The What, How, and Why of Personal Injury Lawyers in New York: Best Tips How to Boost Your Representation
After a serious accident resulting in personal injuries, lost wages, medical bills, or other losses, you may decide that you need a lawyer to help you recover compensation. Personal injury lawyers are one of the most well-known types of lawyers, sensationalized by TV, movies, and the media as courtroom lawyers arguing with insurance companies and recovering millions of dollars like in the infamous “hot coffee” case. While that can be true, most personal injury lawyers do a lot more than just argue in a courtroom—and not all cases result in millions of dollars in verdicts, settlements, or other awards.
Rather, most personal injury cases settle before trial. Further, sensationalized injuries such as the “hot coffee” case are rare, with most injuries being soft tissue (neck or back), broken bones, and ligament/tendon injuries. Although it is true that most personal injury lawyers go into courtrooms often, most appearances are for conferences rather than litigation.
So then what does a personal injury lawyer actually do, and what are some of the best tips to help boost your representation to maximize your recovery?
What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Actually Do
Most of what a personal injury lawyer does is not in a courtroom—and most times they are actually in a courtroom, it is spent in compliance conferences, preliminary conferences, settlement conferences, motion appearances, Part 1s (pretrial settlement conferences), mediations, and pretrial conferences.
Indeed, most of a personal injury lawyer’s work is performed in an office. The bulk of it is compiling medical records, accident reports, and other evidence to draft pleadings or motion papers. Most of the drafting work also requires significant legal research. Other office work occurs in depositions, which is a sworn examination before trial by a lawyer of a witness or party. Depositions are recorded by a stenographer and often occur at a lawyer’s office but could occur at a neutral site as well.
Another important facet of practicing personal injury law is drafting settlement demands and negotiating resolutions. This includes negotiations with both insurance adjusters and defense lawyers, as well as having conferences with the judge who is often trying to whittle both parties down to come to an agreement “in the middle.”
How Can I Help My Personal Injury Lawyer Handle My Case?
There are several tips to help you maximize your lawyer’s effectiveness. These tips not only help your lawyer but can help maximize the amount of compensation that you may be entitled to. Some of the best tips for working with a personal injury lawyer include the following:
Tell Your Lawyer Everything—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Being represented by a lawyer is not like trying to sell your house that might have high energy bills in the winter, or your car that might have had a fender-bender five years ago (unless the buyers ask about these questions!). Rather, having a personal injury lawyer requires you to tell them everything about your possible case and your injuries.
Even if it might hurt your case, a lawyer who knows about these details now can plan a defense to mitigate or even nullify the issue before it hurts your case. If you do not tell your lawyer about all the relevant issues in your case, the surprise could make its impact worse.
Some of the most important things to tell your lawyer include the following:
- Exactly what happened
- Who do you think may have caused your accident and injuries, including if that is you, a friend or family member, or your employer
- Everywhere you went to be treated for injuries—no matter how small the injury
- Any preexisting injuries you may have had that are now worse after the accident
- Any unflattering things in your history, such as criminal convictions—particularly for crimes that could be dishonest (fraud, embezzlement, larceny, etc.)
- Your relationships with your doctors (if you have one that doesn’t like you or vice versa, that bias is important to know)
- How your injuries really feel (do not say it is a 10 out of 10 when the pain is really like a 2 or 3 out of 10—medical providers know)
- Your true employment status, and
- Any other information that could be related to your case or your injuries.
Respond to Phone Calls or Sign Papers Quickly
Personal injury law can move fast. Some adjusters may give “blowup offers” or “for this day only” offers to settle cases, particularly on settlement days or conference days with a judge. Responding quickly to your lawyer’s phone calls can help you take advantage of these offers and accept ones that you may want, as well as help push an adjuster at the right time to offer more compensation.
The same is true for signing papers. Most of the papers you will sign are medical authorizations allowing your treating healthcare providers to release their medical records to your lawyer for your case. Delays in signing these authorizations can not only delay your case, but can also draw ire from opposing counsel, the adjuster, or even the judge. Do not delay in signing any paperwork for your lawyer.
Speak With Your Healthcare Providers About Your Case
There are some times when it may be appropriate for you to speak with your medical providers about your case. For instance, if your personal injury lawyer has not received medical record requests from a healthcare provider, you may want to call and ask them about the status because your case is important to you.
Further, with the permission of your lawyer, you may want to ask your treating providers if they would be willing to sign an affidavit or testify in your case. This is particularly true if you have a good relationship with your doctor, as most healthcare providers do not want to go testify in court if they do not have to.
Listen to Your Lawyer
Although this may sound obvious, the truth is that it is not. Your lawyer is not the “fun police” but is trying to help maximize your recovery. If your lawyer tells you to stay off social media or to not go on a big vacation before your trial—don’t.
These actions can both hurt your case because social media posts can be used to show that you do not have the injury you claim (i.e., you claim you can’t hike anymore, but posting photos hiking with friends), or vacation photos can be used to show you are not suffering a decreased quality of life (a common claim of emotional harm in personal injury cases). Other points include listening to your lawyer during depositions or trial testimony, keeping answers short, narrow, and with positive body language (and not becoming argumentative).
Talk to Your Lawyer or Paralegal
It is not all about listening—you need to also talk to your lawyer or your paralegal. This includes new evidence you find (i.e., a witness contacts you) or new injuries that are diagnosed by your providers, including if surgery is necessary. Give your law firm routine updates about your appointments, pain and suffering, and other complications due to the accident.
When in Doubt, Ask Your Personal Injury Lawyer For the Best Tips
While these tips can apply to all types of lawyers and all law firms, asking your personal injury lawyer for his or her best tips on how to help them is always appreciated. Although some of the things that personal injury lawyers do may seem like they make them superheroes, at the end of the day they are humans too. Asking what you can do to help your case will only serve to help them maximize your recovery.
Learn more about how our personal injury lawyers can help you and maximize your recovery after an accident in New York City by dialing (646) 813-3922 or by sending us a private message on our “contact us” page available here.