Top Michigan Auto Accident Attorney Mistakes
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
As Michigan is a no fault state when it comes to motor vehicle accidents, many cases are dealt with simply and efficiently by insurance companies. But many more experience problems, sometimes because there is a dispute or uncertainty over some factors of the accident, or if an insurance company adjuster decides to make a low offer.
When problems arise, it makes sense to hire experienced car accident lawyers to represent you and to hopefully make the problems go away. But it can often be the case that your attorney does not get it right every time and can make minor – and major – mistakes that don’t help your case. So what are the most common mistakes or oversights that can happen?
Coaching and Advice
There’s an old saying that says “Never judge a book by its cover.” While that may be wise advice for sure, it’s also totally irrelevant when it comes to possible court appearances.
A judge and jury will certainly make a judgement when it comes to how you look. If you appear in court wearing a t-shirt and old jeans, covered in tattoos, and with long unkempt hair, then they will form an opinion of you even if that opinion is totally inaccurate.
We always advise our clients to make an effort if they are appearing in court. These judgements based on appearance may be unfair but it is sadly how things are.
And it’s not just about how you look. What you say and how you act in court can also go a long way to them forming an opinion about you. The courtroom is not the place to express any particular views you have on religion, politics, or anything else. If a jury decides it does not like you, then that may affect how they judge your case.
Body language can be as important as verbal language. How you react to what is said in court will be noticed and add to their opinion of you and your case. Have neutral body language throughout any case, do not speak out unless a question is directed at you, and only say things that are relevant to the case.
And, believe it or not, that advice has to extend outside the courtroom for the duration of any case. If there is some dispute over your medical condition, the insurance company may have an investigator follow you and video you.
So your actions, wearing t-shirts with offensive slogans, offensive signs at your home, can all end up having an effect on the jury’s view of you. If you have an answering machine at home, even make sure that message is neutral as you may receive numerous calls from the insurance company.
Many lawyers omit to cover these important aspects with their clients and doing so can lead to your award being less than you hoped.
Good communication is key not only to a good client attorney relationship but also to ensuring that a case progresses smoothly. If you have a good law firm working for you, they will tell you to contact them if you have a question as well as before you do anything in relation to the case.
One area where this can be crucial and that can cause potentially major problems is social media. We always advise clients to avoid posting or discussing anything to do with their accident on any social media platform.
Insurance companies and defense attorneys check any social media accounts for things to use against you. If we are fighting for damages in court based on a severe injury and you are posting photographs of you doing physical activities, then they could be used in court. That may sound crazy, after all, the pic you posted was from last year’s holiday. But they do not see when the picture was taken, only when it was posted.
Even a hint of impropriety, no matter how unfounded, may color a jury’s impression of you. It may seem restrictive, but we advise clients to avoid social media until the case is resolved or to at least lock down their privacy settings.
It’s also essential that a client is 100% honest with their lawyer. We find that many clients are reluctant to disclose an old conviction or something that embarasses them. But in this information age, the defense lawyers working for the insurance company can find this information. If your own attorney knows, then at least they are prepared to counter any points raised.
Too many lawyers neglect to cover these vital points of communication. It is always highly recommended that an attorney thoroughly briefs their client on everything to do with communications of all types.
As with any court case, civil or criminal, evidence is paramount. And in auto accident cases, that evidence is often photographic, especially when it comes to injuries. We see many cases referred to us where the previous lawyer has neglected to instruct their client to take photographs of all their injuries. Images back up any medical records, and have an impact when shown to a jury.
We advise you to take as many photographs as possible. Take them after the accident, during and after treatment (if possible), after any further treatment or surgery, after any change or development.
Videos are good too. Michigan law requires that some impairment to your physical well-being is proven. So a video of you trying to walk up stairs or struggling to carry groceries can be of immense benefit. These can also help if you are making a claim for social security disability as they can help illustrate the pain and suffering you are undergoing.
And the advice on photographs also applies to the accident scene and damage to car or property. If you are able, take as many photographs as possible at the scene; of your car, other vehicles involved, road and weather conditions, road obstructions, etc. This evidence can be essential when it comes to a car accident lawsuit, especially in the case of wrongful death.
When a lawyer fails to direct their client on these factors, they are lowering their client’s chances of the best outcome.
Deadlines and Documents
It is incredible to think that a lawyer would miss a deadline but it can actually happen very often. While it is fair to acknowledge that there are many time frames to adhere to (such as statutes of limitations), there is an expectation that an attorney double checks any deadlines they need to observe when they take on a new case.
These deadlines could be the statutes of limitations, applications for certain benefits, or even when different paperwork needs submitted to the courts, insurance companies, or even the defense lawyers.
Documents in car accident cases are another major evidentiary factor. Lawyers often leave the collection of relevant documents until too late. For example, if your car crash involved a commercial truck, then if you believe the trucker was the at fault driver, your lawyer will want access to the truck’s logbook. But there are only limited legal requirements on trucking companies retaining information and logbooks only need to be kept for six months, even after a truck accident. So if a lawyer waits too long, they may lose access to vital evidence.
Many personal injury lawyers may only work part-time, or they are a solo practise with a large workload. While the natural desire is to pursue a case themselves, in many cases they realize they simply do not have the time. But if they leave that decision too late, then they may affect the whole case.
Michigan has a one-year time limit when it comes to applying under Personal Injury Protection insurance and a late onward referral may negate a claim.
Late referrals may also mean missed recording of injuries and conditions, especially in cases where the effects of an accident manifest later rather than sooner. Missing relatively simple aspects of the case such as this can have major negative impacts on the case as a whole and may even leave you with unpaid medical bills.
In too many cases, a lawyer will accept an auto accident case when they have no previous experience of this area of law. This means that they often have no idea about the various state and federal laws, industry regulations and available benefits.
The relationship between things like Michigan’s no fault insurance benefits for car accidents, workers’ compensation insurance, social security disability, and others can be complex and sometimes even hard to understand for a lawyer experienced in this area.
If you are looking for a lawyer to represent you, always make sure they have experience and knowledge that pertains to your circumstances. Asking relevant questions at the start of any relationship may save stress and worry later.
Part of the good service you should receive from a competent legal team involves not only providing you with good advice but also identifying when others give you bad advice or advice that may need separate action.
Insurance companies want to save money and will often urge the injured person to not only apply for social security disability benefits but to actively pursue the appeals process if their claim is denied. While it is true that applying for SSD benefits is a requirement if your insurance company tells you to, the appeals process is not only complicated but can have specific needs according to individual circumstances.
And, of course, insurance companies will also make low settlement offers and we find that both the loss adjusters and often family too will encourage the victim to accept this initial offer. A competent attorney will emphasize good communication and ask their client to notify them of any requests, advice, or directions given by other parties.
It may sound like car accident cases are full of mistakes but the reality is that most of these errors do not happen that often and are rare if you have engaged a lawyer who is experienced in auto accident law. It is advisable to take your time when choosing a law firm.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. are experts in the field of personal injury cases, including car and motorcycle accidents. We know all relevant deadlines, we know how to collect and produce evidence, and we don’t make mistakes that will cost our clients money.
If you want to know more about how we can represent you, we offer a free initial appointment that can be booked by calling our law firm at 866-MICH-LAW. Best of all, we never charge a fee unless we win your case.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.