If you are injured in an accident, and hire a large law firm, do you really know who's handling your case? Who will be analyzing your file and making strategic decisions on your behalf? Is it the lawyer you who shook your hand when you signed the contract for representation, a paralegal, or a lawyer who recently passed the bar exam? Over the years, I have received countless phone calls from people who were disappointed after thinking they had hired an "established" injury attorney, only to learn afterwards that the attorney never had time to talk to them after the first meeting. Instead, all the work being done on their case is a paralegal they don't know and, the Court appearances are being handled by a "junior associate" of the law firm. Before you hire a lawyer to be your advocate, however, I would suggest asking a few questions about who will actually be handling your case. At the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed, what you see is what you get, an experienced and compassionate attorney, willing to personally evaluate your case, become your advocate, and develop a strategy just for you.
When you are involved in an accident, you may be contacted by an insurance adjuster who wants to establish a relationship you with quickly. They may offer to cover medical bills, offer to pay for your vehicle and even offer some money for your pain and suffering. Before you settle your case, just remember, their obligation is to the insurance company, not to you. Often, they will offer a settlement before you have even completed medical treatment, or they will not tell you that you could owe money to your health insurance company that will have to be repaid from a portion of your settlement. Without having an attorney to help you navigate the process it is easy to accept a settlement without really understanding how much money will go "in your pocket".
I have met with many car accident victims over the years. Often, one of the first questions I'm asked how soon will my case settle. It's only natural that someone would ask that question. When you are the victim of an accident you have medical bills, property damage, you may be injured, unable to work, and you just flat out do not feel well. When can I get some compensation and move on with my life? Many people may be surprised to learn that there is more risk created by their lawyer attempting to go to fast than too slow. Why? Because you have to heal physically before we can heal you financially. It is very important that your doctor believe you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement, or "M.M.I." before your attorney begins any negotiation on your behalf. In everyday language, reaching "M.M.I." means you are "as good as you are going to get." While you may not feel 100% better, you have reached the point where you require no further treatment, or there is no medical treatment available to effectively treat your symptoms. Whether or not you have reached M.M.I is up to your treating physician to decide, and your attorney should have no part in that decision-making process. While the attorney should never rush medical treatment, it is very important to remember that Tennessee Law only allows one year from the date of an accident to file your lawsuit. You should always consult with an Attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
At the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed, we make every effort to stay out of your choice of health care providers. Why? Because each and every health care provider could potentially be subpoenaed to testify about your treatment. It is very important to avoid the appearance of bias. The importance of credibility of the parties and witnesses in a lawsuit cannot be overstated. If a jury believes that the medical providers is charging high bills on a whole lot of referrals from the same attorney or law firm, it could very easily discredit your whole case and result in a lower verdict than you might otherwise receive. Do not think that a pattern will go unnoticed by insurance companies and defense attorneys if your lawyer sends all his clients to a certain chiropractor who has never evaluated a patient that didn't need excessive treatment.
The first thing to do after any accident is to ensure your safety and the safety of anyone else who may have been injured. As soon as you have determined who needs medical attention and whether to tell the 911 operator if an ambulance is necessary, you can turn your attention to capturing potential evidence and/or legal concerns. One of the biggest changes to personal injury law in the last fifteen years is the prevalence of smartphones. Now that virtually all of us have high quality cameras with us all the time there is no reason for anyone not to take a few quick photos showing the physical damage to vehicles, the final resting location of vehicles, skid marks, and an accurate picture of road conditions illustrating visibility at the time of the accident. All of these photos could be crucial pieces of evidence for your case.
Many times I have been asked by clients about medical treatment, whether they should return to work sooner before they are released by their doctor, or if they really need the physical therapy recommended by their doctor. My advice is generally pretty simple: "Follow your doctors orders..." Sounds simple right? The reality is that not completing a course of treatment as recommended by the treating doctor, or trying to return to work too early can definitely create the implication that maybe your symptoms aren't really as bad as you've reported to your doctor. On the other hand, if you don't feel ready to return to work when your doctor is releasing you, make sure to schedule an appointment to discuss ongoing symptoms. Not only could you jeopardize being compensated for all your lost wages, but it's possible that you need to discuss the severity of your symptoms with your doctor to make certain there isn't an additional, undiagnosed condition.