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Steps in a Personal Injury Claim
A question we often get when people contact my firm about representation on potential personal injury claims is the question of what the steps are in a personal injury claim or personal injury lawsuit. Almost on a weekly basis some form of this question gets asked, and the advice that I always tell people is, first and foremost, if you are involved in a potential personal injury claim, if you or a loved one have been hurt by someone else’s bad conduct or negligence, the first thing to focus on is the medical treatment of just getting better. It’s a personal injury and your health is at stake. First and foremost, we want you to get better; we want you to get the treatment that you need. Simultaneous with that, or as fast as you can after seeking out the medical treatment, we do advise that you consult with an attorney who regularly handles personal injury cases.
The reason it is so important that you talk to an attorney early in the case is not because we’re just going to run out and file a lawsuit, or not just because you want to get a claim going immediately. There are just some practical reasons that will help you down the road if you have an attorney involved early on. These are things that you just don’t think about unless you’re an attorney who handles these types of cases on a regular basis – things like preservation of evidence, preserving and documenting the scene of the accident, documenting the scene of a premises liability claim, talking to witnesses, identifying those witnesses, etc. Most of the time, it’s a lot easier to run down and get the identity of a witness closer to the time when the event happened than if you wait months or weeks or years down the road. The preservation of the claim itself and how you prove it is going to go so much smoother if an attorney is involved in that process.
At some point along the way, you will file a claim, presumably with the insurance company for the person who caused that claim or with the individual or corporation themselves. That’s where having an attorney involved becomes particularly important. No matter how much you think that they’re going to treat you fairly, you need an attorney who works these claims regularly in order to know what your full rights are and help with valuation of the claim. This is a specialized area of practice, and most people, if you don’t do this on a regular basis, just have no idea how to put a value on their claim. People regularly overlook elements of the claim that help you determine a value, or else they’ll short-sell themselves. Having an attorney involved early on in the process helps in that regard.
Once the time comes for you to file a claim and you’re trying to negotiate it, having an experienced practitioner who regularly negotiates these types of cases is going to be to your benefit. Most importantly, and what we see on a regular basis, is that claims just do not settle for fair value early and fast. Often, because of the insurance company’s greed and their daily practice of just not treating claims fairly and not treating people fairly, they will try to undercut your claim, devalue it, and prove that they don’t owe anything. This often leads to litigation.
What I have learned over my years of practice and through my success in this field is that the best way to approach litigating a case is to win that case before you ever file suit. The way that you do that is having an attorney involved— an experienced practitioner in personal injury cases and trial lawyer who knows how to prepare the case and take it to trial. The type of attorney who will get it in the best position possible, who will have all of these facts and evidence gathered up before you ever file suit. When you file suit with the right lawyer on your side, the insurance company and the defense counsel know that you are prepared to take it all the way. Working up the case the right way is how you get in a position to get paid fairly and to get top dollar for your claim. As always, if you have any questions about a personal injury claim, the Brad Morris Law Firm is here to help, and we would be happy to give a free consult or just answer your questions about your potential claim.
We’ve recently had a couple of cases that we were able to resolve for fair value, or what I would say are top dollar for our clients. One was a death case involving a tractor trailer truck; another, a medical malpractice case. In both of those cases, what became central to us getting top dollar on those cases were the experts that we retained in those cases. Expert witnesses are very common in personal injury cases. Since our practice is headquartered here in Mississippi, we’re particularly attuned to that fact because in Mississippi you have to have an expert consult on your case before you can even file suit in a medical malpractice case. You need an attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice cases, who has worked those types of cases before, and who knows the nuances of these cases. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting an attorney who potentially misses key steps like that. For instance, in a medical malpractice case, you would have an expert review the case and acknowledge to the attorney that there is a basis for bringing the claim before you even are able, under our statutes, to go file suit.
Those statutory requirements aside, experts can be very important in proving up your cases. Here in our firm, we use experts regularly in a number of ways to prove our cases across the board. For instance, in the car wreck and tractor trailer case that I gave earlier as an example, we brought in crash reconstruction experts. We use some of the top experts here in Mississippi on our cases, sending them to the crash scene to survey it, pull in the information and then reconstruct what happened in that wreck. This can show scientifically how and why the defendant in that case was responsible for the wreck and how that led to the injuries or sometimes death of our clients. That information is critical in addressing the liability issues in a case so that you remove doubt about liability and get to a place where you show the defendants are absolutely liable. You do that through expert reports, expert testimony and the science that they bring— hard science.
Similarly, in medical malpractice cases, you want an expert in that field. This expert will work with you getting ready for trial and building up the case so that you show the science and demonstrate what the defendant did wrong in the case. The reality is developing these relationships with experts and understanding how to manage experts takes time and experience. It takes a trial lawyer who has been there before to do that the right way.
It also requires significant expenditure, so one of the things you want to look for when you’re consulting with or talking with potential attorneys on your potential personal injury claim is if this firm has the means and the ability to go out and hire top notch experts to pursue your claim. Are they willing to do that? Do they have the budget and the capability to get the experts they need to prove up the case and get top dollar, versus someone who may cut corners or may not be able to afford the very best? Other types of experts often get involved in cases, preparing exhibits, visuals, or videos that demonstrate what happened, or the nature of the injury that the client had. Also, we regularly use economic experts to show the true value of the harm and damages that our client sustained.
These are just some of the examples of how experts, when used by experienced, competent trial lawyers can really help drive not only the success of your case, but the value of them. We try hard to do that and do it in the right way. I’m Brad Morris, here at Brad Morris Law Firm. We’re always available for a free consult. If you have a personal injury case and believe that our help or additional experts may be able to help your case, we’re here to consult with you on that and try to answer your questions.
I was recently on the phone with a potential client here in north Mississippi. We were discussing their potential case. It was a tough case involving someone who had lost a family member as the result of someone else’s bad conduct and negligence. I won’t go into the details of that case, but suffice it to say the spouse who was bringing the potential claim was confused about whether or not they had a case. They had heard about people having claims for emotional distress or their emotional loss and asked me if it’s true that in Mississippi you can recover for emotional distress. I think that is a great question that a lot of people— because of what you see on TV or hear from others— may not be sure about, and it’s a question that I thought we could address here.
The answer to that question is, yes, you can recover in Mississippi in a personal injury claim for your emotional distress. That can result from what we call pain and suffering—the pain that they go through as a result of that injury, or the suffering that they go through as a result of that injury. This pain and suffering is and should be compensable under our law. It can also go to the emotional distress that’s tied to the loss of a loved one, as in the case that I was referencing, where a spouse had died as a result of someone else’s negligence. The spouse who survives and their children – and there could be other members of the family, depending on the situation – under our law are entitled to compensation, not just for the lost earning capacity of that individual, not just for the economic loss of medical bills and those types of things, but for the very real emotional loss of having someone torn from you before their time as a result of someone else’s bad conduct.
The short answer is, yes, under our law here in Mississippi and in most states, you can recover for that emotional loss. The key in doing so is having an attorney and a law firm that deals regularly in these types of claims for personal injury and wrongful death, who knows how to work up the case to get you the correct value, the true value, the top dollar for those emotional losses. It’s not enough just to say that you had them and to make a claim for them, it has to be proven. It’s only with the right experience and working up the case and putting in the sweat equity and working up the case properly that you get that value that you deserve for those very real emotional losses.
As always, we are here at Brad Morris Law Firm are available to consult on your case, if you have any questions, and to get you answers.
Should I Accept the Insurance Company’s First Settlement Offer?
In our practice here in Mississippi, very regularly, a high percentage of the calls we get from potential clients on personal injury cases involve a client asking whether they should accept the first offer that an insurance company has made in their claim, since they’ve been, for instance, in a car wreck or some other type of injury and they know they have a claim. They’ve talked with the insurance company involved, and there’s an offer on the table. They then call to ask us if they should take that offer from the insurance company. The simple answer is that I would advise you to not accept any offer from any insurance company without at least consulting with an attorney first. The reason for that is, if you speak with and consult with an attorney who regularly handles personal injury claims and has experience and some level of success in handling those claims, they’re going to have a much better sense of what the value of that claim is than a person who doesn’t do that every day.
You’re really selling yourself short if you don’t speak with an attorney who does this on a regular basis. Here’s the thing. Most attorneys, like our firm here, who do these cases on a regular basis, will tell you, if it’s a fair offer, to take it. If it’s not a fair offer, and they believe they can add value to that claim for you, then they can consult with you and walk you down a path to get your fair value. You have nothing to lose by contacting that attorney. Just make sure that you’re contacting trial attorneys who handle personal injury cases on a regular basis and who have experience in these cases and some success.
I believe that most firms, like ourselves included, can look at your case and see if the offer is a fair offer. Most of the time, that first offer never ever is fair because the insurance companies expect you to negotiate back and forth with them. If you have an attorney involved, they know that there’s going to be some negotiation involved. Usually that first offer— especially if you do not have a lawyer representing you,— is an offer and an attempt to just buy the claim for cheap. What they’re looking to do is wave a little money in front of you and pay a fraction of what that claim is worth in order to get it off their books and save them money by not paying full value.
Don’t just accept the first offer that you’re given. Talk with an experienced trial lawyer who handles personal injury claims and is going to deal with you fairly. I know, certainly, myself and my firm do. If we can’t get more, we’ll tell you that and advise you to take that offer. If there’s value to be had and you’re not being treated fairly, then we can consult with you and advise you, and then walk you down a path to get you what you deserve on your claim.
I hope this is helpful. I’m Brad Morris, with the Brad Morris Law Firm, and if you have a personal injury claim that you believe we could help you with, we offer free consultations and we’re here to answer your questions.
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