Interviewer: Michael, why are you providing this information?
Too many times, people come to me when it’s too late. Their case is over and they’re not happy with the way it turned out. It’s frustrating and disappointing for them, but there’s nothing we can do for these people. I want people who have been injured to understand what’s at stake from the very beginning, so they choose the law firm that’s right for them — whether it’s our law firm or someone else. Let me tell you also, every situation is different, so this is not advice for anyone’s specific situation.
Interviewer: After someone is injured, what should they do next?
Get medical treatment! You shouldn’t hesitate to get checked out by a medical doctor. If you’re injured at work, you are required by law to go to your employer’s designated doctor. Your physical condition needs to be evaluated by an impartial medical provider, however. I always tell my clients to take extra care to report all their symptoms, every single one, so that it is fully and correctly documented by the doctor from the first. In other words, tell the doctor the complete truth. Always carefully follow all of the doctor’s advice and directions to the letter. You should never substitute your judgment for that of an experienced medical professional. The second thing an injured person should do is to immediately speak with an experienced injury attorney to get advice specific to your case.
Interviewer: How can an injured person know if they’ve met the right lawyer for them?
An injured person is always in a lot of pain, and they are worried about their future. I don’t blame them. There is a lot on the line. A lot of people just pick the first lawyer they can find, without really doing their homework. I strongly urge an injured person to carefully consider which lawyer they choose. Just because you know of a lawyer doesn’t mean that that lawyer is right for your injury case. You want someone who has specific experience working on cases like yours. Another thing to look for is whether you like and respect the lawyer when you talk to them. Are they going to return your phone calls? Do they treat you with respect? Also, the insurance companies know the track record of all the lawyers. They are going to play games, if they believe your lawyer does not have the ability to win in front of a jury. The last question is: Can I talk to past clients that you have worked with? This is one of my favorites because Iwant people to talk to our former clients so they can know what kind of law firm we have and what kind of people we are.
Interviewer: Why should I give an attorney a part of the compensation you win for me?
Studies show that injured people ordinarily end up recovering fuller compensation when they hire an attorney, even after the attorney’s fee is deducted. Plus, a lot of people need legal help, but they cannot afford to pay an attorney up-front and out-of-pocket to help them. These two reasons are why percentage fees were created. It is a way to help more people to have access to legal help when they are in a tough situation. The idea is to help folks. Good lawyers can often get you a multiple of any settlement offer you would get by working by yourself. And, by yourself, you may not be able to get any offer at all.
Interviewer: How do I know you won’t put my case and me on the back burner once you’ve been hired?
To really know the answer, you have to talk to our people. Listen to how we answer the phone. Talk to our paralegals and legal assistants. Talk to me! Then, you’ll get a clear sense of what our commitment level is.
Interviewer: Michael, what do you want an injured person — or the person acting on their behalf — to take away from this interview?
If you remember one thing, remember that you have rights, and you are 100% deserving of justice. Don’t let anyone intimidate you. Make sure you go with a lawyer who will stand tall and fight for you. Even if I am not the right lawyer for you, I will be happy to steer you in the right direction — with no cost and no obligation.
Interviewer: Do you accept every case that comes to you?
Not at all. Some folks just don’t have a case that meets our criteria. Rarely, you’ll find someone who is shopping for a law firm to take on a frivolous case. We don’t ever take those cases. That is the last thing we want! At the same time, every case we accept isn’t a million dollar case. We will accept a smaller case if we feel the cause is right. Whether a case is big or small, we look for the opportunity to right a wrong and help a victim to be made whole.
Interviewer: What does it cost to speak with you about my case?
Nothing. Since I started practicing back in 1997, I have never charged an injured person or a family member for providing a first consultation, and I don’t intend to start doing that now. If an injured person calls us, and I am in the office, they can speak to me right away. Even if I am not in the office, they can call and still reach me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I will be paged right away, and I will call them back immediately.
Interviewer: What should an injured person do to preserve the evidence?
Never destroy, throw away, or leave behind anything that is part of a product that was involved in causing an injury. Always preserve the written materials that came with the product, and any packaging, too. Immediately take physical custody of the thing — whatever it was — that was involved in causing your injury, and then lock it up someplace that you control. Never hesitate to buy the wreckage. It is much less expensive to buy a wrecked vehicle than it is to forever lose the ability to bring a product liability case because the evidence is gone. Don’t assume that nobody will want the wreckage of a destroyed automobile. I know too many horror stories about wrecked vehicles going missing, if there is an issue of whether there was a design defect.
Interviewer: Should I take pictures?
Yes! In fact, don’t wait another moment. If it is at all possible to take photos, do it. The more pictures, the better. Always take a number of rolls of film of the accident location, the crashed vehicles, from different approaches to the scene, and also pictures of the injured person themselves. If there are skid marks, be sure to get dozens of pictures of those — and not just the really heavy skid marks. The really light skid marks are called impending skids. They are faint marks that can usually only be seen for 24 to 48 hours after a wreck. If those are still around, you need plenty of photographs of them, too. You should take shots from a number of different angles and locations. If there is debris at a crash scene, photograph it in place, both up close and at a distance. Actually, everything we’ve talked about should be photographed both up close and at a distance. Don’t ever alter or move anything, and always, always have someone with you to watch for traffic. A good digital camera with a quality zoom is perfect, but if all that is available is a disposable camera, that’s fine, too. Use that. It is important to take photos of the victim’s condition in the hospital. You should take pictures that show any special medical treatment, the healing of scars and bruises, and any special medical treatment. Believe me, you cannot take too many photographs. It could make the difference between winning and losing the case.
Interviewer: How long do I have to take legal action?
Not as long as you may think, so it is important to start as soon as you can. There are deadlines that can forever prevent you from getting justice in court. In South Carolina, most claims have either a two-year or a three-year statute of limitations, but you should act right away, and get good advice about your particular situation to know for sure.
Interviewer: What should I do when the insurance company for the other side calls me?
Be polite, but don’t talk to them about what happened or your injuries. You see, insurance companies’ claims adjusters are professional negotiators, with all kinds of experience. They can intimidate, hassle, and use all sorts of tactics and psychological techniques to get what they want, which is to settle the case for the lowest possible dollar. Adjusters may sound so nice on the phone. They have voicemail messages saying they are the best person to talk to, because they are the person who is “most familiar with your claim.” They can be very skilled at getting what they want, but remember, never give an oral statement to the other side’s insurance company. Just don’t do it.
Interviewer: What about witnesses?
You should do whatever you can to collect all witnesses’ correct names, addresses and telephone numbers. Remember, they’re not a witness if you can’t get in touch with them – they’re just a memory. Don’t expect law enforcement to do it for you. In addition to witnesses to the incident itself, you should give your lawyer the contact information for friends, co-workers, and family members who can testify about how your injury has affected your life. You will need to describe in detail what they might have observed.