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.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,