How Can Delay Hurt My Personal Injury Case?
Injury attorneys often urge clients to “call now” and “don’t delay”. Marketing practices encourage those statements, of course. But there is more to it than that. It really does matter how quickly you obtain legal representation. Here are some ways waiting too long can damage your case:
Preservation of Evidence
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, you may have to file a lawsuit to recover funds to help you pay for medical treatment, compensate for lost time at work, and to compensate you for pain and suffering. To be successful, you will need evidence of the at-fault party’s negligence. Evidence disappears quickly and easily. Surveillance video can be overwritten. Injuries can heal or improve without being properly documented and photographed. Damaged vehicles can contain important clues, but they can also be sold, scrapped, or destroyed after an insurance company decides the vehicle is a total loss. Documents can be lost or destroyed in compliance with regular corporate policies. Sometimes witnesses just delete emails or photographs from their phones.
Shortly after being retained, a personal injury attorney will send notices to the at-fault party requesting the preservation of any evidence that might be important later in your case. This early notice to the other side that a claim is coming obligates them to save evidence and can make a significant difference in the outcome of a case. An experienced trial lawyer will help you consider how best to identify, collect and preserve any other evidence that could prove useful later.
Communication with Insurance Companies
Insurance adjusters will almost always push an injured person to accept a payment before anyone knows what your case is really worth. By doing so, they hope to reduce their own obligation, and care nothing for the true cost of care and compensation for a particular injury. Adjusters can be tricky. They will call frequently and ask how you are doing, knowing that most of us are more or less trained that the polite answer to that question is fine. Adjusters make notes of that, and then use such statements against the injured later. This is just one example of how unscrupulous insurance companies try to undermine claims and wiggle out of their obligations.
If you are able to retain a knowledgeable attorney early on, that attorney can communicate with the insurance companies for you. The earlier this happens the better, as an experienced attorney can provide insurance companies with all the information they need while minimizing the risk that your statements will be taken out of context or deliberately misunderstood.
Waiting too long to retain an attorney or file your lawsuit can result in the loss of your claim. Statutes of limitation apply to most civil torts (lawsuits). Different filing deadlines apply to different types of cases. Regardless of which statute applies to your claim, if you fail to file a lawsuit by that deadline, you have probably lost the ability to recover any compensation forever. Most personal injury attorneys in Colorado will not accept a case that is too close to the filing deadline because of all the work that goes into preparing a case for formal filing. Waiting too long can effectively mean attorneys will no longer be interested in working your claim, and that your claim is forever barred by the courts. The best way to be sure a personal injury attorney has the time needed to thoroughly and fully investigate, negotiate, and prepare your case for formal filing is to contact an attorney as early as you can.
Don’t Rush – Don’t Delay
None of this means you should just choose the first attorney you see in an advertisement. Your choice of attorney should ideally be a careful and deliberate one. The first attorney commercial you see may not be the best fit for you or your case. For some tips on this subject, see my blog post on the subject by clicking here.
However, you should not needlessly delay retaining an attorney. Definitely do not put the issue off in hopes that everything will be easier to deal with when you finish treatment. At Ready Law, I urge potential clients to let me get to work as soon as I possibly can.
The insurance companies have nearly unlimited assets and teams of adjusters and lawyers ready to try to close your case as cheaply and easily as they can, regardless of how your injuries have impacted you. You can have an experienced and passionate trial lawyer dealing with the insurance companies for you, so you can focus on healing and know that your legal interests are protected.