Scott Distasio is an auto accident attorney in Tampa. He is a board certified civil trial lawyer in practice since 1990. To see what legal wisdom he shares next, follow @scottdistasio on Twitter.
Attorneys must be careful when they choose which potential clients to accept and which ones to turn away. Personal injury attorneys rely on the initial interview to give them clues about the possible outcome of an auto accident case.
Ask Critical Case Questions
While the supporting details of a case are important, these are some of the most critical questions that attorneys must ask first.
Who was at fault? A copy of the police report should show who was the liable party in the accident. If the potential client was at fault but claimed that she or he could prove otherwise, the individual should try to have the decision reversed first. Insurance companies and judges almost always accept what a police report says in an auto accident injury case. In some states with comparative negligence provisions, a person must be less than 50 percent liable to recover damages. The award may be reduced based on the liability percentage.
Was there a gap between the date of the accident and initial medical treatment? If a person seeks treatment a week or two after an accident, there could be problems. According to many professionals, a person who is in an auto accident should see a doctor or a chiropractor within 72 hours of the accident. This is considered a reasonable time frame by most insurance companies.
What type of medical treatment was recommended and for how long? If a person’s injuries are minor and will heal in a short amount of time with minimal treatment, the case may not be worth the time investment. The key is to compare the cost of the estimated time to handle the case with the expected fee.
Were any medical treatments or appointments missed? Some people neglect their follow-up appointments, and car accident victims may skip physical therapy or treatment sessions if they start to feel better. If an insurance company discovers this, it will use such information against a victim. This may make a claim invalid.
Have any insurance adjusters called? In some cases, insurance adjusters manage to contact auto accident victims before they have a chance to hire an attorney. Since some statements from a victim can make an auto accident case hard to win, it is important for attorneys to find out what potential clients tell insurance companies. Insurance adjusters often call victims to subtly discuss the extent of their injuries. Since injuries may worsen or new injuries may be discovered, recorded statements or statements that leave out important information can make a claim invalid.
Gather Supporting Information
If a potential client was not at fault, suffered extensive or permanent injuries, kept all medical appointments and did not talk to an insurance adjuster, an attorney may decide to take the case. However, there are other important pieces of information to collect. Some are necessary for clarity in document preparation, and some details may be helpful for the case. For example, witness statements can be helpful if they reflect the fault of the other party. These are some supporting questions that attorneys must ask:
- When and where did the incident occur?
- What injuries were apparent then and now?
- Were there any witnesses?
- What is the name of the examining doctor?
- Is there auto insurance?
- If there is auto insurance, what type of coverage is it?
- Were any pictures taken after the accident?
- Does the client have a criminal history?
- Have any other attorneys been contacted or hired for this case?
It is important for a legal professional to maintain a sympathetic tone with the potential client during an interview. Also, attorneys must actively listen to and effectively communicate with potential clients to ensure that they make the best decision. If an attorney wants to accept a case, the interview should conclude with these reminders to the new client:
- Do not talk to insurance adjusters.
- Attend all medical appointments.
- Do not discuss the details of the case with anyone.