Personal Injury 101

What to Do When You Suffer a Personal Injury

When you suffer an injury, you feel shock, pain, and fear. After the initial trauma is over, you may start to worry:

How am I going to recover ?
            What kind of treatment do I need?
            How am I going to pay for this?
            How is this going to affect my life?
            What happens if I lose my job?

Many injuries are the result of someone else’s negligence, or sometimes, the intentionally harmful actions of others. Personal injury laws help protect you by allowing you to recover compensation for your injuries and the pain and suffering they cause in your life.

An experienced attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries, but it’s important that you work with your attorney to help ensure your legal claim is as strong as possible.

Whether you’ve been in an car, truck, SUV or bus accident, suffered a slip-and-fall or other on-premises injury, been bitten by animal, or were injured while on the job, this eBook will help you preserve your rights every step of the way through your personal injury claim.

 

Things to Do in ANY Occurrence

Immediate first steps

After suffering any injury, first make sure that everyone at the scene (including yourself) is safe. Move out of harm’s way (e.g., off to the side of the road, away from harmful machinery, etc.), and, if appropriate, call emergency medical personnel for yourself or others.

 

At the scene and right after the occurrence

  • Exchange contact information with the other parties involved, if possible, or memorialize as much information as you can about the other party. For example, if you’re injured on someone’s property, write down the address; if you’re hit by a car that doesn’t stop, get the license plate, make, and model of the vehicle; or if you slip and fall at a grocery store, speak to the store manager or security.
  • If there are witnesses to the occurrence, get their contact information, such as: home address, telephone numbers and email address. If they are willing, you might ask them to make an audio or video statement using a cell phone or other recording device about what they witnessed.
  • Exchange insurance information with any involved parties – auto, property, and/or umbrella insurance information, as appropriate. If the accident occurred while you were working, you’ll need to start a conversation with your employer about worker’s compensation insurance (more on that later).
  • Photograph the vehicles, including close-ups of any damage. Also take photos of any apparent personal injuries, as well as the scene of the occurrence – including signs, signals, and traffic or property conditions.
  • Make a police report. Many areas no longer dispatch police units to minor traffic accidents, but always call the police at the time of the accident. If they don’t come to the scene, ask how to make a police report of the incident – you may have to go in to the precinct office or station.
  • Seek immediate medical treatment. Even if you don’t receive emergency treatment at the scene of the occurrence, make an appointment as soon as possible with a care facility or your primary care physician to evaluate any potential injuries. Often, injuries worsen in the few days after an occurrence. Seeking immediate care can improve your chances of both receiving the best treatment possible and recovering appropriate compensation for your losses.

Continuing care and follow-up actions

  • Call your insurance provider, if applicable. Your insurer may prefer you see specific medical providers for your continuing care and may help you with immediate medical expenses. (Later, your insurer might be repaid some of these expenses if you recover in a lawsuit or settlement.)
  • Follow your recommended ongoing medical treatment plan. If your care provider recommends additional treatment for your injuries, be diligent about your care plan (including at-home exercises and follow-up appointments).   Do not abuse or neglect your prescription medication treatment.
  • Keep a journal. In addition to writing down your recollections of the initial injury and occurrence, write down your progress with your recovery and care program. This should include how you feel physically and mentally, progress logs of your care or treatment plan, and things you are unable to or restricted from doing because of your injury or treatment.
  • Be attentive to your social media. Everything that you post on the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) will be considered in litigation, so make sure that how you are portrayed by your own and other people’s posts is intentional, accurate, and not misleading.
  • Record your missed work. Keep track of every hour or day you miss work because of injury restrictions, treatment, or doctor’s visits, including missed opportunities (e.g., if you are a freelancer or contract employee and have to turn down work). If it’s possible to obtain written documentation of your missed time and corresponding lost wages from your employer, do so.
  • Record any missed school. If you’re attending school, keep track of hours missed or classes marked “incomplete,” any consequences you suffer (for example, not being able to advance with the rest of your class or enter a scheduled program), and any expenses you incur as a result.
  • Keep a complete and thorough list of our of pocket expenses.  If you are required to attend therapy, you will be responsible for co-pays; tolls and mileage; and keep receipts for your exercise bands, braces and mats.

 

Auto Accidents: Special Considerations

Auto repair estimates and bills:

Do not ever accept a repair estimate offered by an insurance company without first seeking opinions from two additional reputable automotive repair technicians. Retain copies of any and all paperwork pertaining to the damage and repairs to your vehicle.

Liability issues:

Whether another party is liable for an auto accident that causes you injury sometimes depends on whether they were negligent, i.e., failed to use the amount of care they were obligated to use, and whether (or how much) you also contributed to the occurrence. Making sure you get accurate statements and contact information from witnesses can make all the difference in litigating or settling your case.

Your attorney may hire experts to investigate and/or testify about the weather conditions, the traffic patterns at the location of the accident, your injuries or disabilities, or other special knowledge which helps prove the other party’s liability and the amount you should be compensated.

 

Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents: Special Considerations

Property repairs:

Slip, trip and fall accidents are frequently caused by hazardous conditions on property, such as holes, uncovered wells, broken stairs, etc. Once an accident occurs, a property owner frequently fixes the problem. While this may seem like admitting fault, it won’t be admissible to show that a property owner was at fault for your accident. The rationale is that it’s better for everyone when hazardous conditions are removed so no one else gets injured. A property owner fixing the condition IS relevant, however, to whether he or she owns the property and has the right and responsibility to maintain it, so if you see any repairs being made, you should document them, photographically if possible.

Weather conditions:

Both private and commercial property owners are required by New Jersey law to remove snow and ice within a certain period of time and to take measures such as salting or sanding to ensure that their premises are safe for customers, employees, and passersby. You should document both the overall weather conditions at the time of your injury and the condition of the property on which you were harmed.

Other possible hazards:

Other hazardous conditions that could contribute injury for which a property owner would be liable include (but are not limited to):

  • Uneven, cracked, or slippery walkways
  • Dangerous dogs
  • Faulty fences or barriers
  • Lack of signs and warnings of obviously dangerous conditions
  • Debris, trash, and unsafe materials left on the ground
  • Structural issues with overhangs
  • Known perpetrators (such as gangs) on property
  • Building code violations

 

Knowledge of hazards:

A property owner is liable for your injuries if he either knew about or reasonably should have known about the hazard that caused them.

For example, a farm owner would be expected to know about an uncovered well on his property (an obvious hazard), but probably wouldn’t be expected to have known about an underground tunnel that suddenly caves into a sinkhole (a hidden hazard). If, however, the farmer had been told when he bought the farm about the network of tunnels under the property that could potentially collapse, he would be liable for injuries caused by that occurrence.

Property owners are required to take reasonable care to maintain their property and ensure it remains safe for visitors. If you have reason to believe that a property owner knew of the hazard that caused you to trip, slip, or fall, you should tell your attorney immediately.

Liability issues:

If you are equally or primarily responsible for your own injuries, you may not be entitled to recover any damages at all from the property owner, even if there was a hazard. Again, making sure you get accurate statements and contact information from witnesses can make all the difference in litigating or settling your case.

Your attorney may hire experts to investigate and/or testify about the weather conditions, the building or property codes of the premises on which you slipped, tripped, or fell, your injuries or disabilities, or other special knowledge that helps prove the other party’s liability and the amount you should be compensated.

 

Dog and Animal Attacks: Special Considerations

Strict liability:

If a dog bites someone, the dog owner is responsible for any and all injuries directly resulting from the dog bite. New Jersey’s dog bite statute has a “strict liability” standard. This means that if you are bitten by a dog while you’re in a public place or lawfully on someone’s property, the owner is liable for these injuries even if he or she used reasonable care to restrain the dog or to protect or warn others.

Provocation:

Provocation is a defense, but only if the dog owner can show that it was extreme and egregious. If the owner makes such a claim, witness statements can help show that an animal attacked you without sufficient provocation. If a person owns an inherently dangerous animal (like a tiger), however, he is liable for any injuries it causes, regardless of provocation.

Report the incident to authorities:

If you have been attacked or bitten by an animal, especially if it was accidental, you might worry that reporting the occurrence will result in the animal being “put down.” That’s not necessarily the case in New Jersey, and reporting an incident is essential to both preserve public safety and ensure that you are compensated properly for your injuries.

Dog attacks can also cause transmission of diseases, including rabies, and dangerous dogs can be a continuing hazard to others. Animal control will conduct an investigation to determine what the appropriate action should be for the animal; if it has shown a pattern of viciousness or abuse or is infected with rabies or other transmissible disease, animal control may order it to be put down.

 

Workers Compensation: Special Considerations

Your employer carries insurance for your injuries.

In New Jersey, every worker is entitled to benefits for on-the-job injuries. Employers are required to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance to pay those benefits. If they do not, they may be subject to heavy penalties. If your employer doesn’t have workers’ comp insurance, New Jersey has a fund set up to pay benefits to workers in your situation.

Don not hesitate to report on-the-job injuries because you worry it will come out of your employer’s pocket; that’s what workers’ comp insurance is for.  Its insurance!  It protects your employer from having to pay a lot of money if a worker is hurt but ensures that workers are compensated if injured.

Notify your employer as soon as possible.

You can give notice verbally or in writing to your supervisor, HR, personnel office, manager, or anyone else in authority at your business that you have been injured. If you aren’t already receiving emergency medical care, make a request for medical treatment as soon as possible – your employer and/or its insurance carrier has the right to select the doctor(s) who provide care for you.

Continue to update your employer and its insurer.

You will be required to fill out a lot of paperwork for your employer and its insurer during the course of your medical treatment and recovery. It is important for you to comply with these requests in order to make sure you are compensated fully and fairly.

Ask an attorney for advice with the dispute process.

If your employer disputes whether you should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries, or if you dispute the amount of benefits the insurer offers to provide, you may file either a formal claim petition or an application for an informal hearing with the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation. It is common (and recommended by the state) that an attorney represents you, the Petitioner,  through the informal or formal dispute resolution process to determine the applicability of benefits, the nature and scope of reimbursement, and the determination of any permanent disability status.

 

Your Attorney Is Your Advocate

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you every step of the way in recovering from your injuries – physically, emotionally, and economically. Having a guide to help you investigate the responsible party’s liability, compile your information and expenses into a manageable demand package, and reasonably value your damages will help ensure you are fairly compensated.

The Mark Law Firm’s team of experienced attorneys will help you recover for your personal injuries. Contact us today for a FREE consultation!