The Four Phases of a Personal Injury Case (1 of 4)

I have distilled down my experiences from thousands of personal injury cases over the years, to give you some of the information you need to know to protect your legal rights. A non-fatality personal injury case can be broken down into 4 distinct phases:

  1. Treatment Phase
  2. Record Gathering Phase
  3. Settlement Phase
  4. Litigation Phase (if necessary)

Here at Chester Law Group, we are with you every step of the way. Each member of the team is specially trained to handle each particular phase. My staff and I work behind the scenes to help make sure that the insurance company can and will pay you a fair settlement on your claim. It is important that you understand each of the four phases of a personal injury claim and your part in the process.

Phase 1: The Treatment Phase

Documented Medical Evidence: the key to your case

During the treatment phase, you are focused on finding out exactly what is wrong with you from the accident. We are busy making sure that there is enough insurance to cover your claim, that the other side is not trying to blame you for the accident, and making sure your medical treatment and billing goes smoothly. We want to know what is wrong with you just as much as you do. You see, a personal injury claim is based on something called documented medical evidence. This documented medical evidence is a major factor that determines the value of your claim. Documented medical evidence includes information your doctors put in your medical notes that answer the following questions:

  • What is wrong with you?
  • How long you suffered with your injuries?
  • What were the symptoms you suffered from those injuries? Eg. Muscle spasm, limited range of motion, headache, dizziness, tmj pain, depression, etc.
  • How long you suffered from those injuries? 1 month, 6 months?
  • Did you injuries interfere with your life in any way, work? Home activities? Social activities?
  • How long did your life-style suffer from these injuries? A month, a year?
  • Will you fully recover? If not why?
  • Will there be future medical treatment, and if so how much?

Be patient. You usually have to be done treating for all of these questions to be answered. You see, you don’t get money just for being in an accident. You have to be hurt and have legitimately needed treatment for your claim to have value. You don’t know the value of your case until you know what exactly is wrong with you, how long it lasted, to what extent and how long your life was effected, will you recover and if not why. This information comes once you are fully recovered or a doctor determines you will never fully recover because you are permanently impaired. You can get paid quickly or paid fairly, but not both, and by hiring us you chose to be paid fairly, and this takes time. It’s just how it is.

Key points to remember about the treatment phase:

  • . Do not talk to the insurance company about injuries. Your injury attorney should send them a letter telling them to not discuss your injuries with you.
  • Don’t sign anything from anyone related to the accident without talking to an accident lawyer first. Your injury attorney should make sure that the property damage release you are signing does not release your entire claim or that the paperwork the doctor or health insurance company is wanting you to sign is legal and in your best interest.
  • Be careful what you post on social networking sites such as facebook and twitter. Any pictures or information you post can be twisted by defense counsel to make it look like you were not that hurt. Some defense counsel are actually scouring facebook before trial to see if they can find any pictures of clients doing any activity at all so they can argue they were not that hurt.
  • Show up to all of your medical appointments, medical testing appointments, such as MRIs, etc. If you do not, it looks like you are not that hurt or that you don’t care about getting well, even if you really do. Everything comes down to the accurate, honest documented medical evidence of the severity and length of treatment, symptoms, physical pain and emotional suffering, along with lost wages. Did you recover in a month? A year? Never? How can you answer this question a week after the accident? You usually can’t.
  • If you cannot show up for your medical appointment, tell the doctor why so that he or she can document it in your medical notes. Unexplained gaps in treatment can kill a personal injury claim. Your failure to treat is used by the insurance company to argue that your injuries were healed at the time you temporarily stopped treatment. Remember, the insurance company will use anything they can against you to argue that they don’t have to pay, even if there is a reasonable explanation. Unfortunate but true.
  • Keep your accident attorney informed when you see a new doctor, get a new test, etc. They should want to know the day you find out any new news on your injuries, treatment, etc.
  • Tell your injury attorney the exact name, address and phone number of each doctor you are seeing. Write them down on a sheet of paper so your attorney can get the records. Lawyers are not mind readers. Ask for the doctors business card. You have to tell your attorney exactly where you treated for your lawyer to get the medical records. This can help speed up the processing of your personal injury claim.
  • Make sure the doctor you choose cares about you and gives you the time you need to answer all your questions and concerns. Trust your gut in this matter. After all, it is your body. It is ultimately up to you to make sure that your doctor helps you to find out exactly what is wrong with you and gives you all the treatment you need to fully recover from your accident related injuries.
  • Call your Ohio accident attorney if you have been in a second accident, whether or not you are at fault. It can seriously affect your other claim. Both insurance companies from both accidents will likely blame the other party for causing the majority of your injuries, and not want to pay some or all of your medical bills. If you are not careful, you could lose both cases if they are handled separately and possibly end up paying the medical bills yourself if you have no health insurance.

Remember, like you, your injury lawyer will want you to find out exactly what is wrong with you and make sure you get the treatment to help you get back to a normal, pain free life. The goal is to get you back to where you were the day before the accident.

Apart from telling the doctors how you feel, it is also important that you tell your attorney how you are feeling. How your injury has affected your life. The pain and suffering that you are going through is an important part of your claim and your attorney will need to know about it. Also, remember, no article can address the particular issues in your exact case, but this article is meant to give an overview of the issues a typical person faces in an Ohio personal injury claim. You should talk to an injury lawyer to discuss your particular case.

Lost wages; don’t burn your self

Now if a doctor gives you time off from your work for accident related injuries, you still have to clear it with your boss or you might get fired. Always make sure you have a written doctor’s excuse for all the time you are off work. Even if your boss is paying your lost wages and has approved you missing work, you may have to pay your boss back from the money you get from the insurance company settlement, and without a doctor’s excuse covering the entire time you were off work, the insurance company will likely not pay your lost wages and you will have to repay your boss from your portion of the case. Not good. The doctor will usually give you a reasonable amount of time off work if you are unable to perform your job functions because of your accident related injuries.