Whether or not you should hire a lawyer for your accident case involves many factors. Today, a potential client called our office and was wondering if he should hire a lawyer. His accident happened two months ago. I explained that he may have waited too long to hire a lawyer. He was angry because the insurance adjuster wasn't being reasonable with him. In fact, he told me that he got into a big fight over the phone with the adjuster.
Don't wait too long and then hire a lawyer just because you argued with the adjuster. Hiring "Mr. Lawyer" isn't going to make a big difference in most cases. Insurance adjusters aren't going to be afraid of you now that you've "lawyered up." In most cases, they couldn't care less. In fact, if the lawyer files a lawsuit, the case is likely going to get reassigned to another adjuster at some future date. So you're not going to teach the adjuster a lesson by hiring a lawyer. They simply don't care. The case will be reassigned, and they'll be happy to get it off their desk. In some cases, you will have the same adjuster on the case during litigation.
So, if hiring a lawyer isn't going to scare the adjuster into evaluating your case differently, why would hiring a lawyer sooner than later help? Here's why - an experienced lawyer can help you present your case properly - from the start. Oftentimes, people with little or no experience with personal injury cases make lots of mistakes at the beginning of their case.
Here are some common mistakes people make when they wait too long to consult with an attorney:
1) They think the insurance company is going to pay their bills.
2) They wait and wait for the insurance adjuster to return their call.
3) They think the insurance company is going to tell them what to do, so they wait too long and soon, too much time has elapsed. Delays will be used against you in most cases.
4) They get frustrated and then yell at the insurance adjuster - the very same person from whom they want a settlement check (yes, that's called "biting the hand that feeds you.")
5) They accept a small settlement when their case might be worth a lot more - or they think they need to settle right away.
6) They think they can handle their case on their own when they don't have a full appreciation of what they are doing. This is not the time to guess and "wing it."
7) They don't understand their rights and what the law provides.
8) They get stuck on matters of principal and fail to see the forest from the trees. In short, they don't understand the practical realities of personal injury cases. "Justice" and the way "things should be" get in the way of practical solutions based on real life situations. Basically, there's the "way things should be" and then there's the "way things actually are!" An experienced lawyer can guide you through this quandary and the blurred lines between what the law states and what the realities are.
9) They wait too long to get medical care.
10) They fail to take photos of injuries and damages.
These mistakes become problems for the client later on. For example, the client I spoke with today on the phone had not been to see any doctor for his injuries since the accident. Do you think any insurance adjuster is going to believe he was actually hurt? Even if he was hurt, he didn't take the right steps after his accident. A good lawyer can counsel you about the correct steps to take after an accident, not only to insure your recovery from your injuries, but to also take steps to present your case properly to the insurance adjuster. There is an "art" to this process and anticipating your opponent's arguments is part of the "game." Yes, it is a game.
In short, the main lesson is this: If you're thinking about hiring a lawyer, do so early. Consult with an attorney early in your case and ask them to guide you through the personal injury maze. Having an advocate on your side can help level the playing field - even if you don't hire the lawyer. Don't wait till you've made too many mistakes and think hiring a lawyer is going to correct all those mistakes. It may just backfire.
At the very least, get some good advice. If the lawyer pressures you into signing up as a client, just look for another lawyer who doesn't do that. A good lawyer will tell you if they can bring value to your case. I can't represent every client who walks through my door, but I often give them advice so they can be more educated. That's way I fill this website with articles, videos, blog entries, etc. By getting educated, clients can often make better decisions when it comes to their personal injury matter.
If you need help with your personal injury case, call our office at (661) 414-7100. We will let you know if we can help you.
Hiring an attorney won't magically help your case. You must work together. We always tell our clients that we need their help while we are representing them.
Here is exactly what we tell all our personal injury clients:
By hiring a lawyer, your case won’t automatically be successful! We can’t guarantee anything, but without your help we will be at a deficit. To some extent, we have to be strategic about our approach. Unfortunately, insurance companies have created an atmosphere that demands such an approach.
Here are some things to keep in mind. Please review this checklist on occasion as things may
change as your case progresses.
1. Keep our office advised of your current address and phone number.
2. Please get back to us promptly by email or phone if we try to reach you. Sometimes we need time-sensitive information.
3. Inform this office and your doctor(s) of any prior motor vehicle accidents or medical treatments. If you have an aggravation or exacerbation of a previous injury, they should know about it.
4. Contact our office when you have any questions regarding your claim. Do not speak with a representative of the opposing insurance company. You may of course talk to your own insurance company regarding property damage issues but keep it confined to property damage.
5. Keep all medical/doctor appointments with your doctors, as well as any medical specialists to whom you are referred. Gaps in treatment will be used against you. If you miss an appointment, try to reschedule it.
6. If you are unable to work, do not leave your doctor’s office without written verification of your working status from your doctor – in other words, get a “note” from your doctor! Lost wages from work are dependent upon your doctor’s written verification of your work status. It is your responsibility to get this information from your physician. We cannot do so. Without such notes from the doctor keeping you off work, your claim for wage loss, if any, will be severely hampered.
7. If you are going to allege lost wages, we will also need verification from your employer of the dates missed and your rate of pay. If you are missing work due to the accident, your employer (the person offering verification) should know WHY you are missing work. They need to know it is accident-related. Provide us with the name/address/phone of the person who can assist us with verification of your lost earnings. If your claim is significant, providing tax returns from the past 2 or 3 years is helpful to show the decline after the accident. They won’t pay for lost wages unless they have verification from your employer AND your doctor. They don't pay lost earnings because you are a nice person. We may ask you for help if your company refuses to cooperate with our office.
8. If you see additional doctors after our initial interview you must inform us of their name, address, and telephone number. We don’t automatically find out about these things.
9. You may have sought treatment with facilities that have no relationship with my office (especially before hiring my office). We can obtain your records from these facilities, but in most cases, a direct request from you (their patient) is more effective. By law, they should comply. Please try to obtain the medical records AND billing from these facilities. Some may insist the attorney’s office obtain the records and bills.
10. Keep track of your mileage and prescriptions and submit them to us. It helps to keep a journal of doctor’s appointments and mileage (parking charges) incurred. This can be a simple sheet of paper and/or receipts from parking lots. If your mileage is very minor, this effort may not be worth it.
11. If you receive any documents by mail regarding your case (from ANYONE), please forward them to our office. This includes health care insurance, letters from insurance companies, collections agencies, etc. Keep our office completely in the loop. We are not necessarily copied on correspondence you receive from others.
12. Your “diagnosed injuries” may affect the evaluation of your case. Therefore, you MUST tell
your doctors (written and orally) about ALL your injuries. Doctors cannot read your mind. This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Break your injuries down to smaller components. For example, saying “my shoulder pain radiates into my neck” will simply be considered only a “shoulder” complaint by the insurance company. Your neck pain may not be considered. If you just say “my back hurt” that will count as “one” injury when in fact, you might have “upper back pain” and “mid back pain.” That’s two injuries – not one! Keep your doctors aware of your progress or lack of progress during each visit.
The rule you should keep in mind is this: Most insurance companies are using software to analyze your case. If something is NOT mentioned in the medical records, it simply won’t be “inputted” and basically doesn’t exist as far as the insurance companies are concerned. The insurance company wants to minimize your complaints whenever they can. Also, mention ALL YOUR INJURIES to every doctor you see…even if they are not treating you for that particular injury. For example, your chiropractor and orthopedist should both be aware of ALL your complaints. Inconsistencies in their records/reports may be used against you.
13. How an accident affects your life may also affect the evaluation of your injury case. You must also report any daily activities (work, school, household, etc.) that are affected by your accident. The doctors MUST document these issues or they simply won’t be considered by most insurance companies. Just like in the previous paragraph, the insurance adjuster will not input your information into their software if the information is missing or unverified by the doctor’s chart notes and/or report.
We know this is a lot to keep in mind. However, we truly believe that our clients are better off if they are “informed” participants in their case. After years practicing personal injury for the defense and plaintiff, I share these guidelines with you so we can truly work as a team. Of course, your health is the most important thing, but we also want to maximize your chances of having a successful personal injury claim.
Call (661) 414-7100 if you want advice regarding your own personal injury case.
Santa Clarita Personal Injury Lawyer Reveals 10 Insurance Company Secrets They Don't Want You To Know!
I used to work for the insurance companies as a defense lawyer. I know the tricks they use against injured victims. Perhaps "tricks" is a strong word - let's just call them "strategies." At least get a free consultation from a competent and honest personal injury lawyer who will tell you about your rights. If you're going to make a decision regarding your personal injury case, shouldn't it be an educated decision? Click here to download a PDF transcript of this video.
If you suffered a serious injury in the Santa Clarita, CA area, please give my office a call for an assessment of your accident case. I will tell you the pros and cons without sugarcoating. You need to get reliable, honest, and credible answers to your questions. Call (661) 414-7100.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,