When pursuing justice for a personal injury, honesty is one of the most important qualities a plaintiff can exhibit. In addition, they should search for an attorney to represent them that is trustworthy, skilled and knowledgeable.
Jay Kelley, managing partner at Elk & Elk Co., Ltd. in Mayfield Heights, and Dana Paris, partner at Nurenberg Paris in Cleveland, discussed best practices for finding the right attorney and cooperating with the litigation process.
“Automobile accidents, slip and falls, and dog bites are three of the most common” causes of a personal injury claim, Kelley said.
When searching for a personal injury attorney, he recommended that people look for someone who has experience and availability.
“With regards to experience, you want someone who has handled that type of case in the jurisdiction that you’re in,” he noted.
Seeking someone within one’s jurisdiction will help them find someone who is familiar with the process and will help build the best arguments, he said.
Availability is important because it will help ensure that a client can contact their attorney, or their staff or paralegals, and will receive timely responses.
Clients should be compliant with the process, Kelley pointed out. They can do this by being consistent with their medical care to maximize their recovery, and by documenting their medical bills and financial losses.
“They must communicate regularly with their counsel to provide them updates and/or changes of their conditions, and then they should listen to and follow the advice of their counsel,” he advised.
Kelley further recommended that clients do not share anything about their case or communications with their legal counsel on any social media platforms.
Making a claim in a timely manner is important, he pointed out, as there is a statute of limitations on these cases.
“In medical cases, that can be a year,” Kelley said. “In some personal injury cases, that can be two.”
It is wise to respond to requests for information in a timely manner and to be honest with medical providers, counsel and the courts, he said.
Paris emphasized the importance of looking for an attorney who has trial experience.
“I think that is the most important component for plaintiffs and injured parties to think about when they’re shopping around for an attorney,” she said. “The reason why that’s so important is because as a trial attorney–as a trial advocate–you actually have the skills, knowledge and experience to walk into that courtroom, try that case and go up against the insurance company on the other side.”
Being honest with one’s attorney, establishing a trusting relationship and having an open line of communication are keys to a successful attorney-client relationship, Paris pointed out.
“It is a relationship between the client and the attorney and it can sometimes be a very long relationship,” she said. “What I always tell my clients is that it has to be a trusting relationship and the plaintiff – the client – has to trust me throughout the process.”
Being consistent with going to medical appointments, such as physical therapy or follow ups with a general physician or specialist, are good practices for plaintiffs to exhibit, she stated.
Medical records are the basis and foundation for personal injury cases, so plaintiffs should keep proper documentation of their treatments and other applicable information, Paris said.
In addition to honesty with one’s attorney, Paris also said that it is vital to be transparent with the courts throughout the litigation process.
“If they were not honest and open with their attorney or during their deposition or during the litigation process; if they lack that honesty and credibility, that can be detrimental to a case,” she said.
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