At What Point of the Case To Hire an Attorney?
It is generally a good idea to consult an attorney as early as possible in any case involving an injury. This does not necessarily mean that an injured party should hire an attorney immediately. I’ve received calls from the scene of both serious and not so serious motor vehicle accidents. I have received calls the next day, the next week and the next month. I’ve also received calls the next year, one day before the statute of limitations was to expire, and a month after the limitation period has expired when it was too late. There is no “one size fits all” answer. If you need legal advice, you should call a lawyer. An experienced personal injury lawyer has the knowledge, training and experience to give you guidance. After all, if you’ve been injured through the fault of someone else, by the time most folks are ready to call a lawyer, the responsible party has already been in touch with a professional to assist in the process who will not be looking out for you.
By the way, insurance companies, the lawyers they hire to defend the responsible party, and even some of the crackpot doctors that will be hired to deny that you’ve been injured will try to exploit any fact or circumstance possible to place you at a disadvantage. So if you call a lawyer the next day or the next week, don’t be surprised if at some point you’re accused of being “lawsuit happy,” motivated by “secondary gain” or looking to “cash in.” Appropriately, we recognize the right of anyone charged with a crime to have a lawyer, so we should not be so cynical as to be biased against someone not generally at fault seeking the advice of counsel either.
There are many good reasons to get the advice of an experienced lawyer.
- An accident may be complicated and fault may be disputed. So there may be a need to hire an investigator, an accident reconstruction expert, a photographer, an expert in the trucking field and other specialists whose opinions might be important later.
- You may have medical expenses and lost wages relating to your injuries and need advice about who should pay. Only in the rarest of rare cases will the at fault party’s insurance company be paying for your medical expenses and lost wages, unless possibly, you were a passenger in another person’s vehicle that provided that coverage to you. Also, if you were injured on someone else’s property, that property owner’s insurance will likely have “Medical Payments Coverage” that will cover your medical expenses to the extent not covered by medical insurance. Medical Payments Coverage from the other party’s insurance company can cover deductibles and co-payments.
- Your motor vehicle may be damaged. If so, generally you can
- Wait for the at-fault party’s insurance company to contact you to adjust your claim and provide you with a rental car and payment for your repair.
- If you have collision coverage, have your own insurance company pay for your rental and adjust the claim for damage to your vehicle (less your deductible), and then resolve the claim with the other party’s insurance company and recover and pay your deductible.
- If you vehicle has been totaled, follow a or b and realize that you will have to sign over the vehicle’s title to whichever insurance company pays you (or the bank).
- You may be contacted by the other party’s insurance company for a statement that will often be recorded over the telephone, or sometimes, you will be visited by an investigator who will ask you to sign a written statement. What should you do? If an insurance company other than your own asks you for something, they it has a purpose, and it isn’t to assist you. If you have a lawyer, a representative of that insurance company cannot talk to you. If you’re going to hire a lawyer, tell the insurance company that you want to speak to your lawyer first. If you have a police report and it’s accurate, tells the other party’s insurance company that you “agree with the police report.” You don’t have to do anything the other insurance company asks of you unless you want them to pay for the damage to your vehicle or provide a rental car. Tell them you don’t want to talk about the collision or your injuries. Then all you need to do is make your vehicle available so someone can do an estimate and provide some basic biographical information.
- Depending on the nature of the claim, there may be various limitations and notice requirements that could cut-off certain right before you even knew they existed. For example, in Connecticut, a notice of claim would have to be filed within 90 days if an injury arose as a result of a problem such as a defect on a local roadway or a state highway or a municipal sidewalk. It would be important to get to a lawyer as soon as possible when those types of injuries arise. In the event that injuries were caused through the conduct of a drunk driver, notice of claim against the establishment that served alcohol to someone who was intoxicated under the Dram Shop Act is required within 120 day for injuries to person or property and 180 days in the event of death.
- Experienced personal injury trial lawyers can also provide guidance about healthcare providers who are particularly knowledgeable in certain specialties.
Should People Work with Insurance Company before Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney?
The basic advice I would give about hiring a lawyer would likely depend on the severity of the crash and the nature of the injury. Insurance companies cannot be trusted. You have little to lose by at least speaking with a lawyer, and the product of that conversation should enable you to make a decision about whether and when you should retain counsel.
I generally advise clients not to give another witness statement. Insurance companies like taking recorded statements and then transcribing them. The ability to respond to these kinds of requests might vary depending on the type of injury; whether the person was experiencing pain; whether the person was taking pain medication that might alter cognitive abilities including memory; and whether the injury involved a traumatic brain injury at some level or a concussion, which is often also considered as a traumatic brain injury.
Someone who has been diagnosed with a concussion is likely to have cognitive issues and limitations in the ability to process the types of questions being asked, at least during the early stages of the injury. Anyone with any sort of head injury should consult with an experienced TBI lawyer before making any decisions, including the decision to speak with an insurance company representative.
For more information on When to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (203) 325-8600 today.