Television commercials, internet ads, pop up advertisements on smart phones; there is no shortage of attorneys offering their services. Some television commercials are downright embarrassing; others have more dignity and class. It is crucial that you consult with and hire the best attorney for your case, at the right time; and for the right reasons.
In this busy environment, most consumers have no idea of who to hire, or when they even need to hire a personal injury attorney. This brief article will briefly outline the levels of personal injury claims, from minor fender bender auto wrecks, to serious/catastrophic injury/wrongful death claims arising from auto wrecks, work accidents, medical malpractice, dangerous products, and a host of other sources of injury and death. Some firms are primarily marketing firms who broker out serious litigation to other firms. Other firms are less on marketing and handle all litigation in house; and there are variations of those themes in between the extremes.
More Serious Injuries, Catastrophic Injuries, and Wrongful Death
While all situations should involve a brief consultation with an attorney, but not always formally retaining the attorney, there are situations that unfortunately are so significant and involve complexities that require an experienced and seasoned personal injury. Auto accidents with significant property damage to the vehicles with significant injuries requiring extended medical visits, substantial medical bills, permanent medical impairments and bodily dysfunction and/or permanent scarring, should involve the hiring of an experienced personal injury attorney. Or, for example, injuries in the context of dangerous products, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and neglect etc… These matters require expert analysis, and require that the attorney secure all available evidence in a timely fashion for expert evaluation. Many times, people will wait until it’s too late, and evidence will be lost or discarded. This places the injured party, his attorney, and potential testifying experts at a severe disadvantage.
Further, an experienced personal injury attorney will understand the nature of serious injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), and ensure that the injured party is getting the correct medical treatment and diagnosis in a timely fashion, while the injuries are still fresh and the medical evidence still available. For example, in the context of a traumatic brain injury, a person may go to the hospital with headaches, blurred vision, short term memory loss, concentration issues, but x-rays of the skull show no fracture; and a CT scan of the brain may come up negative, showing no brain bleed or subdural hematoma. Yet the person may still have a significant, permanent brain injury, which can only be shown by the most powerful diagnostic brain scan, the 3.0 TESLA Magnetic Imaging Resolution (MRI) scan, available only in a few hospital settings. An attorney with experience can push for the most advanced diagnostic tests such as the 3.0 TESLA MRI, to show the microscopic axonal shearing, and physical brain damage; damages that will not show up on a CT scan or traditional 1.5 TESLA MRI scan.
In case of TBI, a neurologist and neuropsychologist must be hired to asses a person’s baseline mental capacities following a TBI, perform neuropsychological testing over a period of time, to determine the rate of recovery and any permanent, lifetime effects. These are complex matters that require the attention of an experienced catastrophic injury attorney.
Serious permanent injuries requiring future medical care often permanently alter a person’s life and work activities, due to residual restrictions. Persons often become disabled for life. Vocational experts need to be employed to assess a person’s ability to work, given the combination of the person’s educational background, occupational history and physical restrictions. Life care planning experts must be hired by the attorney to meet with doctors and map out future medical needs. And when there are future medical bills and future wage loss or wage earning capacity loss involved, an economist must be hired to establish the amount of present day dollars it will take to compensate the person in one lump sum for a stream of future monetary losses.
When doctors and other health care providers, such as nursing home staff, fail to adhere to standards of care, patients suffer. In these instances, an experienced attorney, working with specialists in the area of medicine involved in the alleged malpractice, must present records to the specialist to determine whether a health care provider was negligent, whether the health care provider breached a standard of care; and what damages were caused from the negligence.
Wrongful death and survival claims certainly require an attorney’s involvement. An estate needs to be set up; a Personal Representative named. The rationale here needs no real explanation, given the gravity of the situation and complexities of setting up an estate , proving the liability and damages issues.
Minor Injuries From Low Property Damage/Low Velocity Auto Accidents; Minor Work Related “Medical Only” Injuries; and Minor Injuries on Property
Low speed collisions in traffic involving little to no property damage, involving little to no bodily injuries that at most require a hospital visit/doctor visit or two; or a few chiropractic visits, should not require the formal hiring and involvement of an attorney, with a few exceptions. Typically, it is as simple as bringing one’s vehicle to the insurance company of the at fault driver, getting it repaired, getting the insurance company to pay for the hospital bill or doctors visit or two, and moving on with life. Or in the case of a cut finger or strained back at work, going to the emergency room and getting the employer to pay for the medical bills related to the minor injury, a minor back strain, cut finger etc..; or in the case of an injury on another’s property, getting the property owner or his or her insurance company to pay the medical bill, and moving on with life.
With work injuries, the employer will want to pay for the minor injury out of pocket without reporting the claim to the workers compensation carrier, such as a quick trip to the emergency room, or doctor’s care. If truly, this is the case, and the injury is minor and in no way permanent, this may be appropriate. There is no reason to make a big deal out of something truly minor; but only if it is very minor and doesn’t involve more than a few days out of work time, and no permanent medical impairment. Larger companies have nursing stations on site at plants and worksites to deal with minor injuries. These are considered to be “medicals only” work injuries that are minor in nature, where there is no permanent medical impairment or alteration of work or life function, such as the small cut on the finger, the bruised chin etc.. No big deal.
In the context of getting injured on the property of another, such as a minor bump, bruise, small cut or other minor injury not involving any permanent scarring or impairment of any sort, these kinds of claims can be handled between the injured party and the property owner and/or the insurance company. Typically, homeowner’s insurance policies have “medical payments” coverage between $1,000.00 and $5,000.00 to take care of causally related minor medical bills, when a person is injured on the insured property.
However, it is crucial to note that a consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney should be done in all cases. A simple phone call to our law firm can ensure that the injured party at least understands all the rights and remedies available in these minor situations.
For example, in the minor auto accident context, a person should be aware that with a late model vehicle, even though the minor collision was repaired, when they person goes to sell the vehicle or trade it in, it will be worth less; and therefore, one of the things to ask the insurance company for is “property depreciation” in addition to the repair costs. Or, if there are minor bodily injuries and a couple of doctor’s visits, the injured party is entitled to some amount of money to compensate them for the inconvenience and small amount of pain and suffering. Insurance carriers will pay some money over and above a doctor visit or two in a minor accident, if the person makes that demand to settle the minor claim.
Problems and issues can arise, however, when it is a minor, scratch on the bumper collision or minor slip and fall, and the person is severely injured due to age, infirmity, or other unique circumstances; and the insurance company refuses to acknowledge the legitimate injuries that can occasionally occur. People who are older and stiff, who have a pre-existing, non-symptomatic degenerative spine condition, can often experience horrible symptoms requiring significant clinical intervention, which insurance companies refuse to pay for; and refuse to acknowledge. Every person and situation differs. There is no “cookie cutter” way to analyze these situations. So it is important to at the very least, pick up the phone and call an experienced, seasoned personal injury attorney to at least counsel the injured party on how best to handle the situation.
How to Choose the Right Attorney
Attorneys are not created equal. Some are “big case attorneys” who are comfortable with the most complex cases; others are not. Some handle transactional business matters; others, trademark infringement, or employment, or some other focus.
When choosing an attorney, choose one that you feel personally comfortable dealing with, who you know cares for you and your family, and who is competent in his or her field; someone you feel you can trust. Is the attorney accessible? Does he or she respond to your telephone calls and emails? What is the attorney’s track record in trying cases at trial and appellate levels? Does the law firm appear to be neat and in order/organized? Do others recommend him or her? Has the attorney ever been subject to discipline by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel? Does he or she keep you informed about the progress of the case, and seem to take an active interest in the prosecution of your case? These are a few things to consider. Often, some of these questions cannot be answered until you engage the attorney, so ask friends, neighbors and co-workers about the reputation of the attorney in the community. We do not recommend making any decisions based on television ads or internet ads only.
If we may be of assistance to you or your family in a personal injury matter, or other matter unrelated to personal injury, where you feel you have suffered an injustice, please contact us. We want you and your family to get the quality representation and peace of mind you all deserve.