The first biggest mistake people make is that they talk to the insurance company; they give them recorded statements. Sometimes they answer questions they’re not sure about and if those answers prove to be wrong in the future then they’re impeached with those answers. They may be asked, “How are you doing now?” The person’s having a good day and they say they’re doing pretty well. Then next week, they’re doing poorly and then the insurance company claims that they were healed; their testimony, their own statement said they were fine! A week, two weeks or a month later, they’re symptomatic again and the insurance company wants to deny responsibility for that.
Another mistake is not getting treatment. A lot of people want to tough it out and don’t want to incur the cost of treatment. Without treatment, we can’t prove your injury or your damages. Some people delay the onset of treatment, so they tough it out for a week or two or a month. Then they go see the doctor and the insurance company is arguing that you must not have been very hurt as you didn’t go to the doctor right away. The longer you delay, the harder it is. You can imagine if you waited a year to go to the doctor, an insurance company and/or a jury wouldn’t believe that the reason you’re injured is an accident that happened a year earlier.
Giving inconsistent statements is another problem I see with clients. They tell the emergency room that they were not knocked unconscious at the time of the accident and then a month or two later, they’re telling their treating physician that they were knocked out and had a loss of consciousness. They’re impeached with those statements. Clients should be sure that they’re consistent in what they’re reporting to their doctors and be honest.
Excessive treatment can be a problem. We all have to use our common sense. If going to the chiropractor 20 times is okay (and I’m just making up numbers) but you go 140 times and then you tell everyone you’re not any better, that doesn’t help your case. Excessive treatment is defined by just what is reasonable. Another common problem I see with clients is not getting quality medical care. If they’re having a significant problem, they should get to an expert; get to the best in the field. Don’t go to the local clinic! Go to a neurologist or a neurosurgeon or whatever is appropriate in your case.
What Are The Documents or Information that a Client Should Provide To Their Attorney?
If they have a copy of the police report, they should produce that. We get that for them but if the client already has a copy of the police report assuming that there is one, he or she should provide it. Pictures of the property damage to the vehicles, if they have pictures of the vehicles, produce those. If they have property damage estimates and/or receipts for repair, they should produce those. If they have medical bills, they should produce those bills to the attorney.
Oftentimes we get those but if the client happens to have them, they should produce them. Wage loss verifications – either past wage stubs, past income tax returns, and anything that shows what you’ve made by way of earnings before the accident. If you have something from your employer indicating that you’re not working, then produce that. If the doctor gives you a disability slip to stay off-work until a certain time, produce that to the attorney.
How Long Can a Personal Injury Case Potentially Last?
A client has up to two years in California to file a lawsuit for personal injuries. There may be different statutes of limitations for medical malpractice and other public entities but generally speaking, you have two years to file. I don’t recommend that you wait two years but you have two years. Once the case is filed, it has to be concluded within five years. If the person waits till the last day, and then it took the whole five years, it’s a seven-year-old case and nobody’s happy about that.
Our typical case from date of accident to date of resolution is probably in the two to three-year range. By the time you come to an attorney, they file right away, they work the case up and the case settles or goes to trial, from the accident to the resolution of the case, it’s two or three years. If somebody files bankruptcy in the case, that delays it because the court calls a timeout on the case and you have to sit there for a period of time. There can be many reasons for delays but generally speaking two or three years.
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