IMPORTANCE OF WITNESSES & EVIDENCE
It’s everything with regard to an injury case. The best storyteller of an incident or of the impact of the incident on the person’s life is someone other than the victim. Unfortunately, a lot of times, we don’t have any of those other witnesses. Many times, in auto collisions there are plenty of other drivers who have actually witnessed the collision, but either they don’t give any information, or they don’t stay around. Without that, it’s why insurance companies tend to give so much weight to a police report. Ninety-nine times out of 100 the police officer didn’t actually witness the incident. All he is doing is regurgitating what he heard from other people at the scene, but you have to have something.
Photographs of the vehicles involved can be very important; now that everyone has a cellphone, there really is no good reason to at least get some photos at the scene of the collision that shows the relative position of the vehicles and their damage. Of course, if you are transported in an ambulance, you might not have a chance to do that, but it’s always important to be able to show the significance of the impact if it’s a car wreck or the layout of the intersection. Ultimately, if you are on a jury, what would you like to see? You’d like to see pictures showing the way that it happened and how it happened. Gathering that evidence upfront is critical.
DO YOU RECOMMEND THAT YOUR CLIENTS KEEP A JOURNAL OF EVENTS AFTER AN ACCIDENT?
I advise them to live their life as best they can as if there is no claim or there is no lawsuit. If you are the kind of person that keeps a diary or a journal to help keep track of your thoughts, I urge you to do that. If it’s not something that you do or are comfortable with doing, then don’t do it. It’s probably a good idea to keep some sort of a record of what happens because, with the passage of time, you are going to tend to forget about things. If you end up having several visits for physical therapy, two years from now — when you are giving your deposition about it — you are probably not going to remember every visit you had or which visit you may have missed, so it’s nice to keep a journal of that.
Your focus needs to be on getting better and getting your life back together; so if that’s the kind of thing that’s going to be hard for you to do or you are not going to do it very well, then you’re probably better off not doing it at all.
WHAT IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF WAITING TOO LONG, BEFORE SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT, AFTER SUSTAINING AN INJURY IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
Insurance adjusters look for reasons to deny your claim. One of the things they look for is gaps in care. If there is a long gap in care between when an incident occurs and when you receive medical care, then that will be used against you to show that it must not have been that big a deal. You have to keep in mind that most people that will end up on your jury believe that if you are hurt badly, you should visit a doctor. So if you are claiming in your lawsuit that you are hurt significantly, you’d better be able to show that you went to the doctor or show why you didn’t go initially. The consequence of waiting too long is that it puts your claim into a category where it is going to be more suspect.
How long is too long depends upon the injury. For example, if you have a herniated disc in your neck, whether you go to the doctor that afternoon or wait for three days or 10, it’s not going to automatically get any better or worse during that time period, and it probably doesn’t matter, but the longer that you wait, the more chance there is that something could happen to you. God forbid you have another wreck, or you fall; then that intervening incident will be used by the adjuster to say it might not have been the initial incident but the 2nd one that caused the injury. I always tell people to do their best and try to live their life as if there were no claim to be made.
If you are hurting, what do you do? If you go to the doctor and he tells you to do physical therapy, what should you do? You should do the physical therapy. When you start to feel better, is it time to complete your physical therapy? That’s something you should talk to your doctor about, but yes, maybe it is time to button up your treatment. Ultimately, these things are decided by 12 people or six people that are on the jury, and they are going to look to see if what you are doing is reasonable under the circumstances. They will be looking to see if you dragged out your treatment too long in an effort to make your claim bigger than it really needed to be or, if you waited too long, what’s the excuse for that? Were you out of town once again on a family emergency or did you just not go to the doctor because you didn’t get around to it?
If that’s the case, then it probably doesn’t look like too big a deal to them.
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