When you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an auto accident, a decision needs to be made on whether to use an attorney you or a family member already know or whether you are going to “take a chance” on an attorney you don’t know but who handles personal injury cases exclusively. The simple fact is most of us do not get in enough car accidents to develop any relationship with a car accident attorney. It also might seem comforting to go with a lawyer you know rather than take a chance on being “ripped off” by an accident attorney. After all, how hard can it be? If you have an attorney in the family who says he is sure he can handle an injury case, there is a real temptation to go with a known commodity.
Having practiced as an injury attorney for twenty years, I have seen the misery many general practitioners have brought on themselves and their clients from practicing out of their comfort zone. I would never take on a Family Law case or write a Will or a Trust for the same reason. The law today is highly complex. Unless he or she stays up with the new laws as they are enacted or as decisions are rendered, your family attorney is going to be completely in the dark in almost any injury case compared an attorney who only practices in the field of personal injury.
At the first client meeting an experienced injury attorney makes some decisions that might be critical to your case in the future. I have seen many general practitioners tell their potential clients they do not need an attorney now but advise them to “just go to the doctor now and call me when you are released from care.” That simple phrase has caused millions in malpractice claims when the client does come in a year later and the lawyer finds out that because a government employee caused the injury, a government claim needed to be filed within six months. The client’s case is destroyed and the general practice attorney is now a defendant in a case he wanted to handle. An experienced injury attorney wouldn’t make that mistake. An experienced attorney wants to know all of the facts as soon as possible. The most important is to know what the time limits are to file your client’s claim.
You want to hire an injury attorney immediately after you have been injured from another driver’s negligence even if you are not sure your injuries are severe. I tell potential clients nearly every day that if I take in your case now and you get better quickly, I will give you your case back with no cost or fee to you. That is how important I think it is to learn all there is to know about a case early on. Knowing the statute of limitations, the liability situation, what insurance is available and what the initial complaints of pain are can make a huge difference in the value of the case later on.
For example, if you have medical payment coverage on your auto insurance that insurance is usually primary and should be used first. In addition, med-pay coverage reimburses doctors at a higher rate. Ultimately you are able to claim those expenses in front of a jury and doing so can drive up the value of your claim. The vast majority of family attorneys or general practice attorneys won’t catch these small details but an experienced injury attorney knows they are critical.
After an auto accident, pain can be severe and it is clear medical care is needed. Few attorneys know that how your care is obtained can also be critical to your ultimate recovery. An experienced injury attorney deals with this issue every day. Most Californians have some type of HMO health plan. These giant corporate insurers get all their premium dollars up front. Every time they provide care it costs them money and they set up road blocks to care because they know that most of their members don’t want to make waves or cause trouble. If you have ever asked a primary care doctor for a referral to a specialist only to be told you don’t need one, you have found a road block. After an auto accident, the type of doctor that examines your complaints can make all the difference in whether severe injuries are caught early and can be proven later.
Remember, the sooner the better. If the injury is small, there is no cost to you. If it is bad though, you will be way ahead in any future litigation.