Personal Injury Cases – Know your Rights!
One of the most important elements of successful litigation of personal injury suits starts with understanding your rights.
Our legal system is complex and our legal code can often be written in a way that is not immediately clear to an untrained observer. This is especially true for people that aren’t used to dealing with insurance companies, law enforcement, corporate litigators or lawyers in general.
Because of this, it is vital to understand the basic elements of your rights if you are injured in a car accident, suffer a slip and fall injury or are a victim of a general personal injury that is not your fault.
This process starts with the understanding that what you say to others in the midst of injury or after the fact can be used against you in a court of law. Obviously when experiencing an injury and in the immediacy of a chaotic situation, it is not uncommon for the ‘filter’ that governs what we say (and the way in which we say it) to be hindered or completely removed.
That said, it is important if you reach out to legal counsel for an personal injury related suit, to recount as best you can anything that you may have said or stated during the incident. This includes any colorful language that may have been blurted out, even if it is embarrassing to recall. Sharing as much information as you can with your legal counsel is important to the potential success of your litigation.
However, that forthcoming nature is exactly that – for YOUR legal counsel. The law protects the communications, both digital and otherwise, between a client and their legal representation. If you’ve ever watched an episode of CSI or Law and Order, you’ve probably seen this aspect of the law played out in dramatic fashion.
This brings us to the other situation – where sharing unnecessary information with others is not protected and can come back to harm you later on during the litigation or negotiation process of a personal injury lawsuit.
Speaking to the authorities/police
We all want to be upstanding and respectable citizens that dutifully participate in the civil process. However, that mentality can actually do more harm than good to someone with otherwise perfectly honorable intentions when speaking with law enforcement on the scene of an accident. If, after an automobile accident for example, you feel that you were injured due to the actions of the other driver, you may be inclined to offer up very detailed and descriptive accounts of the situation to a responding officer. Now, to those not involved in the world of personal injury law, that may seem perfectly reasonable. HOWEVER, that is not typically the case and when making statements to authorities, it is important to understand that anything you say can be used against you later on in a personal injury suit, even if an accident was no fault of your own. Assume that what you say to a responding officer will end up in a police report as it very likely will.
Although it is important to follow legal commands, especially in emergency situations (safety first as always), it is equally important to know that you are under NO obligation to answer questions without your attorney present. This means you are perfectly within your rights to POLITELY decline to answer questions without legal representation.
Speaking to Insurance Agents after an Accident
This is another situation where, if you are injured an accident that you know was not your fault, you may be inclined to speak at length with insurance agents from your insurance company, or in the case of an automobile accident, the insurance company of the other driver.
First thing first, and this is simple: DO NOT speak with the insurance company of the OTHER driver. You are under no legal obligation to speak with the insurance company of the other driver and the purpose of them calling you is likely to get information that works in THEIR favor or in the favor of the OTHER driver (not yours).
As for speaking with your insurance agent after an accident, there may be information you are required to provide as a participant/contracted purchaser of your insurance plan. However, it is best to retain legal counsel first so you can be advised on how to best go about this process. There is no harm in stating to your own insurance company that you either have, or are seeking legal counsel and will get back to them shortly.
What should I do if my insurance company is the same as the other driver’s insurance company?
Seek legal counsel immediately and don’t speak to anyone from the insurance company until doing so.
This situation can present itself in very unfortunate situations where someone from YOUR insurance company calls you and announces the company that they are from (again, this is your insurance company) but the agent is actually assigned to the OTHER driver who is also insured under the same company. This can lead to offering up detailed descriptions to the worst possible recipient of this information and even with the best of cases, even with police report statements on your side, your words can come back to work against you later on. If you make a statement that contradicts anything, even something seemingly unrelated like the angle at which the vehicle stopped or who exited the vehicle first, etc. it could end up as impossible to overcome these statements legally later on.
The bottom line is this: the things you say to others hold a lot of legal weight which is why contacting legal counsel should be the first step after ensuring the immediate safety of yourself and those around you.
If you have been injured in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, or are the victim of a personal injury, give us a call or setup a virtual consultation. As specialists in Reno Personal Injury Law, we can help you understand and exercise your rights. The Personal Injury Attorneys at Galloway & Jensen are here to FIGHT for YOU!