Answers to commonly asked questions
I was in an accident, what should I do?
This applies whether you are the victim or the cause of the accident. To the extent possible, document the accident by taking photos of the scene and damaged vehicles. Down the road, these photos may include evidence helpful to your case. Years ago, I represented an elderly woman who was accused of causing an accident. She had taken scene photos and the location of vehicle damage debris helped prove that she had completed the left turn and could not have caused the accident. The jury rendered a defense verdict, exonerating her from the allegation that she caused the accident.
Most importantly, if you are injured see a medical professional. This applies again to everyone involved in the accident. Even if you caused the accident, your health and well-being is number one. If you are the injured victim, it is imperative that you obtain treatment. If you don’t, the other side will argue that you must not have been hurt or else you would have gone to the doctor. I know this because I have made this argument successfully many times over the years.
DO NOT sign any authorizations allowing the opposing insurance company to obtain your medical and employment records. Often, the authorization they provide you is overly broad and enables them to obtain confidential information that is, frankly, none of their business and a violation of your privacy.
DO NOT give the opposing insurance company a written or recorded statement. Again, this applies whether you caused the accident or were the victim. Contrary to what they may tell you, they aren’t just trying to “determine liability.” They want to nail you down so that later on they can use the statement to argue that you are inconsistent, or at worst, a liar.
DO cooperate with your own insurance company. They cannot release any information to the adverse insurance company without your permission.
DO contact us at Hitchcock Law Inc. We are here for you.
Can I afford to hire a lawyer? I don’t have any money.
Yes, you can. If you are the victim, we will handle your case on a contingency basis. Meaning, if we don’t get a recovery for you, you owe us no fees. We don’t get paid unless and until you get paid.
If you caused the accident and are served a lawsuit, your own insurance company will hire an attorney to defend you and pay that attorney’s legal fees. Depending on the insurance carrier, you may end up with Hitchcock Law Inc. defending you. In which case, you will receive the same passionate representation that we provide to our injured clients.
I wasn’t in a car accident, but I was hurt because of someone else’s actions, what should I do?
Call us at Hitchcock Law Inc. We will listen to you and determine whether you have legal remedies. Our legal system provides many avenues for relief and is broad enough to cover something as obscure as damages for wrongful repossession of a car. Laws are also in place for cases involving elder and child abuse, discrimination and sexual harassment, and various forms of negligence and intentional conduct. Don’t make the mistake of thinking there is nothing you can do. Call us, we are here to help.
What exactly is the “claims process?”
When an accident of any nature occurs, and it’s covered by insurance, such as a car accident or slip-and-fall, an investigation takes place. For example, if you are in a convenience store and melted ice on the floor causes you injury from a slip and fall, your fall will be reported to the convenience store’s insurance carrier. The insurance carrier will “open” a claim. They will then investigate whether the store is at fault. If they decide the store is not at fault, they will send you a letter denying your claim. If they believe that the store was to blame, then they will attempt to obtain as much information as possible about your injury and the damages you sustained. After this, they may offer you money to settle your claim.
Be wary of settlement offers. Not all insurers will try to take advantage of you, but many will. They will offer you far less than your claim is worth. If your claim does not settle, you will need to initiate the litigation process. At Hitchcock Law Inc. we know the litigation process inside and out. Call us.
What is litigation?
Ideally, litigation is not necessary and a claim will settle during the claims process. Sometimes injured people are not offered a fair settlement. When this happens, we utilize the civil courts and the litigation process. The first step is to file a lawsuit against the person or entity that caused your injury. At this point, you are no longer a “claimant,” you are a “plaintiff.” Once the lawsuit is served on the at-fault party, he or she has a specified amount of time (typically 30 days, depending on the way in which the lawsuit was served) to file a response with the court. At this point, the at-fault party is now called the “defendant.”
The next step is referred to as discovery. This is simply an information gathering process by both sides. Discovery involves answering written questions and sometimes depositions. During discovery, the defendant has the right to obtain all pertinent medical records. Because of this, it is imperative that you have been honest about your physical condition. If you had prior back pain, we will disclose it. Nothing looks worse than trying to hide a prior condition.
Once information gathering is completed, the next step typically involves settlement negotiations or mediation. If we cannot reach an agreement on what is a fair settlement, then the last and final step is a jury trial. At trial, the jury is given the information obtained in discovery, and they decide what you deserve to receive. Most cases do not end up going to a jury trial, but you must have an attorney who is a competent trial lawyer. Insurance companies keep track. They know which lawyers will go to trial and which ones won’t. An experienced trial lawyer makes your case more valuable for purposes of settlement. A true trial lawyer will also obtain a more successful verdict than a lawyer who shies away from the courtroom.
At Hitchcock Law Inc., we try cases and have a proven track record of success in the courtroom.