First, we will notify the other party’s insurance company that you have retained us as your attorneys. We will also ask the insurance company for copies of any statements you may have given them.
We also contact the physicians and hospitals involved in the case, notifying them that you have retained us to represent you. In many instances, this notification does not take place until your treatment has concluded, at which time we request copies of all of your records, billings and reports. If your health insurance company, or any of your health-care providers request information as to whether you are represented by an attorney, please feel free to give them our name, address and telephone number. In many cases, health-care providers are willing to await payment of medical bills until a case settles. If any of your health-care providers contacts you concerning payment, we will be happy, upon your request, to try to arrange for payment of your bills out of your settlement proceeds so that you do not have to deal with bill collectors while your case is pending.
It is important for you to know that no case can be settled until the exact nature of the client’s medical condition, and the amount of medical bills resulting from the client’s injury, have been determined and all investigation has been completed. Gathering this information generally takes time, and, in most cases, treating physicians are unable to give complete medical information about a client’s injury until medical treatment has been completed. We usually have to wait many months from the date of the accident before we can obtain a medical report from your doctor or doctors about your medical condition. If it becomes necessary to take your case to trial, it can take several years to complete the case, depending on the court’s schedule. One of the more difficult requests we make of our clients is patience. We know that you would like to bring your case to a prompt conclusion. It is our goal to accomplish that, but in many cases, representing you effectively will require that we take some additional time.
As soon as our investigation of your case has been completed and we have gathered all of the necessary medical information, we will evaluate your case with you. We will attempt to arrive at a proper settlement figure with you, and then will attempt to negotiate a settlement of your claim. On occasion, an offer is made by the other side without a demand having been made by us. We will not accept any settlement without your consent.
If we are unable to settle your case with the defendant’s insurance company, we will consider the advisability of filing a lawsuit. In some cases, however, it is important to start a lawsuit immediately. This is a strategic decision we will make based upon the facts of your individual case, and the likelihood that we will be able to settle the matter without filing a lawsuit.
A lawsuit is started by the filing in court and subsequent service on the opposing party of a document known as a complaint. The complaint tells the defendant that he or she is being sued as a result of the accident. The insurance company for the defendant will then retain an attorney to represent the defendant. The attorneys for the defendant then will usually deliver to us a document called an answer, which is merely a written response to the complaint. At such time as the answer is delivered to us, the case goes into what is known as the “discovery phase,” during which both sides can send each other interrogatories, requests to produce documents and things, and can also take depositions. In addition, the defense may request that a medical doctor retained by them perform a medical examination of you so that that doctor may provide the defense with an opinion concerning the nature and extent of your injuries and the reasonableness and necessity of your medical treatment.
A deposition is a proceeding in which the testimony of a party or witness is given under oath in the presence of the attorneys for all parties, and in front of a court reporter who writes down all of the testimony which is given. It usually takes place in one of the attorney’s offices.
Interrogatories are written questions which can be sent by either party, and which must be answered in writing, under oath.
You should remember that, even though a lawsuit may be started and the case may go into the discovery phase, settlement is always possible and is very often made just before trial.
The great majority of cases settle without the necessity of a trial. Many times, cases are settled within just a few days before the trial date. If we cannot settle your case for a fair amount of money, we will, with your permission, proceed to trial. The months before your trial date are spent in detailed preparation of your case. We will explain to you in detail what will be required of you at trial well in advance of your trial date. Of course, it is absolutely essential that we have your full co-operation in helping us gather facts about your case so that neither we, nor you, are taken by surprise at trial.
All insurance companies have an index system on a nationwide basis, which shows all of the people who have previously made claims for other bodily injuries. If you have made any such claim regarding another accident or for another injury, your name will be in the index system, and the insurance company for the other side will have this information. We therefore urge you to be absolutely honest with us in all of your answers throughout handling of your case.
If you belong to a public social networking account such as Facebook, MySpace, You Tube, Twitter, Google Buzz, etc., we STRONGLY recommend that you not post to it and that you not use it for messaging until your case is completely over. There are ethical considerations about closing it outright, since it might be argued that you tried to hide or destroy evidence that was unfavorable to you, so do not close your accounts and do not destroy any content there.
If you choose to post to your accounts, we warn you to use great caution. Whatever you write or post, or have written or posted, may be obtained by the defense attorney or insurance company. It is now standard practice for them to run computer searches and investigations to obtain information about your personal life. They will try to obtain it without your knowledge or permission. Increasingly and even if you have private settings, defendants will serve subpoenas for this information and/or go to court to order production of these materials. Some courts have not allowed defendants access to these materials but we cannot predict what would happen in each case.
If you have such a site, you should immediately verify that all your settings are on PRIVATE (the highest setting possible) and nothing is public. Even with the highest privacy settings, you should only write or post items that cannot be used in an attempt to hurt or embarrass you, and you should by no means post anything that is not 100% accurate. These sites are open to the public. The law is unclear if or to what extent privacy laws apply.
Our best advice is that you not post anything until your case is over, but do not delete anything already posted regarding the incident as it could be viewed as destruction of evidence. We understand you may decide to keep your site(s). If so, we make the following specific recommendations:
Do not . . .
- Allow anyone to become a “friend’ on a website like Facebook unless you are absolutely sure you know that person.
- Post any photographs or video of yourself (or enable others to “tag” you).
- Write or disclose anything about your personal life that you would be embarrassed to have a defense attorney use against you in front of a judge and jury.
- Send e-mails regarding your case to anyone except your attorneys.
- Send texts regarding your case to anyone except your attorneys.
- Enter insurance websites.
- Participate in blogs, chat-rooms, or message boards.
We have seen an increase in electronic surveillance of these types of accounts and sites by insurance companies, investigators, and defense attorneys. They hope to discover information to embarrass, humiliate or hurt you. They will look for pictures or comments by you or your friends that they can take out of context to prove that your injury is exaggerated or false. We have seen innocent, harmless joking between private “friends” used and distorted by insurance companies to try to convince a judge and jury that a plaintiff is “dishonest.”
Be aware that the insurance companies may ask the court to order release of all information contained within your home computers and laptop hard drives regarding the issues we have discussed above. We realize that your limiting your social networking is a great inconvenience. But your case is very important. We cannot protect you fully unless you follow our warnings and instructions. You should also not delete any digital data you have, either online or on your personal devices, until your case has concluded. If you delete such items, you run the risk of being accused of destroying evidence.
Each case we have in our office is handled on an individual basis. Although one attorney is assigned the primary responsibility for your case, you have the benefit and assistance of the entire firm in connection with your case. We will make an effort to keep you informed of all important events as your case progresses.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your attorneys or your doctors. Our communications with you are protected by the attorney client privilege. As such, in order to avoid waiving the privilege, do not divulge information we discuss to anyone;
- Don’t sign anything with respect to your claim until you have checked with the attorney handling your file;
- Obtain a receipt and keep a record for all drugs, appliances, or other expenses incurred as a result of your injuries;
- Notify us immediately of any change in your address, employment, health-care providers, or of any other fact which might affect your case;
- If you are going to be out of town for more than two weeks, please let us know in advance;
- If, after consulting us, you miss any work because of your injuries, notify us and keep a list of the dates and hours you missed;
- If you are hospitalized for any reason after consulting us, notify us immediately; and
- If you are self-employed, keep a record of the time you are unable to work or to perform your duties, and compile income history information which will allow us to properly calculate your loss of earnings.