A common question that I hear, from friends, family, and people who know that I am a personal injury attorney, is, "Mary, if I get hurt and it is someone else's fault, when should I hire a personal injury attorney?" This is a great question and one that I wish more people would ask! The short answer is IMMEDIATELY. There are MANY factors involved in a personal injury claim and most people, THANKFULLY, have never had to deal with any of those factors, but a good personal injury attorney, with the right knowledge and experience, has probably dealt with most of the factors thousands of times. There are questions that need to be asked, that you would not know to ask if you had never dealt with a personal injury claim. Four of the most important factors are listed and discussed below.
a. Statutory Deadlines
There so many issues, surrounding time or deadlines, when it comes to personal injury claims. The main deadline is the statute of limitations. This varies from state to state and is set by the legislature. In Texas, the Statute of Limitations for a negligence claim is two (2) years. This means that you must file a lawsuit, within 2 years of the injury, in Texas, or your claim will be barred forever (there is a variation, in Texas, if the personal injury were to a minor and that is something you would definitely want to discuss with your personal injury attorney). Another potential deadline arises if you are injured by a city, state, or federal employee. These notice deadlines sometimes are only 30 days; that means that you must give sufficient notice, to the right people, within 30 days of your injury. Some insurance companies also have timely filing clauses drafted in their policies. There are MANY more time sensitive factors, regarding a personal injury claim, and that is why it is imperative to speak to a personal injury attorney sooner, rather than later!
b. Gaps in Treatment
If you have read any of my posts or watched any of my educational talks, you know that a gap in treatment is not only an issue for your bodily injury claim, but more importantly, it slows the healing process, of the injuries you sustained in your car wreck or motorcycle accident. Insurance adjusters really harp on these gaps in treatment. In my experience, a gap of more than 2 weeks, unless ordered by the doctor or caused by a SIGNIFICANT life change, like death in the family or other serious illness, like cancer, can GREATLY affect the value of the claim. The insurance adjusters tell me, "Mary, if your client was hurting that bad, they would not have waited so long to treat." Sadly, juries tend to agree with this argument.
a. Retention Timelines
This is an issue that I have come against several times, lately. I had a client, who was a passenger in a vehicle, so she obviously could not have done anything wrong. The officer that investigated the collision did not take any written statements. All of the evidence was on his body cam. If a fatality or serious injury is not involved, these recordings are only kept for 90 days. My client did not hire me until those 90 days had already passed. The wreck happened in front of a gas station and I contacted the gas station, but they only kept their security camera recordings for 4 days. The longer you wait, the more evidence is lost; this is why it is imperative to speak to a personal injury attorney sooner, rather than later!
b. Failing Memory of Witnesses
Sadly, as we get older, our memories tend to fail; also, as time passes, the memories begin to fade. When you are injured, due to the negligence of another, and there is a witness, to the facts of the incident, it is especially important to get that witness's statement as soon as possible, either in writing or recorded digitally. If the only three witnesses to the accident are you, the person that hurt you, and one uninvolved eyewitness, that witness' statement could make your case and take away the adjuster's argument of "he said v. she said". This is something that a good personal injury attorney would know and a statement they would get, but the longer you wait to see that personal injury attorney, the less likely that witness is to remember the details to help win your case; this is why it is imperative to speak to a personal injury attorney sooner, rather than later!
3. Lack of Knowledge
In my opinion, the main reason that a victim of personal injury should at least consider hiring a personal injury attorney, regarding a personal injury claim, is lack of knowledge. I would say, more than half of my clients, on different issues, regarding a personal injury claim, have told me they did not know that was even an issue or they did not know they should not have said that thing or they did not know they did not have to provide that information. A personal injury attorney, with a good deal of experience and knowledge, should know the things you have to provide, the things you do not have to provide, the information you do have to share, the information you do not have to share. Personal injury attorneys, with adequate experience and knowledge, have dealt with these issues thousands of times; this is why it is imperative to speak to a personal injury attorney sooner, rather than later!
4. Payment of Medical Expenses
This is another issue that really upsets me. It is my responsibility, as an attorney, to represent the best interests of my client. I believe that other professionals should be held to this level of client responsibility as well. Time and time again, I have seen insurance adjusters, take advantage of injured victims, regarding payment of medical expenses. I recently had a client with $10,000.00 in PIP (personal injury protection) coverage, through her own carrier and before she hired me, she submitted her almost $10,000.00 hospital bill to her PIP carrier. The PIP carrier paid the hospital directly and only reduced the charges by $20.00. If she had hired me, prior to this, I would have been able to negotiate her hospital bill down, SIGNIFICANTLY, and been able to put MUCH more money in her pocket. To avoid being taken advantage of by an insurance company, this is why it is imperative to speak to a personal injury attorney sooner, rather than later!
If someone hurts you because of their negligence or poor choices, be it in a car accident, motorcycle wreck, while you are walking across the street, in the cross walk, or any other way, and you want to pursue a personal injury claim, your best bet is to call a personal injury attorney, sooner, rather than later. Most personal injury attorneys give free consultations, so you will not be out a penny and you could possibly learn a great deal, that could be extremely helpful. If you talk to the personal injury attorney that is right for you, you will know and you will form a great relationship with someone who is there for you, to fight for your rights!