By Deborah Nelson, Esq.
Nelson Boyd, PLLC
Tragedy strikes. You are injured in an automobile collision, you are struck by a car while riding your bike, you fall on someone else’s property, or you are hit by falling debris or merchandise. What do you do? You know you need medical attention and you suspect you will need a lawyer, but how do you manage to coordinate the two and make sure that you recover from your injuries? For nearly everyone, the prospect of facing such a challenge is overwhelming.
The good news is that the “good lawyers,” the ones who care about you as a person, not just about your case, are willing and able to help you not only with your legal case and insurance claims, but also with your medical recovery. “Good lawyers” care about their clients and want them to have not only the best legal recovery possible, but also the best medical recovery possible so that they are able to return to the jobs, hobbies, and family activities that they enjoyed before they were injured. They can also be instrumental in helping you figure out which type of healthcare provider you need, referring you to the correct person to provide medical treatment, and even getting you an appointment more quickly. Of course, they will also help you make sure those medical bills are paid.
So, how do you find one of these “good lawyers?” Start with the premise that “not all lawyers are created equal” and set out to find one who cares about you as a person, not just the money that your case might generate. Ask your friends if they have hired (or know) lawyers who do “personal injury” cases. Take a look at websites and see whether the lawyers talk about their clients and their cases – or about the money they have earned. Look for lawyers who are members of their state and national trial lawyers associations – this is often an indicator that they care enough about their clients to spend the extra time and money required to constantly polish their skills and keep updated on the latest legal trends. Meet with lawyers or talk to them on the phone and see if you like them and if they are listening to you and explaining things. Often, if something “doesn’t feel quite right,” you are better off hiring someone where the fit feels right. Be wary of law firms that advertise on TV, buses, cabs, billboards, etc. These firms often take far too many cases and rely on paralegals and support staff to handle nearly the entire case, which means that your lawyer may not even know or remember you! If they don’t know or remember you, how can they care about you and your medical recovery?
After you find your “good lawyer,” what should you be able to expect from them? Communication is key and you should be able to contact them, meet with them, speak with them, and email them about your questions and concerns. You should also expect that they will answer your questions about the legal process and help you decide what types of doctors to see and the names of specific doctors who can help you. If you aren’t recovering well, they may have suggestions for additional doctors to see in order to try to get you the very best medical result possible.
Of course, you have responsibilities in this relationship too! It is very important that you tell your lawyer how you are feeling. What hurts? When does it hurt? What does it feel like? How is it interfering with your ability to work, to sleep, to spend time with your family, etc.? You should keep your lawyer updated and let them know when you begin to see a different doctor, when you are referred to someone new, or when medical treatment with a specific doctor ends. You should let your lawyer know of any changes in your medical condition or medical treatment. You should also be consistent with your medical treatment and follow your doctor’s advice. Being injured is painful, inconvenient, and time consuming. Quite often, people feel that it is difficult to juggle everything and still make it to their doctor’s appointments. However, if you don’t follow your doctor’s advice and don’t go to your appointments, there will be a “gap in treatment.” Insurance companies love this because, to them, it means that you weren’t injured badly enough to continue to go to the doctor. If your case goes to trial, the insurance company will claim that your gap in treatment means you weren’t injured at all and they will tell the jury not to award you any money. That hardly seems fair, does it? The cure is simply to follow your doctor’s advice and make whatever sacrifices you must to attend your medical appointments.
No one wants, or is prepared, for an injury. It is a terrible thing. Fortunately, hiring the right attorney will result in you having a partner and guide who can lead you through the confusing and stressful process so that you can not only recover money to compensate you for your injuries, but also so that you can recover your health and resume work and all the activities that you love. Good lawyers want to lift those heavy burdens from your shoulders and help you through the process. Your job is to hire a good lawyer!