The Ultimate Guide to Winning Your Personal Injury Case

Everything you need to know to get the maximum compensation for your injury settlement.

Personal Injury cases are serious business, and there are very specific actions you’ll need to take when deciding to file a claim. We’ll start by explaining the very first steps to take after your injury, and then we’ll examine the most common kinds of Personal Injury claims.

Next, we’ll answer your most pressing questions about your case—how much can you expect to get from your settlement—and then we’ll walk you through the process of collecting evidence, filing your claim, and making sure you present the strongest case to ensure you get the money you’re owed.

But first things first.

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Intro & First Steps After an Injury

The First 3 Things to do Following an Injury

  • After an incident, your first responsibility is to seek medical attention right away.
  • Next, it’s important to notify your insurance company, whether or not you plan to file a claim. You’ll want to find out if they’re going to cover your medical bills, but this is also a safeguard against any potential future claims.
  • The third thing you’ll want to do following your personal injury is to document the event for your own records. This will give you a strong leg up if you decide to go forward with a lawsuit, and it will also provide a more accurate record of the events, as memories tend to get distorted, and details forgotten, over time.

So what exactly is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A PI lawsuit is when an individual inflicts harm, whether intentionally or accidentally, to you either physically or otherwise, and you file a claim in hopes of seeking justice in the form of compensation.

Common Reasons People File Personal Injury Claims

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but will give you an idea of some of the most common reasons people file personal injury lawsuits:

  • Slips & Falls
    Falls and slips are among the most prevalent personal injury lawsuits. In these instances, the victim is pressing charges against a property owner for unsafe conditions.
  • Automobile Accidents
    Without a doubt, car crashes make up most personal injury claims, especially with the rise of cell phones and texting.
  • Dog Bites
    A dog owner is usually responsible for injuries caused by his or her canine. The laws surrounding dog bites can be different from state to state. But as a general rule of thumb, the owner of the dog is typically responsible for any injuries they may cause.
  • Slander & Libel Defamation claims
    These types of claims rely on the victim being able to show that they have suffered an injury to their reputation, due to someone making false accusations about their character or actions.
  • Assault & Battery
    Whether accidental or intentional, someone can be held liable for injuring or assaulting another person.
  • Toxic Torts
    These kinds of claims involve the victim being exposed to chemicals which lead to injury or disease.
  • Medical Malpractice
    This is when healthcare professionals such as doctors act negligent, resulting in harm to their patient.

Part 1: Most Important Questions for PI Lawsuits

What Are The Types of Compensation I Can Sue For?

A Personal Injury attorney can help you seek various types of compensation in a settlement demand letter. Some of these might include:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Any out-of-pocket Costs
  • Emotional Damage or Suffering
  • Physical Pain
  • Loss of Earnings
  • Any Property Damages

How Much Can I Expect to Get From My Settlement?

This will depend on the specific details of your case. What were your medical costs? Exactly how much property damage was incurred? How serious are your injuries? Are your injuries causing you to miss work, and therefore affecting your income?

All of these factors will help determine how much you can expect to get out of your settlement.

Is There a Timeframe For Filing a Personal Injury Claim?

There are two factors that determine the timeframe for filing your claim: when the incident occurred, and where it took place. As with many laws, the timeframe changes from state-to-state, and can range anywhere from a year up to ten years, but the majority of states allow for a two-year window for you to file your claim.

How Long Should it Take to Reach a Settlement?

Since every personal injury case has its own unique circumstances, this will depend on a handful of factors.  How much evidence can you present? How many parties are involved? Exactly how devastating are your injuries? How willing is the insurance company to settle?

Thankfully the majority of PI cases don’t make it to trial, which means they typically take less time than other kinds of legal disputes.

Will The Insurance Company Make Me an Offer?

In personal injury cases, the common rule is not to accept the insurance provider’s initial settlement offer. Remember, an insurance company’s goal is to persuade you to accept the least possible amount they can pay out. This is how they stay in business.

If you accept their lowest bid, you won’t be able to sue them for more, should future issues, or unforeseen expenses, present themselves.

The scariest words to an insurance claims agent are “No thank you. I’ll be hiring a Personal Injury lawyer.” They immediately know that their costs, and your settlement, is about to go up.

How Much Does a Personal Injury Attorney Cost?

Most Personal Injury lawyers operate under a Contingency Fee Basis”, which means there will be no upfront costs to you. The attorney will only be compensated if you win your settlement.

This should not only put your mind at east, knowing that you’re not coming out of pocket, but also, this ensures you that your attorney is going to fight to get you the highest possible settlement since their fee is a percentage of your winnings.

Part 2: Everything You’ll Need to Win Your Case

Gather Evidence

Document your incident

In order to present your case successfully, you’ll have to establish that your injuries were a result of the defendant’s actions or negligence. To do that, you’ll need detailed evidence.

No detail is too small here. Note the time—the exact time, if possible—when the incident occurred. List who was on the scene at that time. Make note of what the weather was like when the event happened.
You won’t have to worry about remembering minute, though crucial details, later if you jot the events down when they’re fresh in your mind. Again, no detail can be too small.

It can also be advantageous to illustrate the defendant’s demeanor after you were injured.  Were they apologetic? Did they take responsibility? Was there any offer to help cover your medical costs?  Certain admissions like these could possibly be used to negotiate a settlement.

Take pictures of any damages (to you or your property)

If a settlement can’t be reached, it could be months, even years, before your case goes to trial. Your injuries might not be visible by then, which can take a lot of the oomph out of your case. This is why it’s absolutely crucial to take photos of your injuries as soon as possible.

Being able to show your injuries right after they occurred can have a powerful impression on your trial.

You’ll also want to capture photos of any and all damage done to your vehicle, as well as the other cars involved. Be sure to get the make and model of each vehicle.  You may need to take close pics for detail, and then take a few steps back so that you can capture the full license plate of each car.

You don’t have to be confrontational when doing this.  As you take your pictures, you can let everyone involved know that you’re doing this for your legal safety, as well as theirs.

Journal everything

It’s a good idea to keep a daily log of your sleep quality, your level of energy, and your mood. Since these aren’t things doctors typically take into account, you’ll want to maintain your own records to use present your case.

It’s equally a good idea to make note of any relationship difficulties, or changes, as a result of your injury. This is called a loss of consortium, and you can be compensated for these issues.

Take pictures of where the incident took place

As quickly as possible, you’ll want to take pictures of the area where the incident took place. If the area where you were injured is hazardous on its own—a stairway without a handrail, for example—photos will be especially helpful.

If for no other reason, you’ll want to take pictures to document the scene before the defending party has a chance to cover up any hazardous conditions that could have contributed to your injury.

Be sure to take your pictures from various positions and angles, and ideally at the same time of day as the incident. If it occurred in the evening, take them when it’s dark out.

Talk to witnesses

Immediately following the incident, if you’re capable, try to find anyone who might have witnessed what happened. Memories can get distorted quickly, so you don’t want to hesitate if at all possible.
You don’t need to overdo it. Simply ask if they’d be willing to give a brief statement about what they witnessed. And be sure to get each person’s contact info—phone numbers, full names, addresses.

Since third-party witnesses don’t have any reason to lie, if your case goes to trial, their testimony will add a lot more weight to your claim than a close friend or family member would.

Consult an Attorney

Before we discuss the benefits of seeking a Personal Injury Attorney, let’s quickly go through the common reasons people often do NOT seek out an attorney

Obviously, the first thought that springs to mind is that you might not be able to afford an attorney. But here’s why this is a misconception.

As mentioned earlier, most attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning they’ll only get paid if you win your case. On top of that, simply by hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer, the insurance provider will know there are suddenly real stakes at risk and will be forced to offer more realistic settlement prices. On your own, you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table.

In reality, it’s far more expensive to not have an experienced attorney in your corner.

And in case that weren’t enough reason to seek representation, let’s take a look at some other benefits to having a personal injury lawyer in your corner.

  • An attorney can take the bulk of the investing & evidence collecting off your plate, as well as take care of the tedious paperwork for you.
    They’ll also be able to wrangle in expert witnesses such as medical professionals, who will be able to attest to the severity of your injuries.
  • It’s crucial to have somebody on your side who’s familiar with the complexities of Personal Injury law—especially since the laws vary from state to state.
  • An attorney who’s experienced in settlement negotiations will be able to assess whether you’re getting a good deal.
  • And unless you’re experienced in legal debate, you’ll benefit highly from having a lawyer to argue your case against the defense legal team.

When meeting with an attorney

It’s always a good idea to have your medical records, as well as any evidence you’ve already collected so that they can determine how strong your claim is. Here are some of the factors they’ll take into account when examining your case:

  • Do you have any pre-existing injuries that might affect the value of a case?
  • Was the injury done intentionally? If your attorney can establish that you were purposefully harmed, you may be able to reap punitive damages.
  • What kind of assets does the defendant have? If there’s no insurance, or money to compensate you with, there might not be a reason to pursue your lawsuit.
  • Is your injury permanent? Permanent injuries carry a lot more weight in a courtroom.
  • Do you have a criminal record? If so, judges and juries may have less sympathy for you.

Part 3: Filing a Claim & What to Do Next

File Your Complaint

To initiate your lawsuit, your lawyer is going to draft and file your complaint with the court system. This is where you’ll present your facts along with your attorney’s legal reasons in support of your claim, and of course the compensation you’re proposing.

Once the complaint is filed, your lawyer will then serve a copy to the opposing side. You’ll also want to retain a copy for your own personal files.

The Discovery Process

Now that your lawsuit is underway, both you and the opposing party will be able to request evidence from each other. You’ll also be able to ask the opposing party answer questions in writing, or orally if required.
Be prepared: You’ll likely have to submit your relevant receipts, and medical records, to the defendant’s attorney.

If your attorney asks for any documentation from you, it’s important to get them what they need as quickly as possible.

The Deposition

A deposition is usually held in an attorney’s office, where witnesses will be sworn, along with a court reporter who will record the testimonies.
Since you’re the one making the claim, be prepared to be deposed.

It’s not uncommon for your lawyer to run through a mock deposition to prepare you for the real thing. They should ask you questions and have you describe the accident, and your injury in as much detail as possible.
Don’t be surprised if they act overly aggressive when questioning you. The other side will likely do the same.

When it’s time for the actual deposition, always speak slowly and thoughtfully. If there’s an answer you don’t know, just be honest. It’s better to say you don’t know than to say something that could be used against you in court.

Never engage in small talk with the opposing side’s attorney during a deposition—even if they say they just want to make you comfortable before officially beginning.

Independent Medical Exam

The defendant’s insurance provider will likely insist you undergo an independent medical exam, and it’s important for you to understand why.  If they can find a reason to avoid paying you, they’re going to jump on it. By sending you to a medical professional who’s on their side, they’ll be looking to downplay the severity of your injuries.

Just know that this is to be expected and that you’ve got your doctor’s findings to counter theirs.

Their doctor will probably ask questions about your lifestyle—are you a drinker? Do you do any drugs? What about smoking?. It’s important to answer honestly. However, you shouldn’t volunteer any information unprompted.

Do not let their medical professional perform any psychological examinations or take any x-rays.  If they say you have to, do not agree under any circumstances, and call your attorney right then and there. Let them handle it.  And before leaving your examination, request a copy of the doctor’s report.

Jury Demand

If you’re seeking compensation of $15,000 or more, then the opposing side, or their insurance provider, will have the right to demand that your claim be decided by a jury, which automatically transitions your case from District Court to Circuit Court.

And if you’re suing for an amount in excess of $30,000, then your lawsuit will fall under the Circuit Court’s jurisdiction by default.

Settlement Negotiations

Prior to a negotiation, your attorney will explain their strategy to you, so you know what to expect. They’ll want to aim for the highest possible amount because they’ll be expecting the defense to make a counteroffer for less.

When negotiating a settlement, you’ll meet in person with the defendant, both attorneys present, and you should already have a good idea of how much to expect as an offer. During the negotiation, both side’s lawyers will evaluate your case’s weaknesses versus its strengths, as they work towards an agreement.

If an agreement can be reached, you’re likely to receive compensation much more quickly than if your case had gone to trial. Another benefit is that by reaching a settlement early on, you’ll keep your legal expenses down.

Important note:  Under no circumstances can your lawyer accept a settlement without your approval. It’s unlikely they’d want to settle for less than the maximum amount you could win, but it can’t hurt to know that you’re the only one who can accept a settlement offer.

Considering Mediation

Mediation is when both you and the opposing side meet with a mediator who acts as a neutral third party who helps to establish areas of agreement, in order to reach a fair settlement.

Sometimes it can be helpful for both sides to approach issues with more clarity, simply by having an outsider explain them, without bias.
If you think a mediator would help you reach a settlement, you can call your local bar association, or courthouse, and ask about their mediation program. These third-party mediators typically charge for this service, but their fees will likely cost you far less than long, drawn-out legal process.

Also, mediation fees are usually divided between both parties.

Part 4: Your Trial – Everything to Expect

Opening statements

For opening statements, both sides will outline the evidence they’ll be presenting to the jury, once the trial begins. The idea here is to prime the jury to the nature of the evidence you intend to prove.

Questioning witnesses and presenting evidence

Since you filed the lawsuit, your side will have the chance to present your witnesses first, as well as put forth your evidence.

If at any point during the other side’s presentation, your attorney notices a red flag or has a technical legal objection, they can express their issue to the judge outside of the jury’s observation.

Testifying

You might as well expect to be called on to testify. Your lawyer will thoroughly prepare you in advance by simulating a cross-examination.

Remember: don’t take anything personally, and definitely stay calm at all times as the jury will be gauging your demeanor. Often times, what you’re saying can have less of an impact on a jury than how you say it.

Be sure to speak clearly and make eye contact with jurors while answering questions.  It’s also important to dress appropriately: Your attorney can advise you on your wardrobe.

Closing Arguments

When it’s time for closing arguments, your lawyer will give a summary of all your evidence and try to present a convincing case as to why you’re owed compensation for your injuries. Since you’re the one who filed the claims, you have the burden of proof to establish fault, and therefore you’ll get the opportunity to both open and close these arguments.

During closing arguments, keep in mind that your lawyer will be talking about you, your circumstances, and trying to pique the jury’s emotions in your favor. This means they’ll be looking at you. So it’s important to be aware of your facial expressions, body language, and general demeanor during this time.
Before the trial, your lawyer will likely run their closing arguments by you. You should always give them your honest feedback, as they’ll be talking specifically about you.

Awaiting the Verdict

Following both side’s closing arguments, the jury will receive instructions of law from the judge. This is to ensure they understand the laws governing your case. The jurors will then retire to consider all the elements of your case.

 

Bonus – Tips, Advice, and Resources

Do you need the help of an experienced PI attorney?

If you’ve been harmed due to someone else’s negligence, our Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys will fight aggressively for you. We’ll stand by you during these difficult times.

Contact Hassan, Hassan & Tuchman, PA…

410-669-5070

…and let our Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers
get you the compensation you deserve for your injury.

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Client Feedback

Mr. Tuchman has been my attorney since 2006. He has helped me out with several work related injuries. He also helped my wife and I file for bankruptcy.  Our daughter was in a car accident and he helped her too. She needed therapy and another car. He was instrumental in getting her what she needed when she needed it.  We can reach out to him whenever we need him and he’s always there to answer any questions and guide us in what’s best for our future.

M & C Green

About seven years ago, I was injured at work and was referred to Lee Tuchman. He became more than a lawyer to me, he became a friend.  He helped me through a process that required long days, a lot of paperwork and phone calls.  Whenever I called his office, he always made time to talk with me. If you are looking for knowledge and perfection, you will find that in Mr. Tuchman. During those 7 years, he told me not to worry and I trusted him enough not too. If you ask my opinion, Lee Tuchman will work hard for you too.

D. Heath

Lee Tuchman is a great lawyer with a sense of flair of flair in his practice. He has diligently worked behind the scenes to ensure fantastic results for me. He has graciously handled several of my cases from 2012 until now. These cases vary from workman’s compensation to bankruptcy, all with astonishing results.

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