It’s a holiday weekend. You and your family are driving home from dinner at your relatives’ house when a drunk driver fails to stop for a stop sign and plows into your car. Everyone in your car is seriously hurt. What should you do next?
It’s Thursday afternoon. You’re shopping at your favorite supermarket when you slip on water leaking from a defective dairy cooler. As a result of your fall, you suffer a broken wrist and your back is hurting. What should you do next?
It’s Sunday afternoon. You’ve just bought a new mountain bike which you’re riding down the bike path in the forest preserve. You hit a pothole causing the handlebars to come loose. You lose your balance, fall to the ground and bang your head. What should you do next?
What you do or don’t do right after you’ve been injured will determine whether you can obtain compensation for your injuries and how much compensation you ultimately obtain.
Joseph A. La Zara and Associates provides you with information to minimize the consequences of the injuries you or your loved ones suffer and to assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve.
If you or someone else has been seriously injured in an accident, the first thing you should be thinking about is taking care of the injury so that its consequences are lessened. Minimizing the ultimate impact of the injury is most important. Only after all injuries are properly tended to should any concern be given to those things which will assist in subsequently obtaining compensation for the injuries. Allowing injured persons to suffer unnecessarily while doing things that will help in obtaining compensation later, such as taking photographs of an accident scene or identifying witnesses, would not be good. While these things will undoubtedly be helpful in resolving a subsequent claim, it is more important that the health needs of those involved be tended to first. It is no satisfaction to obtain a large settlement or judgment if someone is going to suffer a lifetime of pain and disability that might have been avoided had proper care been provided for their injuries at the beginning. Consequently, the first thing that must be done is to provide or obtain all necessary care for the injured person or persons.
After a person has been injured there will usually be someone trying to obtain information concerning the injury and the way it occurred. Some inquires will be entirely proper and should be answered. If there has been a car crash, police officers will seek information concerning the existence of any injuries and the manner in which the crash occurred. Anytime there have been serious injuries paramedics will necessarily ask who has been injured and seek information as to the injuries that have been sustained. At the hospital nurses and doctors will be seeking information about the nature and extent of your injuries. Your lawyer will want to know details of the event that caused your injuries as well as particulars concerning the injuries. Responses to these inquiries are necessary and encouraged.
However, there may also be questions posed to you following an accident which you should not answer. If you have been injured in a fall in a store, the store manager or security personnel may attempt to interrogate you in such a fashion that they obtain answers which might prevent you from successfully pursuing a claim. If you’ve been in a car accident, a representative of the other driver’s insurance company may visit you or call you by telephone and attempt to take a detailed statement from you. Care must be taken in responding to such inquiries. Frequently, it is best to say nothing other than provide the name and telephone number of the lawyer who will be assisting you with your claim. At other times you may provide some information, but you should limit the extent of the details you provide. There are circumstances in which you should provide information concerning every detail you know. Some basic guidelines follow to help you in deciding who to talk to and what to say.
If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident and are able to talk, the police officer assigned to investigate will undoubtedly want to obtain your version of the crash and find out something about whether you have been injured and the extent of any injuries you may have suffered. It is rarely necessary or desirable to provide a highly detailed account of the accident or your injuries. If the accident was the fault of another driver, you should provide a brief and accurate description of the accident. Provide only enough information to show that the accident was the other person’s fault. Trying to provide precise details of the accident, such as speeds, distances and times is not necessary and will ordinarily not be helpful to you in any subsequent attempt to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. If you believe that the accident was caused by something you did or did not do, it is probable best to say nothing at all about the collision. Simply tell the policeman that you’ve been injured and prefer not to talk about the occurrence until your injuries have been treated.
In deciding what to say to a police officer about your injuries it is important to remember that the policeman is not going to provide treatment to you. He or she does not need detailed information about what is ailing you. The policeman primarily needs to know if you have been injured with an indication of the severity and location of your injuries. Consequently, it would be appropriate to tell the investigating officer that your leg is broken, or your head and neck hurt, or you have sharp pains in your chest. This type of information allows the officer to determine what, if any, other assistance is needed to care for you. The police officer can then summon any additional help that may be required to care for you and any other people injured in the accident and go about his or her affairs of clearing the roadway for other traffic or, if the accident is serious enough, gathering evidence which will indicate how the accident occurred.
When talking to medical personnel after an accident–whether they be paramedics, emergency room personnel, or doctors–be aware that the purpose of your communicating with them is so that they can provide proper treatment for your injuries. Consequently, you should try to provide them with as much information as possible about what is bothering you. If you have pain in your neck which is radiating down one of your arms and causing a tingling in your fingers, you should inform the nurses and doctors of these details. The treatment of such symptoms may be different that if you simply say that your neck hurts. If you banged your chest during a collision and are experiencing pains every time you inhale you must tell the people you are seeing for treatment so that they can order the appropriate tests to determine if you have broken your ribs or sternum or even bruised your heart. Complete and honest disclosure of all the things that are bothering you is essential to getting the appropriate medical care.
On the other hand, there is rarely any need for medical personnel to know the details of the accident which caused your injuries. Details concerning the occurrence which caused our injuries are ordinarily not necessary to providing you with proper medical care. A simple statement that you were involved in an automobile collision or fell onto a hard floor will usually be enough information to allow the medical personnel to afford you the appropriate care. It may be helpful if you say that you banged your head on the windshield or your chest was crushed against the steering wheel. These additional details might be helpful to the medical personnel in their job of discovering what injuries you have sustained and providing the necessary treatment for them.
Tell the police what they need to know to do their jobs. Tell the medical personnel what they need to know to do their jobs. Don’t tell them things they don’t need to know.
Selecting Your Lawyer
If you do not know a lawyer you can call who handles injury claims you may want to call a lawyer you have dealt with on other legal matters. While they may no represent clients in injury matters, they might work with or know other attorneys who concentrate in that field of practice who can help you. The lawyer who handled the sale of your home or drafted your will may well know another lawyer who is better qualified to handle your injury claim. Wouldn’t you feel more at ease consulting someone recommended to you by someone in whom you have confidence than someone whose ad you’ve seen on TV or in the Yellow Pages? In any event, you should consider obtaining legal assistance as soon as possible after your injury to help you obtain a favorable result in any subsequent claim and guard against losing valuable evidence.
If you’ve been injured as a result of a fall at a business establishment, the owner, manager or security personnel will usually want to talk with you about how you were injured and what injuries you suffered. If you’ve been in a car accident, the other driver may try to talk with you. Or an investigator from the insurance company of the other party may call or visit you to attempt to obtain your statement concerning the occurrence and the extent of your injuries. It does not serve any useful purpose to you to provide detailed statements concerning the occurrence or your injuries to the other side. The things you say may subsequently be used against you but ordinarily cannot be used to help you if you must eventually litigate your claim. It is much better to simply identify the dangerous condition that caused your fall (so that the dangerous condition can e remedied and thereby prevent injury to anyone else) and briefly describe your injuries. Leave the details to a later time after you have obtained legal counsel who can provide the other side with information in a manner that is most helpful and least harmful to your interests.
Someone from the liability insurance company for the person who caused your injuries may contact you in an effort to take a statement from you. It is strongly recommended that you do not talk to anyone representing the person who caused your injuries without first obtaining the advice and assistance of a lawyer. There is usually nothing you can say to the insurance representative that will help you, but you might say something that can make it more difficult for you to be compensated for your injuries in a later claim.
If you have been in a car accident, your own insurance company will also seek information from you. All insurance policies require that you cooperate with your insurance company. That means that you are required to provide information concerning the accident to your own insurer so that it can defend any claims that may be made against you as a result of the accident. Usually the statements that you give to your own insurance company for the purpose of helping it to provide you with a defense to claims by others may not be used against you because they will not be disclosed to anyone other than the attorney that your insurance company hires to defend you. Such statements are supposed to be protected from disclosure to others by the same attorney-client privilege that prevents your attorney from telling other people what you have said to him or her.
However, if one or more of the other persons involved in the accident has the same insurance company as you, your statements to your insurance company might not be protected from disclosure to others. Or, if you will be making a claim against your own insurance company under the medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, or underinsured motorist coverage of your own policy, things that you say to your insurance company representative may not be protected by the attorney-client privilege and might be used to defeat or deflate your claim for compensation. In those circumstances, it would be wise to have the attorney that is handling your claim take care of providing your insurance company with any information it needs. Even if you think that you will not be making a claim, it may be prudent to consult an attorney before you talk with even your own insurer.
We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Frequently, photographs taken close in time to the occurrence which caused an injury can make a significant impact in any claim that might subsequently be made. Photographs of a car showing damage that can only have come from a tremendous collision will be quite persuasive later on when explaining how someone was hurt. Photographs showing water leaking from a defective cooler in the supermarket where someone fell are invaluable in establishing that the owner of the store is responsible for the resultant injuries. A video tape showing water dripping from a faulty gutter to an ice patch on the sidewalk in from of the door to a fast food restaurant will undoubtedly e important evidence when trying to convince the insurer or a jury that the owner of the restaurant should pay compensation for injuries suffered from slipping on the ice and falling to the ground. All of these visual representations can be valuable in bringing our case to a successful conclusion, but none of them will exist unless someone takes the pictures promptly. Your car, the defective cooler, and the faulty gutter may all be repaired if the photographs are not taken soon after the occurrence. The lawyer or his investigative staff if contacted timely, can frequently obtain the necessary photographs and do so in a manner that will portray the condition in a way that will be most helpful when presenting the claim for damages later on.
As valuable as photographs may be to ultimately obtaining fair compensation for injuries, witnesses may be even more important. When an insurance claims adjuster is confronted with a statement from a person who had nothing to do with an incident other than to have witnessed it occur, he or she will be hard pressed to discount what the witness has said. Frequently favorable statements from so-called independent witnesses result in settlements of cases without the need for lawsuits being filed. And if a lawsuit is necessary, the testimony of that witness may be the difference between winning and losing. Consequently, it is important to obtain the names, addresses of witnesses to an accident as soon as possible following the occurrence. Accordingly, it would be a good idea to contact a lawyer at the earliest possible time following an injury so that the investigative process can being at its most productive time.
If you or someone you care about has been injured through the fault of someone else, you should immediately take steps to obtain the appropriate medical care so that the consequences of the injury are minimized. Once that has been completed you should begin gathering information and evidence so that compensation can eventually be obtained for the injuries. An effective way of ensuring that the proper actions are taken after an occurrence is to promptly contact a lawyer experienced in handling personal injury claims. If you do not personally know such a lawyer, contact Joseph A. La Zara. Joseph A. La Zara knows veteran and knowledgeable personal injury attorneys. These attorneys have over 30 years of legal experience and have successfully represented clients with all types of injuries. These attorneys will represent clients on a contingent fee basis. That means that you do not have to pay them a fee for their services unless and until they have recovered money for you from the other party of his insurance company. A personal injury attorney referred by Joseph will not charge you for an initial consultation. So why not take advantage of that situation by obtaining valuable legal advice before talking to someone who does not have your best interests in mind? Remember you do not have to worry about saying something that could hurt your ability to obtain money damages from the other side if you have hired a lawyer who will do your talking for you.
Joseph A. La Zara and Associates, Attorneys at Law 7246 W. Touhy Ave. Chicago, Illinois and 725 E. Dundee Rd. Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Telephone: 773. 774.0730