The overarching theme in the attorney-client relationship is complete honesty and openness. Only then can I, as an attorney, do the best job possible for you as the client. Attorneys are professionals. We’ve been specially trained in the law, and we’ve had a variety of clients, mentorships, and job situations over the years that shape the way we handle cases—I would even say that no two attorneys, even those working for the same law firm or the same supervisor, will have the exact same approach to any given client or any given case. Based on our individual training and experience, we will ask the information that we think is important to represent the client’s interests. It’s then the client’s job to answer those inquiries as honestly and completely as possible to avoid any misunderstanding or the possibility that something’s going to be overlooked.
One of the most common issues, that comes up in almost every injury case is whether there are any preexisting injuries or medical conditions that may impact the claims being made. Your attorney should ask you about that, and if they don’t, I would say that’s one area where you better tell them about anyway. Share anything and everything you know about your medical history that you can recall. Offer that up if the attorney fails to ask for it. The attorney works for the client, so we have an obligation to diligently pursue their claim and act in their best interests. To do that, we need to have the fullest picture possible – not just of their current injuries and case facts – but all relevant history and background, because we understand through our experience and training that those things the client might not recognize as relevant could impact the case. We’re going to ask for a bigger picture than what the client often thinks is important or relevant.
Also, as part of our duty to the client, there is a relationship premised on confidentiality. I always tell clients they can rest assured that anything they say will be kept in the confines of the office and that only those people in the office who need to know are going to be privy to the facts they share. The case depends on the sharing of the relevant facts, so the things that are relevant and important will get shared, but the things they tell us that end up not being relevant aren’t going to go any further than our office. Over-inform us, and then let me, as the legal professional, make the decision on what needs to be shared and what doesn’t.
In addition to sharing your medical history with your attorney, whether they ask for it or not, it might also be a good idea to come up with a list of all doctors, hospitals, clinics, and therapists that you’ve treated with over the last ten years. Identifying the injuries or medical conditions that you treated during that time is very important. Sign an authorization so your attorney can request those records.
I Was Partially at Fault for My Car Accident That Caused Injuries. How Is That Going to Impact My South Central Indiana Personal Injury Claim?
If you believe you may have been partially at fault, it’s even more important that you contact an attorney sooner rather than later. That’s because that fault determination is going to be very fact-specific, and there may be evidence that needs to be documented and/or preserved. The sooner that can get done, the better.
In any personal injury case, there are two overarching issues that govern what a case is worth. Number one is who’s at fault, and number two is what the injury is worth. So even though you may be partially at fault, that doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to recover. Fault in most cases can be determined based on what the parties and the witnesses report, but in some cases, the speed of one of the parties or some other issue that could impact liability might require some investigative and scientific analysis. In those cases, an expert might need to be hired and evidence preserved. The longer you wait, the harder it likely will be to reconstruct key facts that impact the liability analysis.
Items that may need to be analyzed could include skid marks that need to be measured, debris that needs to be examined, and cars in a tow yard that need to be inspected and have their systems documented before they’re salvaged. By getting an attorney early, you can minimize the chance that crucial evidence will be destroyed before being analyzed.
Let’s return to the partial fault issue. Prior to 1985, Indiana operated under the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under that old common law doctrine, if an injured party was deemed to be any percent at fault for contributing to the crash, they were precluded from recovery. In other words, their case was thrown out. Since 1985, Indiana has adopted a comparative fault rule. This doctrine does away with the harsh result of contributory negligence and instead provides that your own fault will proportionately diminish your chance for recovery but not necessarily destroy it. Only if you’re deemed to be more than 50% at fault will your fault destroy your claim. Fault less than 50% will merely reduce the amount that you’ll recover so that the other party only pays for the percentage of damages that they caused, not what you caused.
A simple example would be if your case goes to trial and a jury comes back with a verdict that says your total damages compensation for your injuries and losses is $100,000, but they also deem you to be 10% at fault for the crash. The judge will enter a judgment that the other side has to pay you $90,000. Your recovery is reduced by your fault that you proportionately caused, which is 10% or $10,000 in that example.