By: Karen Piso Nadeau, Esquire
No one wants to think about being in a car accident and suffering injuries or loss of a loved one. When we are in our cars backed up on a highway in a traffic jam and then see the fire truck and ambulance ahead, we all immediately hope for the best. When passing by the accident scene observing the mangled heaps of vehicles, the tow truck in the breakdown lane and ambulance stretchers, we pause for a moment taking it all in and pray for the well-being of these complete strangers whose lives are turned upside down in an instant.
The only things accident victims are thinking about are survival and getting their lives back to the normal that looks a lot better than it did before suffering the consequences of an automobile accident. While the injured parties and their families deal with hospitals and doctors and the inability to work and function, the insurance companies take advantage of this time to do whatever they can to pay the victims as little as possible. As more than a few lawyers have said over my many years in this business we call personal injury, the insurance companies have their umbrellas out for you on the nice sunny days, but as soon as it rains, there are no umbrellas to be found. This is a visual we can all understand.
How soon after the accident should you retain an injury attorney to represent you for your car accident and how do you find the right one?
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney Immediately.
How soon should you hire a car accident lawyer? One easy answer- IMMEDIATELY. Why? You need your interests protected and someone only looking out for your best interest. Here are 3 examples of common actual client experiences who waited to hire an attorney:
- Giving Statements and Saying Things You Do Not Realize Hurt You.
Clients who wanted to show cooperation and thought it would help them gave recorded statements to the other drivers’ insurance companies with no attorney advice. Very innocently, these clients were asked loaded questions and gave answers not knowing the consequences or the legal conclusions that would be drawn from what they said and how they said it. It is never good to talk to anyone without your lawyer’s advice after being hurt in a car accident. It will almost always be used against you, and you will not even realize that what you are saying is harmful to you.
Clients without a car accident lawyer’s guidance unknowingly made statements that hurt their ability to make a claim against the other driver. Simple innocent statements about the color of the traffic light, the distance the vehicles traveled, where you were looking, when you saw the other vehicle, how much time elapsed etc. can be used to deny you any money. Also, clients who are injured will innocently reply to an insurance adjuster’s phony concern for them that they feel “ok” or have no pain when talking to the other driver’s insurance company but in reality, are just being nice and positive and were actually awake all night in pain and have visible bruising and cuts and scrapes on their body.
The insurance companies love to catch you off guard with no preparation or time to think. The insurance company’s representative or claims adjuster for the other driver will make you think he or she is on your side, and you will let your guard down. Make no mistake- the other driver’s insurance has one job: to do everything they can to not pay you.
- The Investigators are Hired While You or a Loved One is Trying to Heal.
The insurance company for the other driver has sent investigators to my clients’ hospitals where they are recovering from a car accident and attempts to get information from staff and family and friends. The insurance investigator actually tried to enter my client’s hospital room for a statement while my client was recovering from multiple surgeries for broken bones suffered in a car accident. Yes, this has occurred more than once before the client hired me. Another common scenario is the insurance company’s representative ringing my client’s doorbell or neighbor’s doorbell for information and the other driver’s insurance company calling you relentlessly to talk. Once you have hired a lawyer, the insurance company is legally forbidden from contacting you in any manner. They deal with your lawyer who is there to protect you and look out for your best interest. You are insulated from the insurance company’s tactics of trying to stack the deck against you as early as they can.
- Stacking the Deck Against You As Soon As the Other Driver’s Insurance Can.
The insurance company for the other driver knows the police are investigating the accident to determine how the accident occurred. The other driver’s insurance knows there are witnesses who may have seen how the accident happened. From the time the accident happens, the other driver’s insurance is hard at work using all their resources to sway the investigation in their favor so they can pay as little as possible to you. The insurance company will give instructions and information to the other driver that they insure. All of this, with the goal to minimize the money they pay out to you. The other driver’s insurance company will contact any witnesses, and often the witnesses are prejudiced by the insurance company or committed to statements to the insurance company for the other driver before my clients hire me. Again, the insurance company for the other driver is working from day one to stack the deck in their favor. They will contact police and witnesses. They will hire investigators. The sooner you get a lawyer, the sooner your lawyer can begin doing everything for you to “even the playing field” with the other driver’s insurance company and give you legal advice and advocate for you and your family.
So, How Do You Choose a Car Accident Lawyer?
Part of the analysis involves identifying the lawyers you should not choose or at the very least, question whether they will give you the experienced legal services and personal attention you need and should demand to get the money you and your family deserve to enable you to move on with your lives after suffering the consequences of being injured in a car accident. Here is a list of important factors to consider when choosing an injury lawyer to represent you for your accident.
- Location of lawyer
Some lawyers spending thousands of dollars on adverting on TV and billboards across Massachusetts do not live in or practice law in Massachusetts. You will likely never see or talk to these TV/billboard attorneys. Quickly after grabbing your call, they in turn refer you out to a different and usually relatively unknown law firm to handle your case. The lawyer advertising on TV and billboards, living and working outside of Massachusetts, gets to pocket a referral fee just for referring you to another firm. The problem is that you will initially have no information about the new firm the TV/billboard lawyer assigned to you. Based on my over 25 years of experience helping people injured in accidents, some of the lawyers referred these cases have very little experience and good luck trying to get one them on the phone.
When choosing a personal injury lawyer, consider the lawyer’s location. Do they live in Massachusetts? Do they have roots here? Do they physically practice law in Massachusetts and go to Massachusetts courts?
There are so many intelligent, experienced and caring lawyers living in Massachusetts with roots in Massachusetts, raising their families in Massachusetts, active in their communities, with children attending Massachusetts schools, operating their own vehicles on Massachusetts roadways. These lawyers practice law here and know the courts and the judicial system. They get what it means to live here in Massachusetts. There will be common threads and experiences like dining in the same restaurants and shopping at the same stores and traveling on the same roads. Take care to choose a car accident lawyer who lives in Massachusetts and has roots here and who actually practices law in Massachusetts with a physical presence here.
I have lived in Massachusetts my entire life. I went to high school here and college here and law school here. My husband also grew up here and has his career here. We are raising our two kids here with one attending college and the other in high school. My law partner similarly has roots here. Her father’s family was born and raised in Massachusetts, and she attended law school here. She also raised her family here. Both she and her husband have been practicing law in Massachusetts their entire careers.
My law partner and I have practiced law here for over 25 years each. I started as a law clerk in Cambridge on Memorial Drive, then spent a decade practicing law in downtown Boston, then went back to Cambridge and Boston and am now in Harvard Square in Cambridge. My law partner also practiced law here for over 25 years. She started as a law clerk for the City of Boston, worked for a personal injury law firm in Boston, then next worked along side me in Cambridge, Boston and now at Nadeau Harkavy LLC in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our firm’s roots are solidly right here in Massachusetts.
I love it here most days. You can contact me and talk to me about your case. I will get in my car and drive to the accident scene and meet you there to really understand your perspective. I just did this with a little boy in a terrible bike accident. I hopped in my car and drove a distance to meet the boy and his mom. This is just priceless, and I can do it because I live nearby, and I care to hear your story.
- Experience of Lawyer
Important considerations to inquire about are how many years of experience does “the attorney” have handling personal injury cases and car accidents? What types of cases have they handled and how many? What type of results have they had? When I say “the attorney” I mean the lawyer who you are actually talking to and meeting with and who is actually handling your case. I have seen other firms named partners, simply be a figurehead, present for the initial hello and handshake but after that is totally absent from your case.
As you consider whom to hire, pay attention to: Who took the initial client call at the firm? Who did the client intake with you? Was it even a lawyer? Often it is a paralegal or a secretary who is legally prohibited from giving any legal advice. Ask the firm you intend to hire, who takes your calls when you have a question? Who answers your texts? Who answers your emails? Who deals with the insurance companies? Who reviews your file and does the actual work on your case? Who makes the recommendations on your case? Who negotiates with the insurance company? Who is actually advocating for you? You want the answers at all times to be that you will be dealing with a seasoned personal injury attorney, with years of experience successfully representing injured victims. The lawyer you hire needs to have experience in the legal trenches in Massachusetts and know how to survive, not just shake your hand and walk away.
The lawyer in the TV ad or on the billboard or who is the face of the firm may not even have real experience in personal injury or car accident cases. Some attorneys have their main area of practice in other areas of the law. For example, some lawyers who claim they do personal injury and car accident cases spent their entire careers defending criminals or handling divorce cases or dealing with real estate transactions, probate or bankruptcies. Some lawyers handle multiple areas all at once, so they defend a client who got charged with drunk driving or rape for example and also handle a divorce hearing for another client and then represent a victim injured in a car accident seeking compensation. You need to ask yourself if you want a “jack of all trades” who does not just handle personal injury cases, but spreads themselves too thin across several different areas. Do you want an attorney who does not dedicate himself or herself to your cause, personal injury? Would it make you feel better knowing the lawyer you hire has chosen to dedicate their entire practice to injury cases and nothing else?
It is important to consider whether the attorney you choose has many years of experience handling personal injury cases and specifically whether they have personally handled car accident cases. Is the attorney actually handling your case and are all the details present and available to you? In other words, you do not want “a bait and switch”. You do not want to be misled that you are getting the head of the firm, only to wind up dealing with a legal assistant, paralegal or maybe a brand new attorney 99% of the time. You also do not want to be misled that the attorney is very experienced when they don’t know what they are doing and never have gotten their hands messy working through the minute details of a case.
My law partner and I have over 50 years of combined experience handling car accidents and all types of personal injury cases. Some of our cases have been small soft tissue neck and back cases. Some have been cases involving wrongful death with family members grieving the loss of a loved one. Some cases have been catastrophic injuries with broken bones, permanent brain damage, paralysis and scars. We only handle injury cases. That is it.
We have been, and still are, in the trenches and deal with all the moving pieces of your case. You meet with us. You talk with us. You can call, text, or email either of us. We are very responsive. Our clients are given one of our cell phone numbers to call. We deal with the insurance companies. We do everything needed to handle your car accident case in Massachusetts.
- Results of Lawyer
When choosing a car accident lawyer, your lawyer’s results on prior cases and with prior clients are important. Both my law partner and I have over 25 years of successful outcomes for hundreds of clients who have been injured in a car accident. We have been working together for over 15 years with a demonstrated track record of success. We bring all this experience to each client’s case to provide each client with individual care and attention for the most successful outcome. Our website provides a sampling of our case results and past client reviews. We also write blogs every month addressing different personal injury issues that grab our attention. We are always happy to discuss our experience and results. We have made strong connections over the years with insurance companies, various investigative bodies, and experts whom we call upon to best serve our clients.
- Lawyer Communication
When choosing an injury lawyer, how responsive the attorney is as well as how well the attorney communicates with you are critical considerations. You need to feel good about the attorney you choose. There is a lot of anxiety and worry when you are dealing with the fallout of a car accident. Over the years, we realize that a client needs and deserves prompt and easy to understand communication. We give every one of our clients a cell phone number. We are available by text, email, cell phone and office phone. We reply to our clients almost always within 24 hours, with few exceptions. If we are tied up, we give a client the peace of mind of a short reply that we will be in touch within a time certain. This alleviates so much worry. No client’s worries about when they will hear back from our firm.
We also reach out to clients with a brief status whether it be a text or email or quick call. Clients appreciate this so much. They are not left wondering. You communicate with us directly. When I was a young lawyer, I remember acting as an interpreter for some other more seasoned lawyers. I realized as a young lawyer that although some lawyers are brilliant and exceptionally skilled, many do not connect with their clients and do not speak a language that the client can grasp or understand. I recall taking what the senior lawyer said and breaking it down into simple plain English for clients who were left confused and anxious after the senior lawyer spoke. My passion for explaining things so my audience understands is nothing new. I also genuinely enjoy engaging with my clients, getting to know them and their families and having them feel comfortable with me and the information on their case so together we can make the best decisions for them.
Knowing that you can reach your lawyer and communicate easily with your lawyer gives you some peace of mind during a trying time in your life. Having a lawyer that can talk to you in a way that you understand it and feel empowered knowing the status of your case and what to expect going forward are invaluable benefits when you are dealing with the injuries and life changes resulting from a car accident.
Make Hiring the Right Lawyer for You an Absolute Priority.
If you find yourself or a loved one injured in an accident, make hiring a lawyer a priority. The sooner you retain an accident lawyer who can advise you and protect your interests, the better. Consider the location of the lawyer. Does the lawyer live in Massachusetts and work here? Does the attorney have roots here? What experience does the lawyer have handling car accident cases and does the lawyer focus solely on accident cases or spread himself or herself thin in many different areas of law? Who is the attorney in the firm who is actually handling your case? How about the attorney’s results? Has the attorney successfully handled a lot of car accident cases over many years? Finally, is the attorney available to you and responsive? Is communication easy and understandable? Does it feel like a good fit and do you feel that this attorney will fight for you and give her all to your case?
In conclusion, no one likes to think about getting into a car accident. However, if the situation arises, you need to consider hiring a personal injury lawyer. I hope this blog has provided you with some valuable information and food for thought when considering the injury lawyer that is right for you and your family.
When someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident, a thorough investigation of the accident events is necessary to determine the cause of the collision and secure important information. As a victim of a car accident, make sure everything is done to protect your interests. The lawyers at Nadeau Harkavy LLC help victims and their families recover compensation in serious injury and wrongful death cases arising from car crashes and other accidents. If you have any questions about your legal rights relating to a car accident, wrongful death or other accident, feel free to contact us for a free consult today at 617-674-7640.