Firm Recommendations to Properly Preserve Your Legal Rights
General Overview of A Massachusetts Personal Injury Claim
(Automobile, Motorcycle, Pedestrian)
What are your rights?
As a general rule, if you (plaintiff) sustain personal injury or property loss as a result of another person's (defendant) intentional or negligent act, you are entitled to recover monetary compensation. Common examples of personal injury claims include auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall incidents (unnatural accumulation of snow & ice), products (defective) liability, medical malpractice, premises liability and dog bites. Gornstein & Associates, LLC, also handle more severe and complex litigation directly related to Wrongful Death. If you choose to seek a monetary recovery, examples of available categories of compensation are provable economic or wage loss (past & future), property damage, employee benefit losses, health care expenses, pain & disability, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Your ability to recover is primarily based upon legal considerations. Of utmost importance is whether or not the defendant has liability for your loss, and secondly, whether you did anything that would qualify as "negligent" and thereby constitute an offset or contribution against your claim by virtue of a concept known as "comparative or contributory negligence". Once liability is established, then you must still prove your damages as a factual matter. Even if you prove liability and damages, your recovery is dependent upon the resources of the defendant to pay your award, either through insurance or other non-exempt assets.
Do you need an attorney?
No law requires you to retain an attorney to assist you with your claim. However, the legal expertise and experience that a qualified personal injury attorney brings to the case generally will increase the likelihood of a fair and reasonable settlement. Insurance and personal injury law can become complex topics in some factual settings. At Gornstein & Associates, LLC, our attorney's expertise can prove invaluable when interpreting your legal rights and applying them to the facts of your case.
Why consult an attorney first?
Any and all information, which you provide to an insurance company, may be used against you later. You are not required to make any statement to an adverse insurance adjuster (as opposed to your own carrier's adjuster); although not giving a statement will slow settlement. It is advisable to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney before giving any statement to any adjuster, whether or not you decide to retain the attorney. This precaution regarding statements to adjusters applies to both the adverse carrier and to your own insurance carrier (PIP/UIM). If meeting with an attorney prior to making any statement is impossible or inconvenient, be as reserved in your answers as possible while still ALWAYS telling the truth. Inform the adjuster on the recorded portion of the interview that you will be supplying a written statement regarding the accident, and that statement, not the recorded interview, should be considered the "official" version. All recorded statements should be made with consultation of this office only. All statements can be used against you later.
What are the fees and costs involved with retaining an attorney?
Our firm accepts personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, plus out of pocket costs. A contingent fee is computed by multiplying the agreed upon contingent percentage against your total recovery. The "fee" is for the time spent by the attorney and staff working on your case, which if computed in hourly rate terms could be substantial or even higher than what a contingent fee returns. Contingent fee percentages range from 1/3 or 33.33% to 44% depending upon the attorney and stage of proceedings at which the attorney becomes involved. One-third percentages are the norm, and there should be extraordinarily good reasons to pay more for the services provided. Out of pocket costs are expenses incurred by the attorney during your representation in addition to his or her fee. These costs are your responsibility whether you win or lose. Examples of out of pocket expenses are court filing fees, healthcare records & narrative report fees, exhibit preparation costs, travel expenses, photocopies, expert witness fees, computer assisted legal research (CALR), service of process charges, and delivery or postal charges. When you retain Gornstein & Associates, LLC, on any claim or service all agreements are in writing, you must read it carefully, and never be afraid to ask questions if you have any concern or confusion over the agreement's provisions. You also have the right to have a seperate non-biased attorney review any agreement we provide.
What about health care?
You are free to select any health care provider you desire for treatment of your personal injury. Your right to reimbursement may be affected by managed care limitations or the contract provisions of your automotive personal injury (Med Pay-Motorcycle or PIP) policy. Any competent health care provider can assist you with your health care recovery, including hospital care, surgical procedures, out patient services, P/T or physical therapy, orthopedic speacialists, chiropractic, naturopathic or allopathic (M.D.) doctors. Chiropractic doctors do address treatment for motor vehicle victims when the injuries relate to focus of chiropractic on the neuro-muscloskeletal system, articulations thereof, and spinal dysfunction. At Gornstein & Associates, LLC, we believe in the healing potential of chiropractic when the injuries sustained fall within their scope of practice, and we fully support your decision to utilize your chiropractic doctor if it brings you comfort and a medical end point.
Here are some guidelines available on how to conduct yourself in an auto accident scenario?
1. At the Scene
Stop and render limited assistance to the victims of the accident, whether or not you are involved in the accident. If anyone is injured or more than $500 of damage appears to have occurred, then call the police and wait for their arrival. If possible, do not move the vehicles even if traffic is inconvenienced. Obtain as much information as you can regarding other drivers, passengers and potential witnesses.
2. File an accident report
File an accident report with the state police or local police, your insurance company and the MA. Registry of Motor vehicles, This is your responsibility if not police action at time of accident took place. Your attorney can complete these documents if they are retained before the fifth day after the accident took place. Forms are available from the MA State Police and or your local police station.
3. Notify your Insurance Company.
Call your own insurance company and report the accident. Remember to avoid recorded statements until you have spoken to an attorney (JUST SAY NO!!). You cannot make a claim for personal injury protection or Med-Pay until you report the accident to your own carrier. Remember that sooner or later, your own carrier may become an adversary or their files may be subject to subpoena by the opposing party, so tell the TRUTH but be careful what you tell them.
4. Avoid Discussions About Case.
Do not discuss your case with anyone, except your attorney. Tell your doctor what he or she needs to know in order to effectively treat you, and avoid any casual remarks. Tell your PIP/MedPay adjuster what he or she needs to know in order to process your claim, and avoid rambling conversations where you may say too much, or else tell them to call Gornstein & Associates, LLC, and we will talk to them for you!
5. Avoid signing documents.
Do not sign any document without consulting an attorney or having the document reviewed by someone whose judgment you trust in the event you do not intend to retain an attorney. If the insurance adjuster is only settling for property damage, make sure that the check; release and any other documents reflect the settlement is only for property damage and not bodily injury. Once you sign a comprehensive, bodily injury release, your claim will be concluded and your right to obtain future compensation will, in almost all cases, be forfeited. Signing any document may have legal consequences, so always be sure of what you are signing and its effect or call us for help!
6. Have your Doctor Examine You.
If you believe that you suffered an injury in the accident, get yourself examined at the emergency room of the nearest hospital on the day of the accident, or as soon as possible thereafter. By way of follow-up, contact your primary care physician and he may refer and prescribe certain additional services such as a chiropractic doctor or other healthcare provider that has experience in treating automotive accident injuries.
7. Record keeping is Essential.
Keep a detailed record of all expenses incurred as a result of your accident, including time off from work, lost benefits, lost overtime, mileage to and from your healthcare providers, prescriptions and health care expenses.
8. Maintain a Diary.
Keep a diary specifically focused on the aftermath of the accident. Do not use this diary for general reflections on your life. Record levels of pain, activities that had to be curtailed or avoided, effects on social, recreational, work and family. Be honest and consistent with your assessments.
9. Stay in Touch.
If you hired an attorney, and use a doctor, keep in touch with those professionals. Let them know when you are out of town for more than a week. Provide them with any new addresses or phone numbers for home and work. Notify them of any unusual change in your circumstances, e.g. loss of job, divorce, re-injury, etc.
10. Be Patient.
Claims can take some time to resolve (usually 6 months for non-complex cases and up to 1-3 years for more complex), particularly if you are still undergoing treatment. Stay involved with your case, and make sure your attorney keeps you up to date. However, sometimes nothing is going to happen in your case, so do not become anxious if months go by while the attorney waits for your recovery, or for the insurance company's response.
The foregoing information is intended to highlight some important points regarding personal injury claims. It is not intended to be relied upon for specific legal advice, however the staff of Gornstein & Associates, LLC, is available and is always willing to discuss your case facts at any time at no charge to you.