Not every lawsuit is worth a million dollars. If it were up to the insurance giants, no lawsuit would be worth a million dollars. It’s their goal to minimize what they have to pay out on any accident case to keep their shareholders rich. They’ll try every tip, trick, and legal loophole to avoid paying you the settlement you deserve.
Your future doesn’t have to be a crap shoot, though. There are 3 easy things you can do after you’ve had an accident to help guarantee that you receive adequate payment for your pain.
Step 1: Document everything
Regardless of how your proceed – whether working directly with your insurance company, trying to settle directly with the guilty party, or hiring a personal injury attorney – it is vital you make sure you document everything. Make sure you obtain something showing that the other guy was at fault. If it’s a motor vehicle accident, get a police report. If they aren’t obligated to fill one out in your state, or if the guilty driver tries to convince you not to call the police, insist that you do. If you can’t get an incident or accident report (if the accident was a slip and fall on private property, for example), get the contact info of any witnesses who saw the incident. Try to get them to make a statement that day, but if it has to be later, do that.
Take pictures of the scene with your smartphone. Whether it’s a car accident, a fall on defective stairs, or someone leaving you harassing notes, keep all the evidence you can. If you go the route of hiring an attorney, he or she will also be doing this, but it never hurts to cover as much ground as you can yourself.
Step 2: Consult with the right people
First off, it’s important to hire the right attorney. You can do that by asking your friends and family for recommendations, doing research online, and finding a law firm whose experience matches what you need. Hiring the wrong attorney could mean getting a poor settlement or losing your case altogether!
It doesn’t stop there. Make sure you contact the proper medical providers. Your general practitioner is a good place to start, but make sure you’re seeing the proper specialists for your continued treatment. Going to your Uncle Bud who has taken a few massage classes isn’t the right way to go. See medical providers who specialize in your need. Seeing the wrong specialist (or seeing no doctors) can indicate that your injury isn’t severe and that could be very bad for your lawsuit.
If your case is more involved, like a malpractice case or a defective product case, make sure you work with your attorney to hire the best experts. Here you may want to let your attorney take the lead, but if it looks like the wrong people are being contacted, keep doing your research to make sure your case has the strongest people possible on your side.
Step 3: See it through to the end
This one is so important. Going to the emergency room the day of the accident but doing nothing afterwards tells a judge that you aren’t really injured. Missing court dates because you had better stuff to do would indicate to a jury that the defendant is probably in the right. In short, LISTEN to your doctors and your attorney.
If your doctors prescribe for you to go to physical therapy 4x a week for three months, make every one of those 50 appointments. If you start to feel better after a month, that isn’t a reason to stop the treatment. Your doctor knows more about medicine than you do, and when she recommends something, it’s important that you follow that advice. Of course, if you feel she is way off base, it’s okay to get a second opinion before moving forward.
Just as important is to be on the ball on the legal side. Don’t miss a court date. It will be difficult, but make every appointment and sign and return every document your attorney requires quickly. If you have to miss an appointment, don’t just skip it. Let the attorney know in advance so he can reschedule. If you are unreliable in court, it will destroy your chances of a fair settlement.
Sometimes it’ll be hard to make it all the way to a verdict, especially if your case drags on for years. This is particularly true if you can’t work because of the accident and the bills keep piling up. There are companies out there who can help you financially make it through to the end. Getting a pre-settlement loan, or a cash advance, can give you the lifeboat you need to make it to the finish line.
If you do these three things, you’ll be in good shape to get the appropriate justice for your life-changing injury.