It was a beautiful and sunny summer afternoon. The sun was shining brightly with no clouds in sight. With the windows of our vehicle open, we traveled to our destination. We had one quick stop to make first, the gas station. We drove in and settled into one of the lanes for refueling. We stopped behind another vehicle, as we had to wait until they were finished.
When suddenly…BAM! The vehicle in front of us, without looking, backed into us, breaking through the front bumper of our car. It happened so fast! Unfortunately, we both received injuries. My PAIN was immediate! Sharp, stinging, fire piercing pain that made me reach up and grab my neck. And it all happened so quickly.
That would be the defining moment for the next 3 ½ years of pain, surgeries, attorney issues, and settlement offers. Have you heard of the saying, “If I only knew then what I know now?” Well, yes! That!
I could dedicate an entire book to my experiences from this unfortunate and unexpected car accident. Despite what you may think or expect, the initial injury, subsequent pain and surgeries were the easier part. The most difficult and frustrating part was the “business” side of the accident. From the date of the accident, it ended up being 3½ years before everything was finally resolved and I received a financial settlement for my case. I now know that at least half of the wait time could have been avoided. And so, hoping it may help someone else, I want to share with you what “I wish I knew.”
Top 10 Strategies for a Successful Settlement
- Be Your Own Best Advocate! Speak up! Demand! Insist! Your attorney can’t read your mind or know what you’re thinking or feeling unless you share. If you don’t feel as though you are being heard or understood, then let them know. Rarely can we rely on others to know what we need or want.
- You’re the boss, so be one! You have obtained representation, but the individual and/or firm is working for you. They will take a percentage of your settlement as their fee for services rendered. But, in most cases, they only do so AFTER your legal case is finalized. Therefore, they are basically your employee. Don’t ever feel like it’s the other way around. Make them “tow the line.”
- Ask Questions! Not just some of your questions, but all of them. Don’t feel uncomfortable or intimidated by legal terminology. Keep asking your attorney questions until you understand completely. Sometimes they forget that you aren’t “one of them.” They will throw out legal terms constantly, assuming you know what they are talking about. If you don’t understand, ask! Remember, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
- Follow Up! If your attorney tells you they are going to do something, make sure they do it. If they say they’re going to call you and forget, don’t wait for them to remember. You need to follow up with them on everything. Yes, they have other clients as well as personal affairs to attend to, but remember from above – they are working for you. Remember, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
- Don’t Assume Your Attorney Knows Best! Yes, this is their chosen profession and yes, they went to school for a lengthy amount of time to become an attorney. However, you are unique. Your case is unique. No matter how many other cases your attorney has settled that are similar to yours, they are not exactly the same. If your attorney recommends a certain option or decision, make sure you ask them what the other options are as well.
- Keep Copies of Everything! This is so important. Despite the enormous marvels and advantages of modern technology, things get lost, forgotten, misplaced, or missed. Keep a copy of every single form or paper you fill out. Make sure your attorney sends you copies of every document you sign. Create a separate E-mail folder and save every single social item of communication received and sent. When you do this, you may potentially save countless hours, days and months of frustrations and setbacks from so-called “lost” documents.
- The Internet is Your Buddy! Look up everything and then look it all up again. Research anything and everything of which you have the slightest concern or question about. The internet provides endless resources to help with your case. Make sure you are researching reputable websites. There is a lot of information to be found out there.
- Character Means Everything! You have to expect and demand a high level of professionalism from your attorney. Don’t settle for anything else. Your attorney should be trustworthy, honest, responsible, thoughtful, respectful, helpful, accountable and provide service with a smile. Yes, they need to be pleasant. They should not only demonstrate these qualities but do so willingly. If you don’t feel comfortable with your attorney, then you are going to have an unpleasant experience and feel cheated in the end.
- Get a 2nd Opinion! If you are not completely satisfied with your attorney, don’t hesitate to counsel with someone different. Consultations are normally free. Go talk to a different attorney and ask them how they would handle your case. Ask them for their opinion and recommendations. Remember, the ultimate goal is to obtain the best representation so as to receive the best settlement. Yes, you can “fire” your attorney.
- Stay Local. If at all possible, find legal representation within your area. Despite the many conveniences of modern technology, it is ultimately less stressful if you can just “pop” into their office when needed. But, don’t settle for someone less qualified just because they live in your neighborhood. Also, remember that your friends and family members may be able to offer a recommendation for someone they have worked with before.
I can’t stress enough how important these strategies are in order to obtain the best financial settlement, as well as the best overall experience. Remember, your mental and emotional well being are just as important, if not more so!
©Julie Corbett 2018