Document Sample
					 Your Guide to:
  STAGES OF AN                                                    ACCIDENT

            Know what
         to expect during
        your auto accident

In Auto Accident Cases, the process of getting
recovery can be very frustrating.

   Multiplying your frustration are stories of people that
have had their case settled in just a few months or even
weeks. Some cases can be resolved quickly, but whether yours
does depends on many factors. It is important to understand
the stages so that you can better understand your case and
know what to expect.
   Most cases have seven stages: (1) injury, (2) treatment,
(3) investigation, (4) negotiations, (5) filing the lawsuit, (6)
mediation, and (7) trial.                                         Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
                                                                  1 S. Memorial Drive, 11th Floor
                                                                  St. Louis, MO 63102

 CASE:                                                The injury stage
 Stage 1                A case or claim starts when an        see a doctor. Do not worry about
                    injury has occurred, caused by a          whether you have a case until after
                    negligent party (a/k/a tortfeasor).       you have seen a doctor. Your first
                    For example, when the car wreck           worry should always by your health.
                    takes place.                                  Things you can do to help your
 Stage 2
 Treatment              Normally the event that caused        case: besides seeking treatment, you
                    the injury is over quickly, but that      might ask if there is any evidence
                    event usually leads to months of          you need to gather. If you are in a
                    pain. For auto accident cases, the        wreck, get names, addresses, and
  Stage 3           statutes of limitation for Missouri       phone numbers of witnesses. If you
Investigation       and Illinois is five years and two         have been to the emergency room,
                    years, respectively. This requires a      save the papers, bills and receipts
                    suit to be filed within five years (MO) you receive. If you have been given
                    or two years (IL). Thus, determining things from the person who caused
 Stage 4            when your injury occurred is          your injury, save them. In short, save
                    important so your attorney knows      anything germane.
                    what date you have to file suit.           If you were in a wreck, save
                        Be careful. In Illinois, you only repair bills and estimates. If people
                    have one year to file suit in some         give you business cards, save them. A
 Stage 5
  Filing a          cases dealing with government             wise policy is to get a folder or
  Lawsuit*          entities. In other instances, you may     notebook and start putting
                    have to give notice to a state agency     everything in it.
                    within few months or weeks of the
 Stage 6            injury, even though the statute of
 Mediation*         limitation doesn’t expire for several
                        What you should do if you have
                    been injured: the number one thing
 Stage 7            to do is get treatment. If you're hurt,

*If necessary

      STAGE #2                                                                            WAYS TO PAY
                         The treatment stage
                                                                                          FOR TREATMENT
The treatment stage is by far the most     getting someone to treat you. If you
important part of your case. Without
someone to document your injuries,
                                           have health insurance, the problem you         DURING YOUR CASE
you don’t have a case.                     may have is simply getting through             (IN ORDER FROM BEST TO WORST)
                                           your health insurance's red tape. If you
   During this stage, the most
                                           don't, the biggest problem is paying for                 Medical
important thing for you to do is get
                                           it.                                                      payments
medical treatment. Get medical                                                                1     coverage on
                                               Lawyers sometimes have doctors
treatment because if you are hurt, you                                                              auto policy
                                           that they can refer you to who will
need to get better. That’s true
                                                     extend credit and wait for                     Health
whether you have a case or
                                       Settling          payment until the end of             2     insurance,
not. Don’t wait to find out
                                                            the case. That may be the               Medicaid, or
if you have a case               during treatment                                                   Medicare
                                    would be like            only way you can go to
because only a fool
                                                             the doctor.                            Make payment
would allow his injuries         buying a car you
                                                             Its our policy to                      arrangements
to fester just because he         have never seen                                             3     with your
                                                           recommend that you seek
might not have a case.                or driven.                                                    doctor
                                                        help through you own
That said, during this stage,
                                                   insurance first. Although this                    Have your
your second concern should be
                                            may increase your own personal hassle,                  doctor paid
gathering evidence. You should consider                                                       4     out of the
hiring a lawyer at this stage as well so you avoid being personally liable for                      settlement (on
he can gather and preserve evidence for your bills if you cannot recover.                           a lien basis)
                                                Additionally, insurance companies
                                            try to prejudice juries by introducing        *CALL MY OFFICE IF YOU HAVE
     Your case cannot and should not                                                      QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS LIST
                                            the fact that the lawyer helped you get
settle at this point. Settling during
                                            to the doctor. If you don't have
treatment would be like buying a car
                                            insurance, you should probably call
you have never seen or driven. You                                                      Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
                                            some doctors and see if they will take      1 S. Memorial Drive, 11th Floor
have no idea what problems it has or                                                    St. Louis, MO 63102
                                            you without a lawyer and without            314-270-2273/573-268-7316
what condition it is in.                    insurance. If you find one, go see him.
     Complete treatment and allow your
                                                If you have been turned down
doctors to determine what problems
                                            several times, try contacting your
you have now, and what problems you
                                            lawyer to see if he can get you to a
may have in the future.
     The possible problems you may have
at this stage are varied. The biggest is

    STAGE #3
               The investigation stage

    Actually, investigation starts at the beginning of        lawyer and let him know. Your lawyer can then order
the case and is usually carried on by a number of             your bills and records promptly. Second, make sure you
people.                                                       have told your attorney about all of the doctors you have
   In a car wreck, the investigation may begin                seen. If you have kept a folder/notebook and turned that
immediately when someone writes down the names and            over to your lawyer, this should be no problem.
addresses of the people involved and any witnesses.               It is possible that your treatment could carry on so
   In the process of the case, there is a period after        long that a suit will have to be filed before the
which you have completed treatment that your lawyer           investigation is complete. The statute of limitations will
may is reviewing the case. Normally, the attorney will        dictate the latest time to file suit. Make sure you consult
order copies of your medical records and bill and other       your attorney to determine the appropriate statute of
documents in order to determine the value of your case.       limitations.
    Though there may be little for you to do at this time,
                                                                    INVESTIGATING THE SCENE
you should not ignore your ability to help at this stage.
                                                                   While today many cell phones include a camera, they
Keep a folder and collect every bill, letter, and anything
                                                                   lack the accuracy to fully detail the scene of an auto
you get that concerns your case.                                   accident. Even if a camera is on-site at the time of
    When several things have been gathered, take them              the accident, an expert should be sent to establish a
to your lawyer’s office. Your attorney can sort out what            full, accurate photographic record.
is important and preserve the evidence for use at trial or
during negotiations.                                                INVESTIGATING RECORDS
                                                                   In an auto accident case, the backgrounds of the
    If you have completed treatment, you may be anxious
                                                                   parties involved may have information that supports
to settle your case, but you need to understand that you           your claim. From up-to-date professional licensing to
lawyer needs to get copies of the medical records, bills,          a criminal background check, make sure to uncover
reports, and sometimes witness statements or                       every detail. Even specific sections of road may have
governmental records to ascertain a value on your case.            a paper trail of previous incidents that can help
                                                                   establish liability in your case.
This process usually takes about two to six months to get
those records and bills. Your case can sometimes be
                                                                    INVESTIGATING WITNESSES
delayed because those having your records may not                  It is important to preserve the testimony of
respond promptly.                                                  witnesses, as it may come into play months or even
    You can help at this stage by doing two things. First,         years after the time of the accident. Capture all

at the moment your doctor has released you, call your              relevant information and record it in a manner that
                                                                   will make it usable in court (if necessary).

     STAGE #4
                                                                                    a suit or claim against that driver.
                                                                                    Car insurance normally includes
                                                                                    liability insurance, so the insurance
                                                                                    company will pay you if it believes
                     The negotiation stage                                          the other driver is responsible for
                                                                                    causing the wreck.
   Once you have completed                 you’ve likely heard to describe              Problems preventing settlement:
treatment, and your lawyer has all         liability is “negligence,” but this is   the most common problems
your medical records and bills, your       not entirely accurate. Although          preventing settlement are disputed
attorney will usually forward that         negligence does include the failure to   liability, disputed injury, or disputed
on to the insurance company's              use ordinary care, to prove              damages (when the extent of the
adjuster.                                  negligence, you must also prove          injury is disputed).
                                           damages.                                      Disputed liability: when the
     Most of the time, your attorney
                                               Damages are the likely amount of     insurance company says it is denying
will make a "demand," which is an
                                           money that a jury would find you are      liability, it is claiming that its insured
initial offer to settle for a certain
                                           to receive as compensation. Although     (the person you claim caused the
amount. The insurance company
                                           there may be other factors, most of      accident) is not legally responsible.
adjuster will review the records, bills,
                                           the time damages are determined by       The insurance company may even be
and any information they have
                                           four basic elements: (1) lost wages,     claiming that you caused the wreck,
gathered in their own investigation.
                                           (2) medical bills, (3) impairment, and   in which case you may want to
    The negotiation process often
                                           (4) physical pain and mental anguish.    contact your insurance company to
resembles someone trying to sell an
                                               Role of insurance: You may be        defend you.
item at a pawn shop. Your lawyer
                                           wondering why are we talking about           Disputed injury: Most disputes
will start high and the insurance
                                           liability when there is an insurance     revolve around injury. The insurance
company will start low. The process
                                           policy involved. There is a very         company or defendant may be more
continues until someone says, “deal.”
                                           common misperception that an             than willing to admit they caused an
     The critical thing is determining
                                           insurance policy will pay damages        accident, but not that they hurt you.
what your case is worth. There are
                                           regardless of the facts. Although        And even more often, they deny they
two basic concepts that determine
                                           there are some types of policies out     hurt you very badly.
the value—Liability and Damages
                                           there that do, the vast majority of          Prior Injuries: It is very
(this also happens to be the key
                                           cases involve liability insurance.       important if you want to protect the
elements of “negligence”).
                                               Liability insurance is not           value of your case to let your lawyer
    Liability is the likelihood that a
                                           insurance that covers the injured        know about any prior claims or
jury will hold the defendant
                                           person. It is insurance that covers      injuries. Prior cases can be found in
responsible under the law for injuries
                                           the negligent person or company for      public records, and if you have had a
you have suffered. Liability can be
                                           claims brought against them. For         prior claim, the insurance company
very complicated and turns strictly
                                           example, if you are rear-ended by        will have access to this information
on the facts of a case. The legal term
                                           another driver, you will have to bring   through a shared database.

     If you forget about a prior claim,   have a realistic grasp of what their
or lie about it, it will likely be        case is worth. Ignore other cases
brought up to embarrass you. Thus,        and speak candidly with your
you hide prior claims and injuries at     attorney about your case. Most
your peril.                               cases are worth far less than you
    Note that if an insurance             think.
company has information about
other claims, they may be unwilling            10 QUICK AND EASY NEGOTIATION TIPS
or reluctant to pay your claim. They          1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
may believe the injuries you are              2. Listen to the other side and try to understand their
now claiming are the same injuries               position.
you have claimed in the past. If this         3. Do your homework beforehand.
is the case, most respectable                 4. Always be willing to walk away.
attorneys will file suit right away.           5. Don’t be in a hurry.
    Insufficient Information:                  6. Be optimistic and expect the best outcome (trust me,
Another major problem when trying                it’s proven to work).
to settle is missing or insufficient           7. Focus on the other side’s worries and concerns to
information. Many times there may                understand where to attack.
be questions raised that can't be             8. Present your offer in a way that shows how the other
answered without a suit. Court                   side’s needs are being met.
cases give both sides the right to            9. Don’t take the negotiations personally.
issue subpoenas that can compel               10.Don’t give something away without getting something
people to testify and turn over                  in return.
documents. Before a case is filed,
people can only make requests, and
                                             Settlement or Lawsuit: If you
they have little authority to force
                                          cannot get a decent offer to settle,
anyone to cooperate..
                                          you will have to file suit. Before suit
    Witnesses may not be willing to
                                          is filed, you need to be aware that in
give a statement as to who had
                                          most cases, additional expenses will
green or red light. And even if they
                                          decrease the amount you get. Thus,
are, without examination by both
                                          if your lawyer is advising you to
sides, it may be impossible to
                                          take an offer, and you want to file
decipher each side’s story. Thus,
                                          suit, you may be reducing your net
many times a case has to be filed
                                          recovery. Thus, even if an offer goes
before either side is ready to settle.
                                          up after suit, you may receive less.
    Have realistic expectations:
                                          So, be realistic and listen to what
another big reason cases do not
                                          your attorney tells you very closely.
settle promptly is one side does not

   STAGE #5
                                     Filing a lawsuit

Filing a Lawsuit                            DISCOVERY: this is the most time       DOCUMENT DISCOVERY: During
    Litigation & Lawsuit: This is the    consuming part of the case, and after the entire process, the opposing
stage where suit is filed and your        the answer is filed, it can continue        attorney will request documents from
lawyer starts dealing directly with the right up to the time of trial.              witnesses and anyone else who might
insurance company’s lawyer. This             WRITTEN DISCOVERY: The case            have knowledge of the case. The
stage has several moving parts, which typically begins with written                 opposing lawyer will always request
typically occurs in the following order: discovery, usually called                  your medical records caused by the
    FILING SUIT: a suit is filed with     interrogatories (which is legalese for     auto accident using medical releases
the court. A judge is normally assigned written questions), requests for            you will be required to sign during
and a cause number given to the file. A production (which request you to turn        written discovery. Take note that the
suit consists of allegations informing   over documents, pictures, and the          opposing attorney will search for past
the court and the defendant of the       like), and may include some other          claims and lawsuits. The insurance
nature of your claims.                   general information. Another type of       companies share a database of claims,
   SERVICE: After suit is filed, the      written discovery is requests for          so any past claims will be found.
court issues papers that tell the        admissions, which requires you to
defendant to answer the lawsuit. This    admit or deny certain facts.                   Take note that the opposing
is given to either a sheriff or a process     DEPOSITIONS: After written                attorney will search for past
server. The sheriff or process server     discovery is exchanged, the parties           claims and lawsuits. The
                                          typically arrange to take depositions.        insurance companies share
finds the defendant and serves the
                                                                                        a database of claims, so any
defendant the papers. If a defendant is       A deposition is a live question and       past claims will be found.
hard to find, this could take months,      answer session where the attorney
but typically takes less than 30 days. poses a series of questions to the
     ANSWER: once the defendant is        opposing party. A court reporter will        NEGOTIATION AND
served, he has 30 days to file an          type down every question and answer       SETTLEMENT: If you filed a lawsuit,
answer. The defendant answers by         to create a written record, just like in   it was likely because negotiations fell
filing written papers with the court      court.                                     apart. Throughout discovery, both
denying your claims and giving a copy        This is one of the most important      sides will learn more about the case,
to your lawyer. If the defendant does    parts of your case, so be sure to TELL     which may spark more negotiations,
not answer, you may take a default       THE TRUTH. If caught lying, the value      and hopefully resolve your case.
against him.                             of your case will plummet, and don’t           If trial scares you, don’t fret. The
                                         think you won’t get caught.                chances of trial are still small at this
                                                                                    point in the litigation.

                                                                                   After the mediator explains the

     STAGE #6                                                                  process in the initial meeting, each
                                                                               side gives a brief opening statement

                                                 Mediation                      setting forth their position. The
                                                                                parties then go to separate rooms
                                                                                while the mediator goes back and
    Mediation is no more than a non-    Mediation, on the other hand, is
                                                                               forth trying to get the two sides to
binding settlement conference. Both non-binding. A Mediator's role is to
                                                                               reach an agreement. During this
sides appear before a mediator, who help the parties settle, not force
                                                                               period, the mediator may discuss the
acts like a referee. The basic rules
                                                                               issues freely with each side.
are as follows:
                                                                                   Mediators are trained not to
    • the mediator is a neutral third-      Basic rules of a mediation
                                                                               reveal facts they learn to either side
  party;                                       1. the mediator is a            without permission of the side whom
    • both sides are to be present             neutral third-party             has revealed those facts to them.
  either in person or with a
                                               2. both sides are to be         Skillful mediators will try to get both
  representative with full authority
                                               present either in person        sides to assess their own strengths
  to resolve the matter; and
                                               or with a representative        and weaknesses to get them to
    • what happens at the mediation
                                               with full authority to          resolve their cases.
  is confidential and is not
                                               resolve the matter; and             If an agreement is reached,
  admissible in court.
                                               3. what happens at the          many mediators will then draft a
    In Missouri, mediation is usually
                                               mediation is                    summary of the agreement that both
optional. There are some instances,
                                                                               sides will sign. This agreement WILL
however, where the court will order            confidential and is not
                                                                               BE binding.
mediation if the parties have failed           admissible in court.
                                                                                  Preparation: Most of the time,
to opt out. In Illinois, mediation can
                                                                              both sides will do some preparation,
be mandatory, depending on the           them to do so. Thus, a mediator may but since it is non-binding and
court. If the parties fail to            make suggestions to the parties, but somewhat informal, preparations will
participate, they could be penalized     cannot dictate a result.             usually be limited. In minor cases,
by the Court.                                How it works: both sides appear   its not unusual for both sides to
     Mediation is sometimes confused     before the mediator at the same       show up without preparation. The
with arbitration. Arbitration is more    time. It usually takes place in the   clients should defer to their lawyers,
a like a brief trial where parties       mediator’s office or at a neutral      and ask if they should bring
present evidence to an arbitrator.       location.                          anything or prepare.
     Then, the arbitrator makes a            The mediator will meet
decision. Whatever the arbitrator        separately with both sides briefly,   Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
decides, the parties are bound by it.                                         1 S. Memorial Drive, 11th Floor
                                         then meet with everyone in the same St. Louis, MO 63102
                                         room.                                314-270-2273/573-268-7316

    #5                   If all attempts to resolve your         Next, a panel of potential jurors
The Verdict          case fail, you are going to trial. This is brought into the courtroom, where
                     means more time and resources will the lawyers are allowed to ask them
                     need to be spent on your case, which questions. Some objections may be
                     is why an attorney’s fees usually      brought to the judge regarding
                     increase.                              particular jurors based upon what
                         Your attorney will probably give they say. Then, both sides are allowed
 To Kill A           you material to read and study. If so, to eliminate three of the possible
Mockingbird          do it. Getting ready for trial is like   jurors regardless of the reason
                     getting ready for a comprehensive        (except race or gender). The judge
                     exam being given by the cruelest         then names the twelve members of
                     professor. During trial, almost          the jury and two alternates. Trust
                     anything related to your injuries and    me, alternates do sometimes need to
    #3               daily life is fair game.                 step in at trial (we actually had a
A Few Good               To do well at trial you should       juror pass out during the trial).
   Men               study the deposition you gave                Trial starts with both sides giving
                     thoroughly. Try not to contradict        an opening statement to the jury.
                     yourself, and above all don't lie. If    During opening statements, both
                     there is something you are afraid of,    sides state what they believe the case
    #2               tell your lawyer right away. If you      is about and what they believe the
Witness for          haven't disclosed something, disclose    evidence will be. The plaintiff then
    the              it right away. Walking into an           calls witnesses and presents his case,
                     ambush is a sure way to lose a trial.    followed by the defendant presenting
                     You may review your medical             his own witnesses.
                     records, too, because most questions        Finally, both sides present closing
                     will center around your injuries.       arguments to the jury. The jury is
    #1                   A pre-trial hearing is usually held then released to the jury room to
 12 Angry            just before trial to determine whether deliberate and decide the case.
    Men              some bits of information will be

DWI/DUI, Criminal Defense, & Personal Injury
Tyson is currently an associate with Juris Doctorate from
Brown & Brown in St. Louis,          Saint Louis University
Missouri. Tyson specializes in         School of Law. In law
Personal Injury Litigation, Criminal   school, Tyson served on
law, and Traffic/DWI offenses.          the executive board of
                                       the Student Bar                      Tyson
Tyson's previous positions include     Association and as a              and his wife
clerkships with the St. Louis County   Senator for the                       Amy
Prosecutor’s Office, the Hammer         University's Student
Law Firm, and Dunne, Koenig, &         Government Association.
                                       Prior to attending the University of     Employment
Tyson served one year on the           Missouri, Tyson served in the            • Brown & Brown, Associate
executive board of the Bar             United States Army with the              • The Hammer Law Firm, Law Clerk
Association of Metropolitan St.        7228th Medical Support Unit in           • St. Louis County Prosecutor’s
Louis Young Lawyers Division as a      Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. He later          Office, Law Clerk
student chair. He also served as a     worked for State Farm Insurance as       • Dunne, Koenig & Green, Law
Representative and as a Delegate to    a Fire Claim Representative after        Clerk
the American Bar Association.          obtaining his undergraduate              • State Farm Insurance, Fire Claim
Tyson is a founding member of the      degree.                                  Representative
Veterans Bar Association in St.                                                 • United States Army, Sergeant,
Louis.                                 Education                                Field Medic, EMT
                                       • J.D., Saint Louis University
Tyson graduated magna cum laude        School of Law
from the University of Missouri        • B.S., Business, University of
with a Bachelors of Science in         Missouri
Business and an emphasis in
Marketing. He later obtained his

                                        Practice Areas
                                        • Personal Injury
                                                                                  FIRING YOUR ATTORNEY
                                        • DWI/DUI Defense                         Even if you really think it’s a
                                        • Criminal Defense                         good’s usually not!

                                                                                  Law Office of Tyson Mutrux
                                        Bar Licenses                              1 S. Memorial Dr., 11th Floor
                                                                                  St. Louis, MO 63102
                                        • Missouri
                                        • Illinois                                314-270-2273/573-268-7316
                                        • U.S. Federal Courts           


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