Communication - Especially in Personal Injury Cases
Communication is very important regardless of the activity but good communication in a personal injury case can make the difference between an excellent recovery or a good recovery and in the event communication is poor, it can result in a poor outcome. The purpose of this article is to identify critical areas involving communication that arise in a personal injury case.
Most people will call their attorney in order to set up an appointment. The individual will describe his or her injuries as well as the facts concerning how the accident occurred. Often, if the accident occurred the same day or a few days before the individual calls an attorney, the client's condition may have improved or gotten worse. The client, because he or she is very upset immediately after the accident, MAY communicate with the police, hospital admissions personnel and family members. It would be ideal if the client could speak to the lawyer before communicating with others about their injuries and how the accident occurred. The world is not a perfect place and we can't expect perfect communication. However, our office seeks to obtain details of the injuries and facts about the accident. When we go over with the client both their physical/emotional injuries and the facts of the accident, it is very important to have accurate statements of injuries and facts. As the client proceeds with treatment, it is necessary for the client to communicate all of the injuries. It is necessary to communicate those injuries at each medical visit. If it is sought to settle a case through negotiation or to go to trial, an adjuster for the insurance company will look to see if the client communicated all of the continuing injuries and, at trial, the client will need to explain why the client testifies to four permanent injuries when the medical records show only two areas of communicated pain and or suffering.
Communicating the nature and extent of your injuries. It is very important for the client, for each medical appointment including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other therapies, to be prepared to communicate with medical personnel specifically their pain and their concerns. We utilize a form whereon the client lists the priority areas of the body that have been injured. For example, the client’s injuries may be to the back, the neck, the lower upper extremity, or their face or mouth. Under each priority area of the body there are subcategories. These may include “does the pain wake you up at night”, “does cold or humidity aggravate your pain”, “do you have problems lifting” and specifically at what weight do you notice pain, “does bending, reaching, pulling, cause pain or restrictions in range of motion?”. On the form, the client checks off which of the above apply to that priority area of the body. We ask clients to update our form for each appointment. We also recognize that clients have a limited time to communicate with medical providers so it is very important that the client has organized what he or she will express to the treatment provider. We also ask that clients call us to go over what they're going to communicate to the medical provider.
Final discharge examination by treating physicians. Clients are not always aware when his or her physician will discharge them. However, as the client’s condition improves, the treating physicians will want to know of the client’s continuing physical complaints. Some doctors may give an opinion that the injuries are permanent and others may not. We may be able to determine when you may be discharged but close communication with our office improves the chance of possibly knowing when the final discharge exam will occur. Again, if the client is not communicating with the physician all of their physical complaints, the final discharge may not include important areas of the body that are injured but not shown in the final report.
Seeking to negotiate a settlement. I want to respond to my client’s desire to settle a case without filing a lawsuit if that is his or her wish. The environment today makes it difficult to obtain reasonable compensation for the client’s injuries and damages. Where clients have communicated their injuries in a systematic way and the medical records include both their complaints and the physician's opinion that those injuries are causally related to the accident, the chances of settling the case are improved. Recently a lawyer from an insurance company whose last offer was $10,000 when my client received approximately $18,500 in court told after the trial that “they don’t settle cases unless suit is filed”. I believe they do settle cases under $2500 as chump change. The environment of attempting to settle becomes more and more difficult and some lawyers, knowing the history of the lowball offers of large insurance companies, don't even bother making the demand. To some degree, their view is that it is a waste of time and they are likely correct.
Filing a lawsuit. All along I've been emphasizing the importance of communication. When a lawsuit is filed, facts are described about how the accident occurred. Earlier I discussed how important it was at the beginning contact with the lawyer to let the lawyer fully understand and comprehend how the accident occurred. The facts are stated in a legal document called a complaint. If the factual statements in the complaint are not accurate, or only mostly accurate, it may create problems in proving the case before a judge or jury. Also, communicating the injuries of the client again are vitally important. Here again, when we prepare the complaint, we provide it to the client for his or her review. The client needs to be careful to make sure the description of how the accident occurred is accurate and that all of the injuries have been described correctly or, at least, that the medical records that will be presented at trial list the injuries accurately. Also, if an expert is brought to court, that expert must be able to communicate clearly the client’s injuries.
This article stresses the importance of communication and when there is quality communication between attorney and client, there is a good chance of success. Quality communication is not a guarantee of a successful outcome but the chances of prevailing in a case are much improved.
I, Fred Antenberg have over 35 years’ experience in representing individuals in Howard County and surrounding counties in Central Maryland who have suffered injury as a result of someone's negligence. I have been successful in many cases, however the past is not a predictor of the success of your case. When you call us, it would be very beneficial for you to have thought out how the accident occurred, what your injuries are, and have a list of witnesses and contact information for those witnesses. At times, clients are very upset, distracted, and for whatever reason aren't in the best condition to provide quality communication. We understand and will work with you.
Call me, Fred Antenberg, for a free initial consultation by dialing 410-730-4404.