As you catch up on TV after a recent injury, you might notice commercials advertising various law firms that handle personal injury lawsuits. However, before you limp to your phone and start contacting attorneys, it is important to think carefully about your situation. Here are two questions you should ask yourself before meeting with a lawyer, so that you don't waste anyone's time:
1: "Is it too late to file?"
Sometimes when people ponder legal action, they err on the side of caution. Instead of meeting with an attorney to discuss your options, you might be tempted to wait, rest, and recover. Unfortunately, waiting too long might mean that you aren't eligible to file a lawsuit at all. Each state has their own statute of limitations regarding personal injury lawsuits, and depending on where you live, they can range significantly. For example, you might have as long as 6 years from the date of your accident to file if you live in Maine, but only 1 year if you reside in Louisiana.
Before you meet with an attorney, research the statutes for personal injury lawsuits in your state. Use paperwork from your accident, such as police reports and hospital discharge papers, to determine the exact date your injuries occurred on. After you know whether you are eligible to file a lawsuit, you can make an appointment with an attorney confidently.
2: "What losses were incurred?"
Although that future settlement might seem like a random sum of money, settlements are actually carefully calculated by estimating your current and future damages. However, if you haven't actually sustained any significant loss, your lawyer might not have anything to sue for. Before you meet with your attorney, take the time to think about how your accident has impacted your life. Here are a few things to factor into the equation, and how to prove you sustained the loss:
- Property Loss: Did you lose any personal property because of the accident? For example, was your bike destroyed when that driver rammed into you on the street? If so, research the cost of repairing or replacing your property. If your property was one-of-a-kind, such as a painting or something you built, try to determine how much similar items would sell for on the market today. Being able to estimate your property loss totals might help your lawyer to determine whether or not to take on your case, and how much you stand to win in court.
- Medical Expenses: After you are injured, keep track of all of your medical expenses, including prescription medications, copays, and over-the-counter medical supplies. These expenses will be factored into your settlement.
- Time Away from Work: Your accident might cost you more than a trip to the hospital and a few bottles of medicine. If you have to miss work to recover, you might be losing out on potential income. Keep track of when you have to miss work, and make copies of schedules. If you can, communicate with your boss via email or text message so that you have record of how your accident impacted your ability to earn an income.
To make things easier for your future attorney, keep all of your documentation in one place. For example, you might decide to use a cheap binder to store your medical bills, your car accident repair paperwork, and printed emails to and from your boss. By providing your attorney with complete, thorough, and organized paperwork, it might help him or her to get the ball rolling on your lawsuit.
By carefully evaluating your situation, you might be better prepared to meet with a personal injury attorney and fight for what is rightfully yours.