelling or grammar. Just keep writing! If you cannot write due to your injuries, ask a family member or friend to help.  

Writing down details as they happen is very valuable--otherwise it is likely that these details will be forgotten after a few months. Your notes will be extremely helpful if you decide to ask a lawyer to handle the claim.  

As an experienced personal injury attorney, I have handled over 1000 insurance claims for people who were hurt in auto accidents, slip and fall accidents and dog bite injuries since 1993. I am always favorably impressed by clients who can provide me with their notes!  These notes are a valuable tool to help me understand what the client has been through and how the accident changed the client's life. When I write the demand letter to the insurance adjuster, I strategically incorporate details from the client's notes.  A key to a successful claim settlement is effective use of the client's notes!