What are my rights after a personal injury accident?

If injured in an accident, you want to know your rights. You want to know what you’re entitled to. Compensation for lost wages? Pain and suffering? What about damages?

Your rights after a personal injury accident

financial compensation, money, settlementYou have the right to compensation for injury/damages, including expenses for medical treatment, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, lost companionship, and other psychological and economic difficulties.

To obtain financial compensation, you can work with the responsible insurance company–either by yourself or with a lawyer–and accept the settlement amount they offer.

If the insurance’s settlement amount is unfair and doesn’t provide sufficient money to pay your expenses, you can pursue a lawsuit or demand arbitration to receive your compensation, with the help of an attorney. This lawsuit can settle out of trial (which happens most often), or it might go to trial.

If you do hire an attorney, look for one who works on a contingency fee, like the attorneys at Christensen & Hymas. This means your attorney won’t get paid until you win your case and receive a settlement. You have the right to protect your financial well-being.

If you decide you will need an attorney and decide to hire one of our attorneys, we give you additional, appropriate legal rights to help you protect your case.

What are my rights when working with Christensen & Hymas?

Right to attorney-client privilege

What is it? When you confide in one of our attorneys or legal staff, they will not disclose that information to anyone outside of the legal team unless you give your consent. The purpose of the attorney-client privilege is for you to feel comfortable disclosing all relevant details, including any past injuries, accidents, treatments, etc. We will not reveal any of your personal information or secrets without your consent, except as necessary to advocate for your case.

At what point do I have that privilege? There must be a mutual understanding that the client has engaged the lawyer and the lawyer has accepted representation. This occurs during the initial consultation and, if you retain or hire the lawyer, continues until the end of the case. If you decide not to retain him or her, attorney-client privilege pertains only to information shared during that consultation and does not apply to future communication. This means when you casually ask legal advice of a lawyer friend, the conversation is most likely not under the attorney-client privilege, because that relationship has not yet been established.

Is everything I tell an attorney private? At Christensen & Hymas, we are committed to our code of ethics. Your privacy is important to us. Most things you tell us are private, except in the case of future harm, planned illegal acts, etc., or if you are talking in public with your attorney, in which case there is no guarantee that that information is secure.

Right to have your legal rights and options explained in plain English

Those in the legal profession are notorious for complicating simple ideas and using confusing jargon. At Christensen & Hymas, we understand that our clients, especially when dealing with an injury, do not have the spare time or energy to translate legal-speak into plain English. So, we do it for you.

Right to a fair written fee agreement and a fair fee for our work

The fee agreement is essential to your well-being and peace of mind in your case. It sets out the technical terms of the attorney-client relationship and ensures you that you will be able to pay for our services. Because Christensen & Hymas work on a contingeny fee, we don’t get paid until and unless your case is settled and you win. You pay us 1/3 of the money you are awarded.

3117fAlso expect the right to:

  • Talk to your attorney within a reasonable amount of time
  • Expect competence from us and members of our firm
  • Know the truth about your case
  • Receive regular case updates in a timely manner
  • Make the ultimate decisions in your case

What does Christensen & Hymas expect of me as a client?

You are an important member of our team. After all, it’s your case. We value your information and suggestions and expect you to provide input during the case. We grant you certain rights, and we have certain expectations in return, which are necessary for a healthy client-attorney relationship.

We expect you to be honest and disclose relevant information.

It doesn’t matter how good your case is, if you lie or omit information about past injuries, accidents, treatments, etc., the truth will eventually come out and your case will be permanently damaged. If that happens, Mr. Christensen and Mr. Hymas usually will choose to withdraw as your attorney. Remember, the insurance companies have access to vast databases about your private life, including past lawsuits, claims, and injuries. Tell your lawyer all about past injuries, claims, treatments, etc., even if they seem irrelevant—then he can deal with integrating them in the case. The worst thing is for your lawyer to be the last one to know.

We expect you to keep us informed about changes in your case.

This includes changes in:

  • whom you see for medical care, for example, if you change doctors
  • medical treatment, if you stop or alter plans
  • bills you receive—keep your attorney in the loop about all new expenses, even if the insurance company is paying for it
  • your work schedule/habits—e.g. if your doctor clears you for work
  • new address, phone number, and other contact info
  • different routine—for example, if you are planning to go on a long trip, then inform your attorney.
  • change in your legal status—if another accident happens or you are involved in another legal proceeding

We expect you to do everything you can to further the case along

Obtain adequate health care at every stage of your recovery. Do not return to normal work and activities if your body is not ready for it. If you do, the other party could allege you worsened your own injuries.

Don’t sign any document regarding your health or case without the advice of your lawyer.

Do not discuss your case with anyone except your attorney. Refer people who ask you about the case to your attorney.

How can I best communicate with my attorney?

In the day-to-day work and stress of your injury case, details of communication with your attorney and law office can become problems if not addressed at the start of the case.

For example, if you send your attorney an email and expect a response within the next few hours, you will likely be disappointed or frustrated if you find out your attorney is in court all day or out of town. Your attorney may feel similarly if he expects you to answer a voicemail but you forgot to mention to him that you don’t have regular access to your voicemail.

Before proceeding with your case, you and your attorney need to sit down at the onset and outline expectations. When doing this, consider:

Schedules

  • Do either one of our schedules need accommodations?
  • Can we both meet during normal business hours?
  • Can I expect evenings to be open?
  • What about weekends?

Technologies 

  • What technologies do we each expect to communicate with? Email, phone call, fax? Attachments, websites, text messages, voicemails?
  • How soon can we each generally expect to receive a reply to these messages? Will they be detailed replies, or will details be discussed in person?
  • How often can I follow up or make inquiries into the case?
  • Are cell phone numbers exchanged? During what hours can those numbers be used? In which situations?

While not everything in the case is under your or your attorney’s control, you should be happy with your attorney’s and legal team’s efforts, competency, and communication with you. Lack of communication between attorney and client is the number one reason that clients fire their personal injury attorney. Start yourself off right by hiring an attorney who will understand and protect your rights, an attorney who will respect, be open with, and communicate regularly with you. And be sure to be the kind of client that that kind of attorney would want to work with by respecting your attorney’s time and efforts.

Sources:

Nolo

American Bar: Attorney-client relationship, rules of conduct, and communication

All Law: Claims and settlements, expectations

AAML.org

Photo “Money” copy right to Andrew Magill

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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