OK – The holidays are now over, it’s now officially 2017, and we all (or at least I) face three cold, icy, miserable months ahead until we can hope for signs of spring. (Sorry to you ski-lovers for this description, but I’m made for summer.) Cold, ice, snow and slush make for dangerous conditions, whether it’s driving or walking. A lot of different types of accidents can happen in winter, most notably slip and fall accidents as well as car accidents. This being so, I thought a “Top Ten List” of what people should do right away if they’re injured, would be helpful, so here goes:
- First, get appropriate medical attention: Obviously, this is the most important thing after suffering a serious accident or injury. There are many types of injuries, where physical symptoms do not become immediately apparent, but instead take time to symptomize.
- If at all possible, use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene! If you are so badly injured that you cannot take pictures, and but there is a passenger or a witness who can take photos, have them do it. Also, have several photos taken of yourself, even if you are bleeding, or on a stretcher. It is extremely important to secure and preserve photographic evidence of an accident scene! While this may seem gory or extreme at first thought, such photos will become very important later on when the defendant’s insurance company claims that you were not seriously injured (which they almost certainly will.)
- Record/write down the details and facts surrounding the accident: Do this soon as is possible, before you are medicated or lose your memory of key facts. Assuming your smartphone is with you, record a voice memo with the following information: Make a list of any and all persons that might have been witnesses to the event that caused your injury, but do NOT contact them later yourself. You may say the wrong things and scare them. Leave the talking to your attorney. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, record the name, identifying information and insurance information of the driver who hit you. If the injury was due to a slip-and fall, immediately get photos of the floor surface where you fell and the area around it. If possible, do not leave the scene of a slip-and-fall accident without first filing an accident report with the store manager or property manager, and make sure that you leave with your own copy. Do not wash the clothes you were wearing. Also, do not wear your shoes again, but store them in a safe place.
- Do not talk to any insurance companies that contact you – Period: Until you speak with an experienced Massachusetts injury lawyer first, do not say anything to any insurance company representatives or fill out any insurance forms – even if from your own insurance company. When it comes to auto insurance, you do have a statutory obligation to “cooperate with” your own insurer. However, you do not have to talk to them before you have consulted with an attorney – so speak to an experienced Massachusetts injury lawyer first. Trust us, we have seen far too many accident victims lose their right to receive just compensation for their injuries, by saying the wrong things to an insurance company – even their own.
- Following treatment for your injury, take pictures on a daily basis of the injury as it heals, (such as bruises, contusions, or lacerations.) Bruising and swelling gets worse before it gets better. Note the progression of the healing, photographically, as a picture taken ten days or so following an injury, after most of the bruising and swelling has already resolved, is nowhere near as illustrative as photos taken each day.
- If you are speaking with several attorneys, make sure to ask them about their independent ranking by a professional rating organization such as AVVO.com. For example, I have a ranking of 8.5 out of 10, which is rated “Excellent.”
- Hire only an experienced personal injury attorney who has a reputation for winning cases. Ask the attorneys whom you speak to, what it is that sets him or her apart from other injury attorneys, and ask them to prove their previous results to you.
- Tell the whole story to the attorney that you hire. The whole story: Remember, you are protected by attorney-client privilege between you and the attorney you speak to. Whatever you say to me, for example, will be held in strictest professional confidence. In addition, make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer you hire. Personal chemistry cannot be underestimated.
- Make sure that the attorney whom you hire gives you a written fee agreement specifically spelling out the attorney’s obligations, and your obligations as the client. For example, we will sit down with you and explain the terms of our fee agreement in full, so that you understand each item, and also so that you understand that you will pay NO LEGAL FEES unless you win.
- Think twice before you consider a large, “big-box” law firm. Do you really want to be represented by a “Pizza Hut of Personal Injury”, one that processes thousands of accident cases each year? At large firms, you may meet initially with a partner, but the odds are very high that your case will end up with a very junior lawyer. Trust me, you don’t want an attorney fresh out of law school, or a junior associate in such a firm, representing you – which is what you just might get when you hire a “premier” firm with Oriental carpets. You run an equal risk if you hire a small law firm, but one that doesn’t have a proven track record of success in representing accident and injury victims.
Number One resolution for 2017: Stay safe and healthy.