You never want to get seriously hurt in an automobile accident, trust me. As a lawyer who specializes in representing those that do, I am constantly working on methods and practices to improve the outcome in these cases. By “improved outcome” I am referring to quicker and larger settlements and verdicts. For those unfortunate few who are forced to deal with the aftermath of an automobile accident, I thought I might share some of the things I tell my clients as we wade through the mess. Here they are:
1) Document. Oh, when you are done with that, document more.
Here is what I mean. Photographs are great, the more the better. But…do not just stop with the vehicle. Bruising? Take photos. Wearing a walking boot? Take photos. Cast? You know what to do. If you were given a wheelchair, cane, TENS unit or other durable medical equipment (even temporarily) photograph it with the injured person in it. If your loved one is in a hospital of rehabilitation facility…click, click, click. Nuff said.
Documentation is not only pictures and video, it includes journaling. I believe the injured person and their loved ones should always have a notebook with pen attached around at all times. In fact, I am providing these to my clients with the following in bold type on the front “PRIVILEGED: ATTORNEY/CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS”. This makes whatever the client writes in the journal protected and privileged and cannot be shared to anyone. This does two things. 1) Makes the client free to write whatever without fear of disclosure and, 2) gives the attorney lots of valuable data to help and make their case. The client should focus on the nuts and bolts of their everyday life in the journal. No detail is too minor. These journals are almost always helpful to me in putting the case together.
Of course, if there is nursing services provided by family members (the law calls this attendant care) or household services (law calls these replacement services) these services need to be well documented so that the insurance company pays and pays timely.
2) Get help. Yes, get help. Many very seriously injured people actually do not get the help that is out there. You have the right to have a nurse case manager help you with your medical treatment (schedule and attend medical appointments) as well as help you with the attendant care and replacement services issues (see above) that you will likely have to deal with. The automobile insurance company pays for this service and it is a valuable benefit under the Michigan No-Fault Act.
There are doctors who specialize in treating chronic pain and issues involving the lack of sleep for injury victims. You should not be ashamed to ask for help in these areas if you need it. Many, many suffer in silence when help is a mere phone call away. The same applies to anxiety, depression and other psychological issues. There is not a person out there who is not suffering from some level of depression if they have chronic pain. There are professionals who can and will help you deal with the myriad of psychological issues that arise in serious injury cases. My advise? Talk to your nurse case manager or primary care doctor and get help.
3) Follow through. Many people I have seen over the years do not follow through with their doctor’s recommendations. They miss appointments and fail to follow up on testing and seeing specialists. I would never, ever tell a client to attend an unnecessary appointment, however, if you do not, there should be a record made with the doctor. “No-shows” in the medical record (whether with a doctor, physical therapist or any medical provider) are very difficult to explain to an insurance adjuster or insurance defense attorney when they review the record.
These are a few of the key ideas I feel, as a Kalamazoo auto accident attorney, will improve outcomes in personal injury cases.