Accepting Personal Injury Cases

New lawyers sometimes are too excited to accept cases that they run the risk of being called the “Ambulance Chasers.” The following pointers are adapted from Jay G. Foonberg’s book How to Start and Build Law Practice:

1. When talking with the prospective client or family for the first time, tell them to engage to you as often and rapidly as possible. It is necessary to begin to work on the case immediately to protect the client’s own best interests and substantiate the need for immediate legal service. Remind to the client also not to discuss fault or facts with anybody except police officers until after they’ve consulted you.

2. Your potential client must be made to understand the importance for the investigator to photograph every evidence before they get cleaned or repaired.

3. Third-party witnesses must be interviewed as soon as possible.

4. The scene of the accident must be reviewed and photograph before it is altered.

5. Remind your client that torn and blood-stained garments or other evidences must not be thrown away at the hospital. Bruises and other physical manifestations of the injury must be photographed immediately.

6. The injured person must be reminded that insurance company’s primary concern is to defend a claim for damages rather than getting any funds for the insured for personal injury.

7. The defendant must be told that the letter of claim begins a timetable and acknowledgement of receipt of letter must be within 21 days.

8. The letter of claim must be sent in duplicate and the defendant requested to send a copy to the insurance company.

9. Ensure that the medical records are accurate and has been fully reviewed by your client. Allocate enough time for the review of medical records. Keep in mind that insurance companies pay much more attention to a report that comes from a doctor rather than from a nonphysician.

Your letter of claim must have the following: (Source: Practice Notes on Personal Injury by Gordon Exall)

1. Clear summary of the facts on which the claim is based.

2. An indication of the nature of any injuries suffered and financial loss incurred.

3. Details of client’s employment, loss of earnings and any other losses.

4. If police report obtained, an offer to provide a copy if the defendant pays half the fee for obtaining it.

5. List of documents the defendant is expected to disclose.

6. Details of the insurer should be asked for.

One of the concerns in accepting personal injury cases is the possibility of not getting paid for every effort you do.
Remind the client orally and in writing that “based on the facts as they appear in the present time, it appears that he has a meritorious case. That is why, it is impossible to value the case until the full extent of personal injury, the need for treatment, damages, and losses are known.” Make sure you are able the client to sigh more than one document. Don’t rely on promises or guarantees and have other witnesses of the agreement that you had. It can be a client’s friend or relative who can later testify in favor to you. Make sure that you have every reasonable opportunity not to use you. If in case you have decided not to accept a case, send a client a nonengagement letter so that your client has fully understand that you are taking professional responsibility.