Expert Advice On What To Do After an Accident
1. Seek Medical Attention
It is critical to seek medical attention after being injured in a Houston car accident. Emergency medical treatment may be required immediately and an ambulance should be called to the scene of the accident to provide the necessary urgent care. The ambulance will probably take the injured person to a hospital or emergency room for further assessment. This assessment is important to identify any injuries that might not be immediately obvious. Tests such as x-rays, CAT or MRI scans will be performed if a medical practitioner suspects internal injuries, head trauma or bone fractures.
If hospitalization is not necessary, the emergency room doctor may schedule follow-up visits for the patient with specialists or other doctors. It is extremely important that the patient meet these appointments for a check-up, treatment or procedure that may need to be performed. Medical appointments should not be postponed or cancelled unless it cannot be avoided.
The patient needs to inform the doctor and any other medical staff of all the medical issues that they are experiencing after a Houston car accident. Every complaint, no matter how minor or severe, needs to be medically assessed and documented. An injury or complaint should not be underestimated as to its seriousness and role it will play when it comes to claiming from insurance or the person that caused the accident.
It is also crucial that every aspect of the patient’s injuries and complaints be carefully detailed in their medical report. A lawyer and court may need to assess this documentation to determine whether a claim should be awarded to cover the cost of medical expenses and the amount of the compensation. A personal injury case that is well documented can provide compensation for medical expenses, loss of income as well as pain and suffering.
2. Call a Houston Car Accident Lawyer
After receiving urgent medical care, the patient should call a Houston car accident injury lawyer as soon as possible. Insurance companies already have access to an expert legal team including top lawyers, investigators and insurance adjusters. This team has one goal in mind and that is to deny or reduce the claim against them to pay for medical expenses and other losses that have been incurred.
This is even more important in the case of a serious injury or if the insurance carrier is already disputing the validity of the claims from an injured party. The patient should call a lawyer as a matter of urgency as soon as they are medically able to do so.
Every day that a call to an attorney is delayed wastes time that could have been dedicated to building a solid case for fair compensation. A lawyer needs as much time as possible to investigate the accident, the case and the claim in order to improve the chances of compensation being awarded to their client.
3. Choosing A Personal Injury Lawyer
It should go without saying that not all lawyers will provide the same quality of legal services. It is therefore recommended to first find out what their rating is with Martindale-Hubbell®. This rating system is considered to be the foremost peer review process in the country for all lawyers and will provide a true assessment of the reputation of a specific attorney.
It is also important to ask the lawyer the following questions:
– What is their case history and how many cases have they successfully resolved for clients in the past?
– Does the lawyer have any trial experience? Many lawyers resolve or settle cases and have never actually represented a client in a court of law.
– What is their experience and level of expertise in negotiating settlements and dealing with mediation? Over 95% of cases rely on good negotiation skills and mediation to be successfully settled.
– What type of payment structure is required? Does the lawyer or firm represent clients on a contingency basis requiring no upfront or ongoing payments but rather a percentage of the compensation that is awarded?
– Do they have a disciplinary record? Have they ever been reprimanded, suspended or disbarred?
– Can they provide referrals or references from peers, judges, insurance or other persons who can qualify the skill and reputation of the lawyer?
These are all important questions to ask a lawyer before hiring them to determine if the are qualified and if they have the necessary skills and knowledge in the area of personal injury law to provide successful legal representation. However, it is also important to assess the lawyer on a personal level. Is the lawyer friendly yet professional? Are they trustworthy and can they be burdened with all the facts regarding the case as well as the emotional distress resulting from the accident? Are they sympathetic but at the same time resolute in achieving the best results from the case? Will the lawyer communicate effectively, take the time to explain everything and listen when necessary?
Asking these questions is the best way to find the right lawyer to meet individual needs and requirements. Every person and every case is different and a lawyer should ideally inspire confidence and trust in their clients over and above having the expertise and the skill to do their job.
4. The Initial Consultation
Most consultations with a Houston car accident lawyer begin with a phone call to set up an appointment. During this phone call, an intake specialist will ask pertinent questions about the accident and the case. The answers to these questions will then be assessed by a legal team to determine whether the potential client actually has a case and what the chances of success are. A consultation with a lawyer is then scheduled.
The client will be requested to bring along all documentation, medical records and any other evidence or information that they have collected that may be pertinent to the case. For a Houston car accident, this documentation should include:
– Name, contact details, insurance information and car licence and registration of the other driver.
– The case number and other information contained on a ticket provided by a police officer at the scene of the accident or after reporting the accident.
– Current insurance information.
– Medical records such as bills, prescriptions for medications, doctor’s notes, medical records etc.
A case manager will then meet with the client to collect their personal information, facts about the case, information regarding the injuries sustained and medical care received, the potential liability of the person at fault and any other information to provide a general sense of the case.
The personal injury attorney will then join the consultation to discuss fee arrangements and the terms and conditions of the legal services they provide. Fee arrangements might require a retainer or be on a contingency basis. The arrangements will be explained in great detail to ensure the client understands what is involved. The client will then sign a contract with the lawyer to provide legal representation, to pay the fees as arranged and for the release of medical records and other financial information such as loss of income.
Lastly, the legal process will be explained and the next steps that the attorney will be taking. It is imperative for the client to continue with medical care and treatments and stay in communication with the lawyers to follow-up on the progress of the case as well inform them of any changes to medical care or the status of injuries sustained in the accident.
The legal team will also continue to provide the client with updates regarding their case with regards to findings from an investigation, collection of evidence and any other pertinent information or documentation. The case should be ready to presented within a few months of the initial consultation with the local Houston personal injury attorney and result in successfully negotiating a settlement or being awarded compensation in a court.
5. Understanding The Legal Process
A personal injury case can either be resolved through a settlement agreement or by filing a lawsuit that will be decided in a court of law. There are various phases involved with each of these types of resolution:
Phases Of Settlement Agreement
– Phase one investigates the accident and the facts of the case.
– Phase two involves collecting evidence and documentation to support the case.
– Phase three is where the evidence and documentation is presented to the insurance company or person who is liable in the case.
– Phase four is when negotiations with the insurance company or liable person are entered into.
– Phase five occurs when both parties agree on a settlement arrangement and the case is ended. Most personal injury cases are resolved through negotiations and settlement rather than going to court.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement or if any dispute exists regarding who is liable for the claim, at-fault in causing the accident, the injuries sustained, medical treatment received, loss of earnings, etc. a lawsuit will be filed. The lawsuit will go through the following stages:
– Stage 1 is the discovery phase which involves an exchange of information between the plaintiff’s lawyers and the defendant’s lawyers. Lawyers may request that certain documents be produced as well as submit a list of questions (interrogatories) that must be answered by the injured party (plaintiff) or the presumed liable party (defendant). These interrogatories are legal documents that must be answered truthfully under oath and penalties may apply for providing false information.
– Stage 2 is where witnesses, the plaintiff and defendant are deposed. A deposition is where legal testimony is provided under oath and recorded by a court reporter. The deposition allows witnesses such as doctors who treated the plaintiffs injuries as well as the plaintiff to testify as to the affect of those injuries and the facts related to the accident. Police officers and other witnesses may also be deposed as well as the defendant in the case. Each deposition provides a different viewpoint from which the facts of the case can be extracted in order to mount a case to present to a court.
– Stage 4 is where a judge may order that the matter be settled through mediation and arbitration. Arbitration is where a neutral party is selected to hear the case and reach a decision regarding the matter to which both parties have previously agreed to accept. Mediation is where a neutral party attempts to get each party to reach an agreement and settle the matter out of court.
– Stage 5 is where the case will be presented to a judge and a jury in a court of law. The judge will assess liability and oversee the trial while the jury will decide whether compensation should be awarded to the plaintiff or injured party and in what amount.
6. Understanding Privileged Information
A personal injury case is a serious legal matter that should be given the respect that it deserves. The case is also private and confidential and shouldn’t be discussed with anyone beyond a lawyer, doctors and close friends or family members.
Many people make the common mistake of talking far too much about their case. It is important to remember that anything that is said can be held against you in a court of law. What iis said can be misunderstood, misconstrued or taken out of context and can severely hurt a case. The information can be used by the defense team to sow doubt into the minds of jurors or to negotiate a lower settlement.
Spreading information on social media can be hugely detrimental. Posting anything about the legal case can also result on remarks or comments being used by the defense team against the plaintiff. The defense team will make an effort to monitor the plaintiff’s social media pages to find something that they can use to better defend their client or to get the case dismissed.
They are probably also sending investigators to interview friends, family and neighbors in their search for negative information. This information can be used to discredit the case or the character of the plaintiff both of which can be detrimental to the personal injury lawsuit. Although the facts of the case may still be in evidence, it is going to be harder to present a strong case where off-hand comments or misconstrued information can be held against the injured party.
It is therefor highly recommended for clients to keep information regarding a Houston car accident, their injuries, medical care and the case to themselves and their attorney to improve their chances of success. Stay away from social media and remember there will be plenty of time to talk about it after the case has been won.
7. Understanding The Legal System
The legal system is based on the principle of providing justice and this is not different when it comes to a personal injury case. Each party is provided with the right to legal representation as well as a variety of different ways to resolve their legal matter. They can opt to settle the matter or they can go through arbitration or mediation to reach a satisfactory agreement. Alternatively, the can have their case heard and decided by a judge and jury in a court of law.
A good Houston car accident lawyer has an expert understanding of the legal system and how to use it to their advantage. They can easily surmise from a true statement of facts from each party what the most likely outcome will be should the case be presented to a jury. This ability to predict the most likely outcome comes with years of experience and honing their legal skills but can be hugely beneficial to their clients.
They will use the information that they gather in the discovery process as well as their experience in court to decide what option is in the best interest of their client. If they feel that for any reason the case will fail before a jury, the may advise that their client take a settlement rather than end up not being awarded any compensation at all. The lawyer will also still negotiate the best terms and settlement amount possible on behalf of their client.
If the negotiation process fails regardless of the letters, emails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings, mediation and arbitration are still available to their client. These are often preferable to going to court which is often a last resort for lawyers when it comes to resolving a personal injury case. Court cases are unpredictable and there is simply not guarantee that compensation will be awarded. Also, court cases can result in lengthy, drawn out proceedings that could become very costly and result in a client needing to quite before the end.
The legal system, its representatives and those relying on it to find justice should all be treated with the respect that they are due in order to reach a quick and fair resolution of a personal injury case.
8. Collecting Documentation
The primary role of a client in a personal injury case is to provide all the necessary documentation to build and present a strong case. These documents can be used to strengthen a negotiating position or as evidence in court to persuade a jury to award fair compensation.
It is therefore critical to keep all documents, records and bills related to the injuries sustained and medical care received. All medical expenses as well as costs related to medical care for the injuries can form part of a claim for compensation. For example, the cost of transportation to and from medical appointments or the loss of earnings while recovering from the injury. Documents should be verified by the treating doctor and by an employer when it comes to loss of income.
A client should also provide a statement that speaks to the personal pain and suffering they endured as a result of the injury and how this has impacted their ability to live a normal life. Other witness statements from doctors or experts can also lend strength to the negotiations in a case.
This documentation, in a sense, allows the case to speak for itself and ensure that fair compensation is received for each claim including medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, etc.
9. Knowing When To Accept A Settlement
Attorneys are ethically bound to present any settlement offer made by the defense to their clients. This means that even settlements that are considered to be unfair or unreasonable must be offered to the client and it is up to the client at the end of the day to decide whether to accept or reject that offer.
The value of the case will be determined taking into consideration a variety of different factors such as expenses and losses incurred by the injured party. The value of the settlement should be at least equivalent to these losses in order to be considered fair. Attorneys will often assign a range of values taking all the various factors into account.
This range will have a minimum amount for which the client should be willing to settle as well as a upper limit that will provide more than fair compensation. The Houston car accident attorney will usually begin negotiating from either the highest or lowest value and the settlement normally falls somewhere between the two.
Although it is up to the client to decide whether or not to accept a settlement offer, they should do so on the advice of their attorney. If the attorney believes that the offer is too low and that there is a better chance of being awarded better compensation in court, they will usually advise rejecting the offer. On the other hand, if the attorneys feel that the case won’t be successful in court, they may advise settling for the minimum value assigned to the specific case.
10. Court Preparation
A case will only go to court if a settlement agreement cannot be reached between the lawyers representing the two parties. A judge and a jury will then decide who is liable, whether compensation should be awarded and the amount of compensation that would be considered to be fair.
Going to court can be intimidating, especially for clients who are new to the experience. In fact, court is considered to be a last resort for many different reason. The main reason is that once the matter goes to court, all control of what happens is no longer in your hands. There is no longer the option to accept or reject an offer or to negotiate further. The judge and the jury will now make all decisions about the case.
Preparing clients for what they will face in court is critical to improving their chance of a successful outcome. It is imperative to be honest and appear sincere in presenting their experience to the court. Allowing the emotion of the accident, injuries, medical treatments and all other pain and suffering to show will create a human connection with a judge and jury and open the path to empathy.
Cases that are factual and based in truth are often more likely to be successful than cases that try to twist the facts or take advantage of loopholes and the law. At the end of the day, a lawsuit is about seeking fair compensation for actual losses that were suffered as a result of a Houston car accident where another person can be held liable for those losses. Call McDonald Worley for your free consultation.