Car Accidents — Initial injury lawyer meeting — Letter or General Information
Some personal injury lawyers will give you a letter or general information handout that will give you basic information about what you should do to help your lawsuit and what you can expect from your lawyer in working with you on your car accident.
If your lawyer uses a general information handout it may include some of the information in the sample provided here.
GENERAL INFORMATION AND GUIDELINES
The purpose of this handout is to provide you with general information regarding your negligence claim and a basic guideline for you to use during the prosecution of your case.
Our office will investigate your claim and, if necessary, we will hire an investigator to take your statement, other parties’ statements and statements of any potential witnesses to the incident. We will advise you in advance if our investigator will be contacting you. Do not speak to any investigator until you have first spoken to a representative of our office. If you receive any calls from anyone else regarding the incident, you should refer them to our office. If you have already made statements to any insurance companies or anyone else, let us know immediately so that we can obtain copies. Our investigator may ask questions relative to the happening of the accident, who is the responsible party and, if possible, may take photographs of the scene. We would request that you take photographs of any injuries you sustained before and during the healing process as well as of any scars that result.
YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES: The following is a list of important things that you can do to help us in handling your claim. This list is designed to help you furnish us with information that is of great importance in preparing your case for both trial and settlement purposes. You should keep us informed of any changes that occur. The information that we need from you is as follows:
- A diary is an essential element in the prosecution of your case. This may be used to refresh your memory to certain things that might have otherwise been forgotten. The diary can be kept on a calendar or written in a journal form. The information may be entered on a daily or weekly basis at your discretion from the date of the incident throughout the duration of your case. It should include your specific pains and their frequency, any medication you take and the dates you are confined to the hospital or your home, either partially or completely. The diary should also include what activities you are unable to perform as a result of the injuries you sustained in this incident. Please keep a record of any dates and time missed from your employment or school and any lost earnings you have incurred as a result of this incident.
- Keep any physical objects such as shoes or clothing that you had on at the time of the accident. We may need to use them as evidence if we go to trial.
- Please make a list and keep receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses you incur, that is, prescription/medication receipts, medical equipment receipts, ambulance bills, hospital bills, doctor bills including (1) travel time to and from the doctor’s office and any time you have missed from work as a result of doctor’s appointments and (2) additional help around the home or business that you may have had to hire (including babysitter or domestic or yard help). If your case involves an automobile accident, please review the attached no-fault information sheet, which sets out various time limitations and information for your use in submitting your claims to your carrier. Please provide our office with copies of all correspondence you have with the no-fault insurance company including copies of any bills or receipts you have submitted for payment or reimbursement. If you have difficulty with this part of the process, contact the office and we will try to assist you.
- If your case involves an automobile collision and there is damage to your vehicle, please provide our office with photos of the damage together with copies of any repair estimates you obtain.
- Keep us apprised of any address or telephone number changes so that we may be able to reach you at all times.
MEDICAL TREATMENT: You are entitled to the best medical care available and you should seek treatment from your doctor as long as your injuries persist. It is vital that you keep the medical aspect of your case current. Be sure to tell your doctor all of the symptoms and complaints you have from the injuries you sustained in the incident. Complaints not noted by your doctor in the medical records could lead the insurance company to take the position that there was no injury or that you are exaggerating.
Please keep our office informed of your medical treatment and doctors’ names so that we may obtain copies of your medical records to keep current on your medical status.
It is very important that you tell our office if you have had prior injuries, especially to the same areas of the body. This information appears in your medical records. It is not in your interests to attempt to hide anything. As long as we are aware of prior injuries, we can deal with them. Do not talk about your case or your lawyers when you see your doctor. You do not want him or her to think that you care more about collecting money than you do about getting well.
CASE VALUE: We will make the best estimate of the value of your case only after we receive all your medical records, bills and your recovery is predictable. Certain factors will influence the value of your case and they also affect whether or not we will be able to file a lawsuit on your behalf. We will contact you to discuss these factors if and when the time arises to file a lawsuit.
SETTLEMENT: We will advise you of any settlement offers we receive from the insurance company and we will not settle your case without first obtaining your permission to do so.
The following is a general list of the steps involved in a typical negligence case:
- Investigation of the incident, which includes obtaining the police report (or incident report), photographs of scene, statements of witnesses to the incident and any other information relevant to this action.
- Request medical reports and bills from your doctors and hospital from which you have received treatment.
- Settlement package will be sent to the insurance company in most cases to attempt to resolve the matter short of commencing a lawsuit. This settlement package may include police reports, photographs, witness statements and a narrative description of the injury you sustained and the manner in which that injury has affected your life since the date of the incident. Authorizations may also be provided to the insurance company allowing them to obtain copies of your medical records which relate solely to the injuries sustained in the incident.
- If we are unable to resolve the case through good faith negotiations with the insurance company and if the medical records support taking further legal action, we will then commence the lawsuit on your behalf. A lawsuit is commenced by serving a Summons and Complaint upon the Defendant(s) in the action. After the Defendant is served, he has at least 30 days within which to turn the documents over to his insurance company. They will provide us with a response, entitled “Answer.” You should receive copies of one or more of these documents from our office. The next phase of your lawsuit is called “discovery.” At this point, the defense will request a Bill of Particulars from us. This is a document listing your injuries, your bills, a description of how the accident occurred and other items of damage. We will also request similar information from the defense along with various other discovery demands.
- The next phase is called “oral discovery.” This is the point at which an Examination Before Trial may be held. This is your testimony under oath as well as the Defendant’s. These will be held in either our office or the Defendant’s attorneys’ office. The attorneys representing all parties involved will be present through this examination and questions will be asked of you and the Defendant. We will notify you in advance of the date of the Examination Before Trial (which is also known by the term “deposition”). We will make arrangements for you to meet with an attorney in our office prior to your testimony in order to review the facts of your case and your prospective testimony. We will then be present with you at the deposition.
- The Defendant also has the right to have you examined by a doctor of their choice. We will advise you in advance of this appointment and someone from our office will attend the exam with you. In most instances, you will have to bring all x-ray, MRI and/or CT Scan films that you have had done in connection with the injuries you sustained in the incident to the appointment.
- Finally, we will file a Note of Issue and Statement of Readiness with the County Clerk which will put your case on the Court calendar. Thereafter, generally, numerous pretrial conferences are held and, if necessary, a trial.
This is a generalized list of steps, not a precise roadmap. Do not be concerned if certain steps do not occur in the exact manner or order which you might expect or as outlined above.