Your Injury Case Letter
PURPOSE OF THIS LETTER
We feel pleased and privileged to be representing you in your case. We believe in your claim or we would not have agreed to represent you. We hope to obtain for you a prompt and satisfactory conclusion of your case.
We have found that our clients greatly appreciate our giving them, early in the case development, a written outline of things to expect and some important preliminary advice.
Most people are not familiar with the normal procedure of handling and evaluating a personal injury case. You probably have a lot of questions about the procedures that will be followed, the time involved in settling or litigating your claim, your role in the case, the method of evaluation of your case, and the chances of winning. Hopefully, this letter will go a long way in explaining everything to you.
THE VALUE OF YOUR CLAIM
A personal injury claim in our legal system has a value, which is based primarily upon the following factors:
- The liability or fault of the other party or parties for causing the accident.
- The degree of your liability or fault for causing the accident.
- The amount of medical bills.
- The amount of lost work time.
- The nature, extent and permanency of your injuries which can be shown to be caused by the accident.
In order to establish and determine the value of your claim, we work toward gathering the facts, bills and records to establish the above factors. Your help and cooperation in gathering and documenting these factors are absolutely essential for the complete success of your claim.
INVESTIGATION OF THE FACTS
First of all, we meet with you and begin to gather all the facts about the case from you. Next, we open a file for your case. Usually, we begin our investigation of your case immediately. Every individual case is investigated differently, but generally we try to obtain photographs of the accident scene, a diagram and measurements of the accident scene, photographs of any vehicles or objects involved in the injury, copies of any available accident reports, statements of eyewitnesses and of investigating police officers. In other words, we try and obtain all of the facts and evidence concerning your accident, whether favorable or not favorable. This helps us to know the full extent of the responsibility or fault for the accident of the other party or parties, including any responsibility or fault which you might have for the accident.
There is a possibility that the other party or an adjuster for the other party's insurance company will try and contact you. You should NOT discuss any aspect of the case with either the other party or the adjuster. If contacted, just refer the adjuster of the other party to our law office.
Additionally, you should realize that the insurance company for the other party might conduct any investigation of your physical and emotional condition. The insurance company might monitor your activities and movements and you could be videotaped or photographs by long-distance equipment without your knowledge. An investigator for the defendant’s insurance company might contact your friends, neighbors, employer or co-workers. If you learn of any such investigation or contact by the defendant, his attorney, or his insurance company, please advise us immediately so that we are aware of the situation.
OBTAINING MEDICAL RECORDS BILLS AND REPORTS
We also contact any hospital and doctors where you have been treated and released to obtain complete copies of your records and bills. As we pointed out above, the amount of your medical bills is an extremely important factor in evaluating your claim. You should make sure that our office receives a copy of each and every medical bill, including prescriptions, braces and bandages. Each documented medical expense will increase the value of your claim.
Additionally, keep an accurate mileage and time record of each and every trip for medical treatment. We can utilize these records to increase the value of your claim. Make sure that our office receives a copy of this record.
Once your doctor indicates that he can write a final report, we request a report on the nature and extent of your injuries. We provide you with a copy of any such medical report obtained so that you are fully aware of your doctor's opinion as to your medical condition.
OBTAINING LOST TIME RECORDS
If you have lost time from work, we will ask your cooperation in helping us to obtain a lost time statement from your employer. Again, the amount of your lost time is one of the primary factors in the evaluation of your claim.
In order for the defendant's insurance company, lawyer, or the jury to understand how you are changed by the injuries from the accident, it is often helpful to have "before and after" witnesses. These are people who knew you both "before and after" the accident and can tell us what effects the accident has had on you, your family, your personal life, and your job.
These people can be family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers or your supervisor. They can be extremely valuable in your case since they can explain on a human, daily basis how you have been affected physically and emotionally by your injuries. After you have read this letter, please advise us of at least three people who can and will testify as to your problems and changes since your accident. Of particular importance are your co-workers and work supervisor.
EVALUATION AND SETTLEMENT
Once all of the facts, medical records and bills, lost time from work and all medical reports are obtained, we send copies of these documents to the insurance company. This is the beginning of our attempt to settle your claim.
After the insurance company has made a settlement offer to us, we contact you to discuss with you this settlement offer. No settlement of your claim will be made without your consent. After we have discussed with you our evaluation of your claim, we then enter into further negotiations with the insurance company in an attempt to settle your claim within the range of value you have authorized. Sometimes these settlement negotiations take many letters and telephone calls to complete.
If we are able to settle your claim, we will have a final office conference to distribute the settlement amount. We will prepare a settlement statement itemizing all expenses and attorney's fees. The settlement check is deposited in our trust account and you will receive your share of the settlement from our trust account.
If settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, we will consider the advisability of filing a lawsuit. In some cases, however, it is advisable to start your lawsuit immediately. In such cases we will discuss with you why we feel a lawsuit should be immediately filed without settlement negotiations.
STARTING A LAWSUIT
A lawsuit is started by delivering to the other party a paper called a Complaint which indicates that he or she is being sued as a result of the accident. You are called the Plaintiff; the other party is called the Defendant. The defendant takes these papers to his insurance company, which delivers them to its lawyers. The defendant's lawyers then deliver to us a paper called an Answer. At this point, the case is at issue and we request the Court to set a trial date. If a trial of your case becomes necessary, it can take up to two years or more to complete the case. Once a lawsuit is filed, the length of time to complete it is not controlled by us, but rather by the complexity of the case and the scheduling of cases by the Trial Judge. A lawsuit requires your patience and understanding of the legal system.
The Trial Judge often will set your case for trial as other than first choice for trial. This means there are other, older cases set in front of your case. For example, if your case is set as a fourth choice case, that means there are three cases set before your case. Your case would only go to trial as a first choice if all three of the cases set in front of your case are either continued or settled.
We want to point out that although a lawsuit may have been filed, settlement is always possible and is very often made just before the final, first choice trial date.
DISCOVERYOnce the lawsuit has been started, both sides have the right to obtain information about the case by deposition, interrogatories or physical examination. This lengthy process is called discovery.
A deposition is the sworn testimony of a party or witness given under oath in the presence of attorneys for both plaintiff and defendant, all of which is typed up by a court reporter who take down the testimony.
Interrogatories are written questions which either attorney may submit to the other party and which have to be answered in writing under oath within 30 days after receiving them by mail. We generally use both interrogatories and depositions to help us prepare your case. The defendant's attorneys also have the right to take your deposition and to submit interrogatories to you for you to answer.
Arrangements for the other side to take your deposition are made in advance and we will generally set up an appointment with you to prepare for it. We will review and discuss the questions that will be asked by the lawyer for the other side. Usually, these depositions are conducted informally and courteously. The deposition is very important to your case. When we prepare you for your deposition, we will cover the procedure and all of the pertinent facts so that you will have a full understanding of what is expected to you. Of course, we will attend the deposition with you as well.
At some point in the case, you may be required to submit to a physical examination by a doctor selected by the other side. The law gives them this right and we have to agree to such an examination. It will be scheduled far enough in advance so that you can make arrangements to be present. The doctor who is picked by the other side is a specialist whose opinions will be given considerable weight by the other side and possibly by a judge or jury should your case go to trial. This doctor's role will be to evaluate your injuries and condition. We will receive a copy of this doctor's report and will send a copy to you. Again, we will review this with you before the time of your physical examination.
In addition to your deposition and physical examination, you may be called upon to answer certain interrogatories, or written questions, that are served upon us by the other side. These typically call for background information about you -- your residence, education, work record, treatment received, medical bills, and details about your losses. The facts that are asked are not particularly difficult, but do require your attention and your time. You will work with our office in answering these questions. You will hear from us about the details once the other side begins this procedure.
Finally, under a part of discovery called production, you may be required to produce copies of your income tax returns and other documents relevant to your losses. Again, we must comply with relevant production under the law. If the other side makes such a request for production, our office will be in contact with you to coordinate this production to the defendant attorneys.
Under the laws of Indiana, there are no secrets in lawsuits of this kind. The attorneys for both sides take depositions and submit interrogatories to enable them to find out all the facts. At any time throughout this discovery period, the possibility of settlement may come up again and we will endeavor to discuss settlement as we move along. If anything concrete occurs in any of these discussions with the other side, we will advise you promptly.
The great majority of cases never go to trial, even though a lawsuit has been started. Often, they are settled just a few days before the trial date. If your case cannot be settled for a fair amount, with your permission, we will proceed to trial. Before we go to trial, the few weeks before the trial date are spent in detailed preparation of your case. The procedure at trial and what is expected of you at trial will be explained to you in minute detail well in advance of your going to the courthouse. We will explain the details and strategy of the trial so that you will have a full understanding of what takes place, our chances of success, and your role. Naturally, this is a long time away and need not concern you this far in advance.
The insurance company has an index system on a nationwide basis, which shows all of the people who have made claims before for other injuries. If you have made a claim in another accident for another injury, your name will be there and they will have this information. You are therefore asked to be absolutely honest with us in all of your answers throughout our handling of your case.
We often tell our new clients to let us handle the legal work and worries involving their claim, and for them to work on getting themselves well. We encourage you to follow the advice and treatment of your physician, primarily because the physician is an expert in the medical field, and he or she can usually help you get better. Also, if you follow your doctor's advice and take all recommended treatments, you will substantially increase the value of your case.
PAYMENT OF YOUR MEDICAL BILLS
We advise our clients to submit all of their medical bills to their health insurance company for payment. You pay a premium for this coverage and you should receive the benefit for which you paid. However, some health insurance companies require that any sums paid for your benefit be reimbursed to them once a settlement or judgment is obtained with the defendant. We can assist you in this area, but we must be notified immediately if your health insurance company notifies you that it wishes to be reimbursed.
In automobile accident cases, another method of receiving assistance in the payment of your medical bills is the medical pay provision of your own automobile insurance policy. Again, we encourage our clients to utilize this benefit and we will assist you in obtaining this benefit. Like health insurance companies, your automobile insurance company may notify you that it wishes to be reimbursed when you settle with the defendant for sums paid for your medical care.
We feel that the early payment of your medical bills is important because it keeps the doctors cooperative and that is why we encourage you to use your health insurance or medical pay insurance to pay your medical bills. If you are unable to pay your medical bills and have no health insurance or medical pay insurance, then, we can assist you by writing the hospital or doctor and asking them to withhold collection efforts until we have settled or tried your case. Most creditors comply with this request since we guarantee payment to them from any settlement or judgment.
Payment of your medical bills by either your health insurance or medical pay insurance usually leaves more money for you at the time of distribution of the settlement or judgment.
With the passage of time, our memories fade. Injured people often have a difficult time remembering all of the details of their injuries, medical care, pain and suffering, time missed from work and the many interferences of the injuries on the quality of their lives. It is extremely helpful for you to keep a daily diary of all of these things in order to refresh your memory at your deposition, when testifying at trial, or when answering your Interrogatories. Such diaries can be purchased at any office supply store, or if you wish, call us and we will provide one for your use.
PHOTOGRAPHS AND DOCUMENTATION
Everyone has heard the saying: "A picture is worth a thousand words." Documenting (or showing) your injuries or the effect of your injuries on your quality of life is very important in the proper handling of your case. Such documentation is evidence, which we can often use to prove the problems you have had from the accident.
If you can have pictures taken of your injuries or showing your problems, please document these with photographs or videotapes. For example, if you had to use crutches because of your injuries, it would be helpful to have a photograph showing you on crutches. Keep all braces, casts, rods or anything else, which will help to show what you have had to experience as a result of the accident. Of course, you need to bring or send these pictures and items to us so that we know they exist and we can determine what use, if any, to make of them. If you are unable to have such photographs made, contact us and we will make arrangements to photograph or document your injuries.
The information in this letter is necessarily general in its terms. Each and every case we have in our office is handled on an individual basis.
We will make an effort to keep you informed by sending you copies of correspondence and other papers, but it is impossible for us to call you and give you a report on your case every week. On the other hand, if you have any questions at any time about your case, do not hesitate to call us.
As your attorney, I will pursue your case as vigorously as possible and hopefully obtain the best results possible for you. As an attorney concentrating in this field and as an officer of the court, I am deeply aware of my professional obligation to you. From the moment I was retained by you, numerous steps were taken and will continue to be taken in your case, which are geared towards bringing your claim to a favorable conclusion. It is not always possible for me to take the time necessary to advise you about all of the minor details, but rest assured that I will let you know of any and all important developments or significant progress in your case. If you do not hear from me for a period of time, it does not mean that your case is not moving along in a normal manner.
We would like for you to read and heed the following advice:
- Keep this letter for further reference during the course of your case.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone other than this office and your doctors.
- Do not sign anything with respect to your claim until you have checked with our office.
- Obtain a bill and keep a record of all hospital, doctor, drugs, and other medical expenses incurred as a result of your injuries. Provide all of these to us. Keep copies for your records.
- Notify us at once of any change of address, telephone number, employment or of any other fact which might affect your case.
- If you are going to be out of town for more than three days, please call us and inform us of this fact.
- If you miss work because of your injuries, notify us right away.
- If you have to go to the hospital, notify us right away.
- If you go to see a new doctor, notify us right away.
- If you are self-employed, keep a record of the time you are unable to work or perform your duties.
- Submit all your medical bills for payment to your health insurance company or to your medical payment insurance company.
- Keep detailed lost time and mileage and parking cost records arising from your injuries.
- Make sure that our office receives copies of all bills and relevant records.
- Keep us informed of any change in your condition, any other accidents, or any developments. It is essential that we know of any and all facts, which might affect your case.
- Keep a daily diary of your physical and emotional condition, days missed from work, your medical appointments and treatment, and the personal things you are unable to do.
- Advise us of at least 3 people who are willing and able to be "before and after" witnesses in your case.
- Photograph or videotape your injuries and the effects of your injuries on your life. Keep anything that might help us show your problems to the other side. Remember -- "A picture is worth a thousand words."
We will be working closely together until your case is completed. Your cooperation is deeply appreciated and will help us to bring your case to a satisfactory conclusion.
Steven E. Willsey
Attorney at Law