If you have sustained serious injuries in an automobile accident, motorcycle accident, pedestrian accident or trucking accident, and you need to speak with an experienced Cleveland car accident lawyer, we can help you. The personal injury attorneys of Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co., L.P.A. represent clients who have sustained life-altering catastrophic injuries in car crashes and other types of motor vehicle accidents. Our lawyers will do the work necessary to determine who is responsible for serious injuries resulting from car wrecks and who should pay compensation. We are also skilled in determining and proving the full extent of your damages, both economic and non-economic.
Under Ohio law, you have two years in which to file a lawsuit arising out of personal injuries caused by a motor vehicle accident. However, when the accident results in severe personal injuries or there are questions about who is at fault, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney early in the process. In these serious cases, the attorney can provide valuable advice regarding treatment options and medical documentation of injuries. In addition, if there is a dispute about how the accident occurred and who is at fault, the attorney can document and preserve physical evidence, obtain witness statements from eyewitnesses and ensure that other physical evidence is preserved. Early investigation and preservation of evidence can make the difference between winning and losing your case.
When you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you will find that your mailbox will be full of solicitations from personal injury lawyers. Many of these lawyers are more business people than trial lawyers. They usually have high volume practices with a huge number of clients. Due to their high volume caseload, these businesses hire paralegals and unskilled individuals to process your case. The lawyers who run these high-volume practices are often saddled with a large payroll and massive advertising budget that must be fed. This puts pressure on the firm to settle cases quickly, not necessarily for full value or taking into account the clients’ best interests.
The high-volume personal injury law firm may be useful to you if your injuries are minimal and you experience a full recovery from your injuries. In many cases, however, when there are mild injuries and a full recovery, you can handle the case yourself, often resulting in recovery of more compensation than if attorney fees are subtracted from the recovery.
However, when serious personal injuries are involved, such as fractures, dislocation, traumatic brain injury, amputation, tinnitus, organ laceration, amputation, herniated disk, serious back injury, other disabling injury or injury requiring surgery or wrongful death, you will need legal advice. There are a number of reasons for this, including the preservation of evidence, advice regarding medical care, evaluation of insurance issues, handling subrogation claims, filing suit, valuation and conducting negotiations.
Preservation of Evidence. In most car accidents, the determination of fault will be made by the investigating police officer. The determination of fault will be reflected in the police report and confirmed by the issuance of a traffic citation. The police officer will also likely obtain witness statements that are made part of the police report. In serious car crashes, the official investigation might include photographs and diagrams of the accident reconstruction, including the location of physical evidence like skid marks and yaw marks. Police investigations can be flawed or conducted by officers who have little or no training in accident reconstruction, however.
In some cases, the cause of the accident is disputed. In these cases, it may be important for your attorney to conduct their own investigation, including obtaining photographs of vehicle damage, photographing the accident site, hiring an accident reconstruction expert to evaluate the cause of the crash, interviewing eyewitnesses, obtaining weather reports and sunrise/sunset tables, examining cell phone records to determine if the other driver was texting, obtaining credit card receipts to determine whether the other driver was drinking and driving and to what extent, obtaining toxicology results if the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, obtaining videotape from area businesses, obtaining satellite information for commercial vehicles and obtaining “black box” data contained in many modern vehicles. The extent of the investigation will be determined by the severity of the crash and injuries and the arguments raised by each driver as to who caused the crash.
Medical Care. A skilled car accident lawyer can assist his or her client with a number of medical issues. First, some large local hospital systems refuse to assist their patients in personal injury litigation. This can rob the patient of a critical advocate regarding the nature, extent and cause of their injuries. Likewise, some doctors are outwardly hostile to their patient’s complaints of injury due to previous relationships with insurance companies or a negative view towards injury claims generally. In these cases, your personal injury lawyer can direct you to a caregiver or medical examiner who will listen to your complaints, document them thoroughly, and treat you with concern and respect.
Some injuries are difficult to diagnose and frequently overlooked by busy or unskilled physicians. For example, it is not unusual for an experienced car accident lawyer to recognize that their client has a traumatic brain injury or a serious spine injury before any medical practitioner recognizes it. In these instances, the attorney can direct you to appropriate medical professionals who can make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a unique injury that requires a careful evaluation by an experienced brain injury lawyer. In any case involving a significant trauma, it is important to interview the injured party early in the case evaluation process to see if this diagnosis has been overlooked. Family members can help as well. We like to ask the following:
- Were you diagnosed with a concussion?
- Have you had any abnormal head imaging?
- Do you remember the accident?
- Did you lose consciousness?
- Was there significant damage to the vehicle?
- Did the airbag deploy?
- Did you hit your head/face?
- Do you have headaches?
- Do you have tinnitus (ear ringing)?
- Do you have dizziness?
- Do you have fatigue?
- Do you feel depressed?
- Do you have difficulty with memory or concentration?
- Do you have confusion or slow thinking?
- Do you have visual disturbance?
- Do you have seizures?
- Do you have anger outbursts or unusual irritability?
- Do you have nausea?
- Do you have loss of smell or taste?
- Have you developed sensitivity to light or sound?
- Do you have sleep disturbance?
- Have you developed mood swings or a change in behavior?
Insurance Issues. Most insurance companies will not provide you with their insured’s insurance coverage information, including coverage limits, before filing a lawsuit. Oftentimes, it is necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to determine what coverage limits are available. In addition, it is important to know whether the driver who caused your car accident was working at the time of the collision. In such cases, the employer’s insurance coverage may apply. Finally, when the other driver’s insurance limits are inadequate, a skilled car accident lawyer will look at your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to determine whether those policy provisions provide a source of recovery.
In addition to automobile insurance, in severe injury cases, additional issues arise regarding health insurance, medical payments coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, disability insurance and other sources of recovery. It is often necessary to coordinate benefits in order to maximize the client’s recovery. This may include setting up a trust to protect funds received from an automobile insurance carrier.
Subrogation. When your medical expenses are paid by your own health insurer, Medicare, Medicaid, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the VA or some other source of benefits, the benefit provider typically seeks reimbursement of payments made when a recovery is made from the individual who caused the car accident. This right of reimbursement is called subrogation. Subrogation can be very complicated. In many instances, your attorney will negotiate with the benefit provider to reduce the subrogation lien, particularly if the available insurance proceeds are inadequate or disputed liability results in a compromised claim.
Filing Suit. In many instances where a car accident results in serious personal injury or wrongful death, a lawsuit is necessary. In catastrophic cases, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will want to have their own team of lawyers examine your medical records and the proof of damage before agreeing to pay on your claim. Insurance company lawyers are skilled at creating road blocks to full recovery. You will need an experience personal injury lawyer to capture all of the economic damages that are caused by a serious car crash, such as future lost wages and benefits, lost earning capacity, loss of household services, future medical and hospital expenses and future costs of living with a disability. The calculation of these damages may require specialized trial witnesses, such as a vocational rehabilitation expert, an economist and a life care planner.
Valuation and Negotiations. Every case is unique. This makes it difficult to value a serious personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim. There are a number of factors that attorneys take into account in providing a valuation of your case, including whether liability is disputed, the extent of economic losses, whether there is an permanent disability, the certainty and provability of future damages, the jurisdiction, the likeability of the plaintiff and defendant, and preexisting injuries or disability, among others. We can look to our past experience and verdicts in other similar cases for some guidance as well.
Negotiations are an art form as well. The parties typically start off at extreme positions and then work towards a reasonable valuation, taking into account their individual risk. Private mediation is in vogue in big damage cases. Again, the settlement process and case valuation is best done with an experienced lawyer by your side.
Wrongful Death Claims. In Ohio, in order to pursue a wrongful death claim, the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate must first set up an estate in probate court. If there is a Will, the Will will dictate who will act as the executor. The executor has fiduciary responsibility for protecting the interests of the estate’s beneficiaries, including hiring a wrongful death attorney and filing a lawsuit if warranted. If there is no Will, Ohio law requires that a qualified beneficiary file an application to administer the estate. The qualified beneficiary will be named as the administrator of the estate. The administrator of the estate, like an executor, owes a fiduciary duty to all beneficiaries to act in their best interest and pursue wrongful death litigation if warranted. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can advise you about the various probate requirements.
Our Cleveland car accident lawyers approach serious injury and wrongful death claims with a depth of medical knowledge and courtroom experience. Our law firm is committed to helping catastrophic injury victims recover full and fair compensation. Let us help and serve you with our reputation and results. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation