The internet age has dramatically changed the way we interact with each other and gather information. While there are many positives about having the world at our fingertips, there are also many potential dangers, especially when using the web-o-sphere to learn about a topic for the very first time—indeed, just ask my wife about my dishwasher repair adventure after watching a YouTube tutorial!
Similar dangers await people who may be faced with legal problems. This is particularly true for people who suffer personal and bodily injuries at the hands of another, and then turn to the internet for guidance in handling their potential claim. A quick Google search may very well put you on a path to learning some information, but there is simply no substitute for immediately contacting a personal injury lawyer who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and seasoned with experience.
There are many reasons why you should contact an attorney immediately after suffering a personal injury through another’s fault. However, I would like to focus on two of the most important: (1) protecting your rights, and (2) protecting evidence for your case.
1. Protecting your rights
By contacting a personal injury attorney soon after an injury, you put yourself in a position to learn many things that simply cannot be found with a general internet search. You will learn what type(s) of personal injury claim you may have. You will be told who may be held responsible. You will also hear about the process that is required to present or file your claim. Perhaps one of the most critical things you will learn is whether there are any time-sensitive issues that you may encounter, which may in-turn require immediate action on your part.
There are statutes in every state dictating how long a personal injury plaintiff has to file their lawsuit in court. These are known as statutes of limitation. Should you fail to file your lawsuit before the controlling statute of limitation runs out, then you are forever barred from filing your lawsuit, which can be devastating to you, your recovery, and your family.
Of course, general information about statutes of limitation is also available on the internet, so you may think to yourself, “Well, I will just look up the statute of limitation.” Like with my dishwasher, I caution you to not rely upon your own capabilities and research. For example, let’s say you are walking on a brick-paved sidewalk in Covington, Kentucky, when suddenly a loose brick gives way under foot, causing you to fall and break your ankle. If you perform an on-line search for “Kentucky personal injury statute of limitation,” you will most likely find reference to Kentucky Revised Statute 413.140(1)(e), which creates a 1-year time limitation from the date of injury by which you must file your claim. However, here is what you may be missing: if the sidewalk is owned by the city, then you are required by a different statute (411.110) to put the city on specific and direct notice of your potential claim within 90 days of the date the injury was suffered. Failure to do so will preclude you from later trying to file suit, even if it is within the 1-year statute of limitation.
There are many other quirks and perils that can be hidden within statutes and common law. By acting quickly and contacting an attorney, you can navigate through these potential land mines.
2. Protecting evidence for your case
Another reason I strongly suggest that you contact an attorney soon after suffering an injury is so that evidence needed to prove your case can be properly gathered. In personal injury cases, proving liability or fault of the other party is critical. Proof of the other side’s fault is accomplished through evidence, which can generally come in the form of witness testimony, documents, and recordings.
Your attorney will know what types of evidence to seek, and where to seek it. For example, if you are injured in an automobile accident, witnesses to such an event may stop and speak with you or a responding officer. As it happens with all of us, memories fade over time, and in my practice, if I can learn about and contact the witnesses soon after the accident, I am in a better position to capture their statements for future use.
Additionally, in today’s world, despite new laws and on-going efforts to crack down on texting and driving, it continues to be an enormous problem and the cause of many auto accidents. Unfortunately, mobile phone providers do not keep records of phone and text usage for very long, and often have rigorous hurdles to leap when trying to obtain such records. Being contacted soon after the accident allows me to try to work with the responding police officer in gathering this type of very useful information.
For another example, there are times when your injury may be caught on videotape, such as car accidents that are close to buildings equipped with outside security cameras, or slip and fall accidents that occur near or inside stores outfitted with camera and recording capabilities. Because security and store video is not kept indefinitely, there is a real danger that it can be lost or erased in accordance with stores’ policies. If I am contacted soon after the accident, I can visit the site where you were injured, look for whether any video potentially exists, and then issue a formal letter demanding that the owner of the materials preserve any and all such video and images.
There are many other examples to highlight how evidence helpful to your case can disappear. What is common to each is that by getting your attorney involved immediately, the likelihood of losing the evidence diminishes, and the prospect of building a strong case on your behalf increases.
Trust me, just like neither one of us wants me in your kitchen attempting appliance repairs, we don’t want you to misstep in your personal injury claim by unknowingly giving away your rights to recovery or losing evidence that supports your case. If you have been injured in an accident, you should strongly consider seeking legal advice so that you can have your claim properly evaluated, have all your questions answered, and have your case placed on the appropriate path so that you can look with hope toward health and financial recovery.
This article is for general informational purposes only, is not for the purpose of providing legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with an attorney to obtain advice as to your particular issue or circumstances.