Protecting Your Michigan Personal Injury Claim
If you've been injured in an accident in Michigan as the result of someone else's negligence or wrongdoing, you may be entitled to bring a claim to recover compensation for the injuries you have suffered.
If you find yourself in such a situation, it is vitally important that you take certain steps to protect your claim. In many cases, your failure to protect your rights may jeopardize your ability to obtain recovery.
While contacting an attorney to discuss your case, and to receive counsel about the specific steps you should take, the following is a list of steps that should be taken in every personal injury case:
Initiate a Thorough Investigation
Preserving the evidence in your case is essential. As such, it is critically important that a full investigation be commenced as quickly as possible following your accident. This investigation should include the following:
(a) Interviewing all of the eyewitnesses to your accident;
(b) Photographing the scene;
(c) Photographing any vehicles involved in the accident, including cars, trucks, boats, or airplanes. Both the inside and outside of the vehicle should be photographed, taking great care to show the extent of damage to the vehicle;
(d) Taking measurements at the accident scene, and collecting any physical evidence left behind;
(e) Interviewing police officers who responded to the accident, and receiving copies of any reports they filed as part of their investigation process.
This investigation should be handled by a private investigator, who may be retained directly by you, or who may be hired by the attorney representing your claim.
Photograph Injuries and Document the Course of Treatment
Documenting the nature and extent of your injuries is also important. You should take high-quality photos of any visible injury you have sustained, which may include cuts and lacerations, bruising, burns, surgical scars, disfigurement, and any other injury which is directly attributable to the accident. You should continue to photograph these injuries throughout the recovery and rehabilitation process.
By preserving this information via photographs, you create a record of both your injuries, and the struggles that you went through on your road to recovery. These photographs may become important in proving your claim during litigation.
Avoid Investigators or Adjusters Representing the Interests of the Party at Fault
In most personal injury claims, the Defendant is represented by an insurance company, and this insurer will likely begin its own investigation immediately after the accident. In most cases, a representative of the insurance company will attempt to contact the victim of the accident, to obtain a statement from the victim regarding how the accident occurred and the injuries the victim has suffered.
It is extremely important that any accident victim not provide a statement until after he or she has consulted with an attorney who specializes in personal injury claims. Any statement that the victim provides may later be used against the victim in his or her claim.
Refuse to Sign Medical Authorizations, Except Those Requested by the Victim's Own Insurance Company
As with statements regarding how the accident happened, many insurance companies will seek to obtain the medical records of the victim involved in the accident. It is important that the victim not provide such authorization until after he or she has had an opportunity to discuss the claim with a personal-injury attorney.
Avoid Premature Settlement Negotiations Without Proper Legal Advice
In some cases, the insurance company representing the person or entity at fault in your accident will attempt to enter into settlement negotiations with you. It is of the utmost importance that you first seek legal counsel from a personal-injury attorney before agreeing to any settlement with an insurance company. Once settlements are reached and signed for, these settlements become binding. In many cases, the victim will find him or herself without compensation which adequately reflects the nature and extent of the injuries he or she has suffered.