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The Importance of Early Legal Consultation and Documentation of Evidence
Because most attorneys specializing in personal injury matters do not charge for initial consultations, it never hurts to consult with a specialist as soon as you are feeling physically and mentally capable. The more seriously injured you are, the more you will likely need the calm, objective perspective of a legal professional dedicated to protecting your rights. Much of the evidence necessary to support your claim must be preserved before it dissipates or becomes destroyed. The sooner you can contact an attorney the better.
Many injured parties wait until the insurance company begins to treat them poorly, or make them a low-ball offer out of the gates to consult with an attorney or even worse after negotiations with the carrier fail and they are dangerously close to the expiration of the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations and other legal notice requirements may vary depending upon the facts, circumstances and potential defendants involved so it is highly recommended that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
What should I do while waiting for legal aid?
While waiting to see a legal professional be sure to preserve as much of the evidence as you can. The following list is an itemization of some of the things you should do – it is by no means exhaustive and every circumstance is different:
Take photographs at the scene of the automobile collision: all the vehicles, skid marks, property damaged, the street/highway to show orientation and perspective of the drivers involved, the interior and exterior (to show interior damage caused by bodily impact, airbag deployment, broken seats, etc. to document the acceleration, deceleration forces imparted on the occupants).
Take photographs of all of your injuries (cuts, scrapes, bruises). If hospitalized, photos while convalescing in the hospital.
If injured due a dangerous condition on someone’s property, take photos of the condition causing your fall/injuries, including the lighting, lack of warnings, and the unique nature of the peril.
Immediately notify your insurance carrier.
Procure a list of witnesses; get names, addresses and telephone numbers.
If injured on someone’s property, notify the owner/occupier as soon as possible to avoid any claims that you have manufactured the incident. Try to determine if the premises are owned, operated or controlled by a public entity. If so, the public entity must be notified in writing in a very specific way within 6 months of the incident or your claim may be forever barred.
DO NOT admit that you are not injured, even if you feel no immediate symptoms. Injuries, like exercise soreness, often reveal themselves within hours or even days after an incident.
DO NOT provide the potential defendants, their insurance adjusters or other agents with any written or recorded statements.
DO NOT sign any Release of liability
DO NOT sign any Medical Authorization for the at fault party or at fault party’s insurance liability insurance.
DO NOT relinquish critical evidence such as your safety gear (helmet, gloves, shoes, etc.).
DO NOT wait to get checked out by a medical professional, even if you turn down the ambulance and are strapped for cash. There are many local clinics who accept clients on a sliding scale.
If you have been injured due to another’s negligence, give us a call or to fill out our online consultation form. Our office accepts cases throughout Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, and Marin Counties and will consider representation in other neighboring counties when appropriate.
Marie is currently the sole proprietor of the Law Offices of Marie Maiolo Muchow. In practice since 1989, where she began her career as an insurance defense litigator in Florida, and serving as a mediator for hundreds of claims since 2003, Marie knows how insurance companies operate, evaluate, and defend claims. Licensed in California since 1996, Marie proudly represents injured victims in the areas of personal injury and insurance litigation. Raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Marie speaks Spanish and provides consultations in Spanish without the need for an interpreter.