3.1. When in doubt, contact an attorney quickly.
An individual suffering from a catastrophic spinal cord injury is faced with a host of decisions regarding medical treatment, therapy, rehabilitation, and funding. Because the majority of spinal cord injuries are the result of some type of accident, the question about hiring a lawyer most likely will eventually arise. Should we consider filing a claim against the person who caused the accident? Do I have a case? Do I need to hire a lawyer?
Because the more pressing questions regarding care and recovery must be addressed immediately, legal questions about a potential personal injury case are often put on the back burner until the family has time to catch their breath. Sadly, this can work against the injured victim.
If the accident causing the catastrophic injury was caused, in whole or in part, by an entity or individual with means, or covered by liability insurance, you can rest assured that within 24 hours of the accident, the defense and opposition to your claim is being formulated, investigated, and prepared. That's why it's important for you to choose your lawyer not only carefully, but quickly as well.
The importance of moving quickly:
- Determining Responsibility. Determining who is responsible for catastrophic injuries can be difficult. Typically, there may be one or more obvious parties directly involved at the scene of the accident. However, there may be several other less obvious parties whose conduct played a role in causing your injuries. Catastrophic injuries usually cause the victim to suffer extensive monetary damages. It is important to identify everyone who may be responsible so that complete justice may be done.
- Documenting the Scene. While pictures and video of an accident scene are worth a lot to your attorney, pictures and video of a fresh accident scene are invaluable. Over time, skid marks fade. Construction sites are cleaned. Remedial measures are taken by the wrongdoer in order to rectify a dangerous situation. You can verbally describe "the way it was" all day long and not deliver the impact one simple picture can carry.
- Witnesses. The timing of witness statements is crucial. Memory changes with time. It also changes with suggestions. Witnesses to an incident which causes a catastrophic injury are immediately interviewed by the responsible party. It is imperative that counsel for the victim obtain solid witness statements as soon as possible.
- Preservation of evidence. The entities responsible for a catastrophic injury should be put on immediate notice of your demand that any evidence in their possession be preserved in its original state. For example, in a case involving a trucking accident, most rigs contain an electronic control module which temporarily records, among other things, the speed of the vehicle. Over time, crucial evidence can be lost or even destroyed. The victim's attorney should immediately notify the trucking company, demanding that the module, along with all log books, driving records, etc. be preserved.
This educational information is provided by Ted Tredennick, Esq., of Thompson and Tredennick, LLP.