Here are the CRITICAL “ANATOMICAL” STAGES of a successful PERSONAL INJURY (“PI”) CASE :
- INFORMATION. At the scene of the car, truck or motorcycle accident, if you are able, get Driver License and Insurance information, and take photos. (Again, IF you are able.)
- AMBULANCE / EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION. If possible, accept Ambulance or Emergency Transportation to the nearest Hospital Emergency Department.
- IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. Whether it is a Hospital Emergency Room, an Urgent Care Clinic, or your Family Physician, you absolutely must seek Medical Attention immediately, meaning right after the accident, obviously the same day, but best timing is immediately … do NOT go home, do NOT “Pass GO” … go directly to the Hospital or Physician.
- REQUEST THOROUGH MEDICAL TESTING AND EVALUATION. Request X-rays, CT-Scans, MRI’s, and push for a very thorough medical evaluation, right at the beginning.
- CONTACT ATTORNEY / GET LEGAL REPRESENTATION. On the day of the accident, contact an attorney, and retain legal representation. Your legal counsel must be “in place” from DAY ONE. In terms of your medical treatment, your Personal Injury (“PI”) attorney will be able to recommend suitable medical staff from a network of physicians, technicians, chiropractors and care givers.
- LEGAL COUNSEL AS “GATE-KEEPER.” Your attorney and/or law firm will serve as your “Gate-Keeper,” keeping track of the Medical Invoices, requesting Medical Reports, and ensuring that not only do you receive proper medical care, but that the medical care that you do receive, is PROPERLY DOCUMENTED ON PAPER.
- ATTORNEY’S LETTER OF REPRESENTATION. Soon after your Accident, your Attorney will send a Letter of Representation to the Insurance Company representing the other parties involved in your Accident, and will ensure that future communications go directly to your Attorney, and NOT to YOU. This ensures that an experienced Personal Injury Attorney will handle the upcoming communications, and will know what to say, and what not to say.
- ATTORNEY’S DEMAND LETTER. As soon as your Medical Evaluation and Treatment is well underway, and in some cases, concluded, your Attorney will get final Medical Reports from your treating Physicians and Health-care providers, and add up your Medical Expenses, plus your Lost Income and other Damages, and send a DEMAND LETTER on your behalf. In many cases, this is all that is necessary in order to obtain a successful monetary recovery.
- CRISCI POLICY-LIMITS DEMAND LETTER. In some cases, your Attorney will have a basis to send a Policy-Limits Demand Letter, warning the Insurance Company involved that they must pay the Policy Limit to cover your damages, and if they refuse, and the case goes to Trial, and the Jury awards an amount above and beyond the Policy Limit, the Insurance Company will be REQUIRED TO PAY THE FULL AWARD, despite the Policy Limit of the Insurance Coverage !
- FILING LAWSUIT. Your Attorney will know, from long experience, when it is necessary to actually go to Court, to advance your legal rights, and when NOT.
- LITIGATION LESSONS. Your Attorney has learned many lessons from the “trench-warfare” of litigation, lessons about how best to deal with what may be at times a daunting process. You will need representation for Written Discovery, Oral Depositions, and Court Appearances.
- COURTROOM DEMEANOR. Your Attorney will coach you on “Courtroom Demeanor.” How you act in Court, or in a Deposition, may determine how believable you are. One really decent and honorable client, listened in Court as his teenage children not only took the side of their Mom, but testified falsely on Mom’s behalf, actually lying on the Stand. The client WEPT as his children testified against him, because he felt the pain and anguish of betrayal, and also deep sadness for a broken family …. But the client’s weeping conveyed the impression that the teenagers were telling the truth, even though they were not. Ideally, the client’s Courtroom Demeanor would have been one of disbelief, outrage, even anger … had he kept his composure, and even used a little bit of drama, he would have conveyed the (accurate) impression that his teenagers were lying to the Court, and betraying their Dad out of anger and disrespect. There was a lot at stake … in this case, the Dad was forced to move out of the Marital Residence, which was his Separate Property (inherited from his father). The Mom didn’t fare much better, since there was no income to pay the mortgage, and the Marital Residence was ultimately lost by the family.
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- ESTABLISHING DAMAGES. Your Attorney will help you to establish evidence of DAMAGES, and prove DAMAGES at Trial. How bad are your injuries? Juries are increasingly cheap when it comes to awarding damages in personal injury cases. Jurors are not happy to be on Jury Duty in the first place. As Plaintiff, you had better have a compelling story to tell the Jury, through your own testimony, as well as the testimony of witnesses and experts. If you do not have such a story, the Jury will take it out on you, and your Attorney.
- ESTABLISHING LIABILITY. Your Attorney will help you to establish LIABILITY on the part of the Defendants. What did the Defendant do, or not do, which would trigger a finding of FAULT (LIABILTY) against them? Major damage cases have been lost because a Judge or Jury has found that there is no liability on the part of the Defendant.
- INSURANCE. Defendant’s INSURANCE Coverage is of critical importance. Although the law clearly states that neither Judge nor Jury can imply or infer that there is, or is not, INSURANCE Coverage for a Defendant, most people understand that this is a critical aspect of the case. Without INSURANCE, collecting on a judgment will be a problem. A Defendant could file for bankruptcy and have the Judgment discharged, or a payment agreement could take years to satisfy.
- PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES. Only your Attorney will know whether or not to allege Gross Negligence, and whether or not to seek PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES. In an appropriate case, PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY Damages may be applicable. Punitive damages are those that are designed to punish or deter the defendant and others (similarly situated) from engaging in the type of conduct that the Defendant engaged in. PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES are to be awarded in an amount commensurate with (in accordance with) the Defendant’s ABILITY TO PAY, and in an amount sufficient to deter such conduct in the future. However, PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES are not covered under the typical INSURANCE policy. If a Defendant acted intentionally, those actions are not covered under insurance as well. The courts have concluded that this would be against public policy. This is why in a given case, pleadings may allege actions of the Defendant as both negligent (covered by insurance) and intentional (not covered by insurance).
- DO NOT “GO IT ALONE.” Let’s face it, you are going to need a skilled and experienced Accident ATTORNEY to help you navigate through some pretty rough seas, and what can sometimes be a long journey. You should hire your Attorney at the very start, and take full advantage of what the American legal system has to offer you.