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Personal Injury Attorney Referrals

Should I Refer Patients

Many patients wonder if they should contact an attorney. In order to answer this question it is important for the doctor to understand what criteria attorneys use to evaluate potential claims.

What Cases Will an Attorney Take?

The first question most personal injury attorneys will ask when contacted by a person injured in a motor vehicle accident is: Who caused the accident? If the patient with whom they are speaking caused the accident, the attorney will nearly always refuse to represent that patient. However, if the individual who contacts the attorney was injured as a result of others’ negligence, the attorney will likely be interested in the case. The reason for this is obvious. There is no way of obtaining payment for permanent injury and pain and suffering unless it can be shown that it resulted from the negligence of others. Therefore, all passengers of motor vehicles have a potential case. They even have a potential case if they were with their spouse or a close relative who caused the accident. The fact that the individual may have violated a traffic law does not necessarily mean they do not have a potential case. Violation of a traffic law could conceivably have no influence on the cause of the accident. Next, attorneys review:

  • Whether there is permanent injury or disfigurement.
  • Has the individual been disabled from work?
  • What has been the cost for medical treatment?
  • How much future treatment will be required?
  • How much was the estimated property damage?

As a practical matter, most personal injury attorneys will accept a case if it is likely there will be significant injury requiring lengthy medical treatment. In the event the attorney accepts the case and shortly thereafter the client’s injuries completely resolve, most attorneys will close the file with no charge to the client, even though the attorney has likely provided significant legal counsel.

When to Refer to an Attorney

Individuals injured in a motor vehicle accident should contact an attorney immediately for a free consultation for a number of reasons:
1. Evidence disappears. Pictures of the vehicle should be taken before the vehicle is repaired. Often, the vehicle is repaired within days of the motor vehicle accident.
Witnesses to an accident soon forget what took place. An attorney will send an investigator to take a recorded statement.
The location of the accident may change physically. Street signs and lanes may change before the attorney can get pictures of the location.
2. Recorded statements of the patient by the insurance company may later hamper an attorney’s ability to collect a just compensation for permanent injury and pain and suffering. Before individuals make any statements they should first consult with an attorney and if at all possible, have an individual from the attorney’s office present during the statement. Many attorneys will not allow that statement to be recorded.
3. The patient has legal questions regarding getting the treatment bills and vehicle damage paid. The attorney will be available to give this information so the patients do not have to figure it out for themselves, or ask a layman who often leads to improper advice.
4. Compliance with the doctor’s orders will be enhanced. If the patient retains an attorney who understands and supports their health care provider’s treatment, the patient will likely treat according to the doctor’s recommendation, which will increase the patient’s chances of full recovery.
5. Patients can be advised of the statute of limitations. Every state sets a time frame within which a lawsuit must be commenced. If the lawsuit is commenced after the statute of limitations has occurred the patient will be forever barred from receiving a recovery for their injuries. Many states have different statutes of limitations. Minnesota’s statute of limitation is six (6) years. Wisconsin’s statute of limitation is three (3) years. Iowa’s statute of limitation is two (2) years. Many other states have statutes of limitations that are only one year. Nothing can be more upsetting to a patient to be told by his doctor not to retain an attorney until later only to find out later is beyond the statute of limitations and they are forever barred from bringing a claim.

C. Liability Dispute Resolution

Doctors should be aware that often, especially in soft tissue injury cases, the attorney’s and patient’s entire claim depends upon the doctor’s opinion. With this in mind, it is very helpful for the doctor to understand the settlement and litigation process of a liability claim. The doctor will potentially be called upon to actively participate in the litigation process at the following points in a liability case:

Supplying the attorney with a permanency report, thereby allowing the attorney to reach the tort threshold and bring a claim under the liability policy. Doctor’s depositions done in preparation for trial. Court testimony to substantiate the nature and severity of the injuries.

Approximately 75% of the liability cases settle before the attorney technically sues the case out. Approximately 24% of the remaining cases settle prior to trial, between the time the case is sued out and the trial is scheduled. Only 1% of liability lawsuits for motor vehicle accidents ever make it to the conclusion of a trial with a judgment rendered. Most attorneys view the resolution of the liability dispute for a motor vehicle accident in two phases: 1) the settlement phase and 2) the litigation phase.

If you are ready to take the first step towards making a claim, or have any questions and need advice, take advantage of our free no-obligation consultation by contacting Crabtree Health Law P.A. today at (651) 351-1400, (800) between 8am-5pm CST, M-F.