Understanding your personal injuries and damages
In personal injury law, the wrongdoer (the law calls him a "tortfeasor"- we usually call him the "bad guy") is responsible for all of the injuries caused by his negligence or other unlawful conduct. If you are injured as a direct result of the bad guy's conduct, you are entitled to be fully compensated for all the injuries that you suffered. The goal is to make the injured party "whole." That is, the purpose of monetary compensation is to try to restore you and your family to the position that you were in before your accident. This compensation is to fix things that are fixable, improve things that are improvable and make up for things that can be neither fixed nor improved.
Once it is clear that the bad guy is at fault, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you fully identify and understand your injuries. Your law firm will obtain and review your medical records and talk with you, your family, perhaps co-workers and even your physicians to fully understand your injuries and how they have affected your life. We have learned that sometimes co-workers or neighbors give the best insight into the impacts on a person. Using prior experience with similar cases, your lawyer is often able to make an estimate of the range of dollar amounts a jury could award.
In recent years, insurance companies, their lobbyists and corporate interests have put forth a great deal of propaganda that casts personal injury victims and their lawyers in an unfavorable light. They do this purposely to bias potential jurors against injured people and in favor of the people and insurance companies they have to sue. Often, the media exacerbates this problem by highlighting bizarre or rare multi-million dollar cases. This creates the mistaken perception that most people pursuing personal injury claims receive unjust windfalls, or do not entirely deserve the compensation they receive. Nothing is further from the truth. In reality, most people injured by careless bad guys are hardworking Americans who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Proving Your Injuries Can Prove Your Claim
Sometimes, understanding your injuries can actually help prove your case. We are familiar with a case where a nine-year-old boy was hit by a car while running back across the street from an ice cream truck. The driver of the car claimed that she was not at fault and that the boy had simply run into the side of the car. Even the investigating police officer took the driver's word and decided the little boy was at fault. There were no other witnesses.
However, thanks to the experienced personal injury lawyer the boy's family consulted, that was not the end of the investigation. The lawyer investigated and researched the particular type of leg fracture the boy had. To make a long story short, the lawyer was able to prove, using medical and scientific evidence and testimony, that the only way the injury could have occurred was if the car had hit the boy, as opposed to the boy running into the car. By fully understanding the injuries in the case, the lawyer was able to turn a claim denied by the insurance company into a substantial recovery to provide for the boy's future.
Follow Through With Your Doctors
The full extent of your injuries is often not obvious immediately after a collision. Some people may feel that they did not sustain a serious injury, only to discover weeks or months later that what they initially thought was a minor injury has worsened and may require significant medical treatment. Because of this possibility, one of the things you should do after an accident is see a doctor for a full evaluation. Depending on the type of injury, it may be best to consult with a specialist. Be certain to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms, no matter how minor they may seem. You should see this doctor as soon as possible after your accident, so the doctor can properly document the full extent of your injuries. This documentation is important because it creates a clear record of your injuries and treatment, which is essential in a legal claim. In fact, experience teaches us that no piece of paper in a claim is more important than accurate medical records.
Immediately after the injury it may be difficult even for the most experienced doctor to tell you how long you will require medical treatment. Depending on your condition, you may need follow-up care for the first few weeks or months after you leave the hospital. For some extremely serious injuries, you may need long-term or even lifelong care. Because it is often difficult to predict your needs early in a case, it is important for you to be vigilant about your health. If you notice a change in your symptoms, you should be certain to tell your doctor about it. You should also, of course, actively participate in your own recovery by following your doctor's orders, taking your medications and undergoing whatever rehabilitation or treatment your doctor recommends.
Your lawyer will also need to know about changes in your condition and how they affect your life, so he or she can explain the full extent of your injuries and damages to the insurance company or jury and seek the fairest resolution of your claim. To help your lawyer, you should keep a written record of your medical treatment and how your life has been affected by your injuries. This will also help you refresh your memory later, in case your claim goes to trial months or years after the accident.
When your treatment is completed or your doctor feels you have reached maximum medical improvement, your lawyer may request additional medical records, to better understand how the injuries will affect you in the future.
Medical Records Can Be Essential
One example of a case in which understanding the injuries was crucial was when a 50-year-old construction worker suffered back injuries after being struck by a dropped piece of drywall. The worker had been employed in the construction industry for 30 years at the time of his accident, and had back pain on and off throughout his working life, just because of the nature of his job. Thankfully, he was always able to recover from whatever was causing his back pain and return to work without restrictions.
In this case, the drywall was dropped by an employee from another company. That company contended that the injured worker's back problems were already there so it was were not responsible for the injury. However, after a thorough investigation, the lawyer used medical evidence such as a detailed comparison of imaging studies taken before and after the accident, consultation with medical experts and further medical testing, to prove when the injuries occurred. This proof made the difference in the case, allowing the injured worker to recover financial compensation for his medical care, his pain and other damages.