The three roles of lawyers in personal injury and wrongful death cases are to (1) preserve the evidence, (2) investigate and present the evidence in settlement negotiations, and (3) try the case if it cannot be settled on a reasonable basis. Early involvement is critical. Otherwise, important rights may be lost.
Preserve the Evidence:
Photographs should be taken of injuries to individuals, stitches, hospital scenes, and bruises. If this information is not preserved, how will a jury evaluate the nature and extent of your injuries years later? In collision cases, it is important to have photographs taken of the scene of the accident and both vehicles involved before any repairs are made. It may be necessary to hire an accident reconstruction engineer to determine the speed of vehicles at the point of impact and other factors involved in the accident. This is not possible without preserving accurate information. Braces, flexible casts, canes, orthopedic plates and screws, and other medical devices should be saved for use as exhibits.
Presentation of the Evidence:
Your attorneys will investigate your claim, obtain medical records and opinions, calculate the expenses and lost wages, project future expenses and lost wages, and meet with you to develop a settlement proposal. Thereafter, a settlement brochure will be sent to the insurance carrier. If the responsible party is uninsured or does not have enough insurance coverage, an uninsured/underinsured claim may be made with your insurance carrier.
Most cases are settled. However, in some cases, the parties simply cannot agree on fair value and a trial is necessary. Alternatives to trial include mediated settlement conferences and arbitration of the case if the other side will agree. Obviously, it is in your interest to have an attorney involved in any serious injury case as soon as possible so that necessary evidence is preserved, witnesses are identified, and the case is properly prepared. The same holds true with cases involving potential medical malpractice and products liability claims.