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The most common question personal injury lawyers get from their clients is, "What is my case worth?"or "what will my settlement be?" The answer is dependent on many factors, including the type of injury the client sustained, the severity of the injury, the city, county and state where the injury occurred, whether the client sustained economic losses such as wage loss, whether the jury can relate to the client, whether the jury likes the client and his attorney, whether the jury feels compassion for the client and/or the at-fault party, and, among many other factors, the quality of the evidence presented at trial and at mediation. Any attorney who promises what a case is worth during the initial meeting is one you may wish to steer clear from. I advise client that if they are promised a certain amount in money damages in a settlement or trial, to ask that lawyer to put his opinion in writing.What should be the focus is on what you can do to maximize settlement offers and jury verdicts. Below are examples of what can be done to maximize payment for your harms and losses.1. Always tell the truth. Be completely upfront with your attorney and your treating doctor about any previous injuries and do not embellish your injuries or damages. This is critical. As a former insurance defense attorney for the largest insurance defense law firm in the U.S., insurance companies look far and wide for previous injuries and are very good at what they do. The likelihood that they uncover previous injuries is very high and they hope that you will lie about your injuries, so that they may exploit this at mediation or at trial. As a former insurance company trial attorney, I routinely hired investigators to help determine where plaintiffs may have had prescriptions filled. The records would then list all doctors who prescribed the plaintiff medications, then I would subpoena the records of each and every doctor or hospital referenced in the pharmacy records. This is just one tool that litigation savvy insurance defense attorneys utilize to uncover previous injuries. Another tool is to subpoena the records of each and every health insurance company, which provided health insurance to the plaintiff.2. Attend each and every appointment with your medical provider, including physical therapists. Insurance defense attorney focus in on missed appointments and will argue that a plaintiff would be better if he or she attended these missed appointments and attempt to convince the jury that you do not care about getting better. Further, providers, especially physical therapists, oftentimes comment about missed appointments. Make sure to tell your doctor how you are feeling in detail at every appointment.3. Tell your doctor or physical therapist how you are feeling. If your doctor asks how you are feeling, and at that time you are feeling lethargic because of medications or that the night before you experienced significant pain, tell your doctor about it. If he or she asks you how you are feeling, and you answer "fine" when you really are not, your doctor will likely write in your chart "patient reports that he is feeling fine today".4. Maintain a journal of all medical appointments and a lot of days where you felt more pain than others. It may be hard to remember specific details a year after the injury. For example, write down when it was impossible to catch any sleep because of a back injury, or where you had to take a day off from work because of pain, or that you weren't able to attend a camping trip with your son's Cub Scout pack because it involved carrying heavy equipment. These are important facts that your attorney will want to present to the insurance company in settlement negotiations or explain to a jury. Provide this journal to your attorney at regular intervals.5. Take photographs of the damage to your vehicle, motorcycle, etc.: Oftentimes clients have their car repaired before hiring an attorney. If you have been involved in an auto, truck, bicycle or motorcycle crash, have a friend or family member immediately take multiple photographs of your vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle. Your attorney will use these photographs during settlement negotiations, mediation and at trial. It is important for the jury to understand the impact. Do not include yourself in any photographs. Don't count on your insurance company turning over photographs to you.These are just a few things to keep in mind to maximize the compensation for your harms and losses.
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