Your world can be turned upside down when you or a loved one suffers a personal injury due to the negligence or recklessness of another. Personal injuries giving rise to a potential civil claim can come about in one of many ways, including: car wreck, slip and fall on another's premises, medical malpractice, dog attack, and injuries due to defective products. The law in Alabama entitles you to claim compensation for the damages caused by the negligence of another.
The burden of proving liability and damages is always born by the injury victim. Not surprisingly, defendants to civil claims often attempt to hide evidence of their fault, deny liability, and argue that one's damages should be attributed to another cause or pre-existed the negligent act. There are tricks you can use to help fight the tactics of defendants and their insurance company lawyers. Below are certain steps that you can take to help maximize your recovery, and help position your case for victory.
- Consult with an injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident. It is a proven fact that injury victims will net more compensation when they use the services of an attorney. Attorneys can gather evidence while it is still "fresh" and can help you plan a winning strategy for your case.
- Notify all insurance companies who could be responsible for your injuries. Many insurance policies (uninsured motorist policies, in particular) have requirements that you notify them of their potential liability to you within a given timeframe. Failure to do so can result in denial of your claim.
- Seek medical treatment immediately. Medical providers play a vital role in resolving injury cases. It is imperative that you seek treatment immediately following an injury or accident, not only for your physical well being, but also for the well being of your personal injury claim. It is also imperative that you give your treating physicians a complete history of your accident by telling them exactly what caused your injuries. Failing to give a complete history to your doctor makes your case easier to defend.
- Be the perfect patient. Just as important as it is to give your physician a complete history of your injury, it is equally important that you follow your doctor's orders as closely as possible. Physicians are often witnesses who testify not only to the cause of a patient's injuries, but also as to the credibility of the patient. Following doctor's orders is a great way to show your doctor you are credible.
- Obtain the accident or incident Report. While accident reports are generally inadmissible in Alabama courts, they do contain very important information including the potential defendant's name, address, and insurance information. In addition, the reporting officer's narrative of the incident often contains critical information including the identity of possible witnesses who may be able to testify in your favor.
- Document your medical condition and out of pocket losses. Keeping a small notebook or diary and documenting your medical treatment and progress is invaluable. By keeping a diary, you are able to refresh your memory as to key medical events and your recovery progress, in the event you are required to give testimony on the subject in the future. In addition, keep a running total of any out of pocket expenses you feel are directly related to your injury. Also, make sure to document any lost hours from work and resulting lost wages. By doing so, you help ensure that you are fully compensated when your case is resolved.
- Take photographs of your injuries! As the old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." It is one thing to use words to describe a significant injury, but quite another to show a photo of the actual injury. Photographs of serious injuries undoubtedly help add value to a case. Taking photos of injuries at weekly or monthly intervals also can be used to show a judge or jury just how long you lived with a given injury, and how demanding or painful your recovery process was.
- Do not talk to insurance adjusters unless you are advised to do so by your attorney. As a general rule, no good comes from you giving a statement to an insurance company investigator or adjuster. Remember, these people are professionals who are trained in the art of denying claims. However, there are occasions when you may be contractually required to give a statement pertaining to your injury (for example, if you are asserting a claim against your own insurance company pursuant to an uninsured motorist insurance policy). An attorney can advise you if you are indeed required to give such a statement or not.
Resolution of injury claims are complex and defendants and their insurance companies just don't hand over money to you without a fight. By following the above tips, you will be well on your way to receiving the compensation you deserve.
Copyright 5/28/09 by Brent H. Jordan, Attorney at Law