A lot of things happen following an injury-causing incident.
But according to Art Elk, managing member of Elk & Elk in Mayfield Heights, and Jeffrey Heller, an attorney at Nurenberg Paris in Cleveland, victims should address those things in a particular order.
“Obviously, if (someone) has been injured, they need to seek medical treatment,” Elk said. “That also documents whatever their injury is and the severity of it. The sooner they do that, the better, because if they wait too long to document the injury, the greater the likelihood the insurance carrier will not believe them. This adds credibility to their injury.”
Heller said, “The first thing to be concerned about is your health. That means making sure that if you’re hurt, or you feel like you might be, that you seek medical attention. If you’re in a car accident, the best thing to do is get the police involved. Not only do they know first aid, but they can also document the scene, which will be important later on to prove how the accident happened.”
Both Elk and Heller said reporting the injury is a critical step.
“A lot of people get into accidents and they don’t think they are hurt,” said Heller, using a automobile crash as an example. “Even if it’s a small accident, it’s important to make sure you are OK.”
Elk noted, “What this establishes is a baseline for their injury. This is what they were like after the accident, and if it gets worse or better, that can all be related back to the baseline.”
Taking legal action ensures victims have the opportunity for a fair result.
“Speaking to an attorney, at minimum, will give you peace of mind and let you know what is going on, why it’s going on and make sure you receive a fair result,” Heller said. “The worst thing that can happen with an attorney is them telling you that you don’t need one. If that’s their advice, they should tell you why you don’t need one, and exactly what you should do to navigate the situation on your own.”
Both attorneys noted there are good and bad times to settle.
“Many times, when people are injured in an accident, there is something called a ‘delayed injury syndrome,’” Elk said. “Sometimes, they don’t start to feel the full effects of their injury for many weeks. That’s why it’s good to get that baseline. Until you have a clear picture of your injury and whether or not you’ll have a permanent (condition), don’t settle.”
Individuals should also be aware of what settling a claim actually means for them in the long term.
“Not only are you settling for everything that has happened up to that point, but you’re also settling for what you may experience in the future,” Heller said. “Settlements do account for future ‘damages.’ But, if you don’t know the full extent of those damages, how can you properly calculate a settlement? You absolutely do not want to settle until you have a firm grasp on what the future may hold.”
Elk noted individuals have nothing to lose when seeking legal help.
“A lot of people have this preconceived idea that if they are going to a lawyer, that it will cost them money,” he said. “We don’t get paid anything unless we get a good outcome for you. From Day One, our and the client’s interests are aligned.”
Heller said, “As you’re treading through an unfamiliar situation, a law firm or lawyers that have experience and know the ins and outs of these situations can really protect you.”