You’ve had the unfortunate experience of being seriously injured, and you know the injury was caused by the negligence of another party. You need a personal injury lawyer to get you compensation for your medical bills, time missed off work and other costs associated with your injury. Now the question is, how do you choose the right personal injury attorney to work with?
Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means the lawyer only gets paid fees if you win your case. Also, many personal injury attorneys, like the Pittman, Dutton & Hellums team, will offer a free consultation to learn about your case, before they even offer to work with you. Because of the contingency model, many lawyers will not take on a case they don’t think they can win.
As a personal injury victim, you are in control of working with a lawyer you’re completely comfortable with, one who will fight for you and do everything possible to win your case. During any consultation with a personal injury lawyer, be sure to ask these nine questions to find the right match.
1. What experience do you have with cases like mine?
Enquire about experience working with personal injury cases, as well as overall law experience. You should ask about cases the potential lawyer has worked on that have dealt with personal injuries similar to yours. For example, if you had a slip and fall injury, but the lawyer you’re talking to has only worked on car accidents, that may be an issue for you.
2. Who will be working on my case?
The lawyer you hire may not always be the one doing the majority of the work. Some large law firms hand off work to interns or legal aides. If you want to have a solid relationship with the lawyer you’re working with throughout your case, ask about what items of your case they will work on directly, and which ones may get passed off.
3. What is my case worth?
Some lawyers you talk with may offer similar contingency fee percentages. If you’re deciding between a few good candidates, what the potential lawyer thinks your case is worth may be a considerable factor.
4. Are you prepared to take my case to trial?
Lawyers that are prepared to take your case to trial and who have experience doing so are vital to have in your corner. The difference between settling and fighting a case in court can be substantial for your compensation. Not all personal injury cases will go to trial, but you should hire a lawyer who can handle the work if it’s needed.
5. Are there out-of-pocket fees I can expect?
While a contingency fee basis means you won’t have to pay your lawyer up front, sometimes there are other fees associated with a case that the client will have to pay. These can include court reporter fees, expert witness fees and other fees. Some firms will have the client pay these fees immediately or after the case has concluded. Depending on your financial situation, you’ll want to know this information and how it may affect you.
6. May I speak to a past client?
Trustworthy law firms should be able to provide prospective clients with testimonials, as well as referrals to past clients. Speaking with a past client about how their case was handled can give you insight into what to expect and confirm you’ll get an ally in the attorney you hire.
7. What lawyer associations do you belong to?
In addition to certifications, it’s wise to work with a lawyer who is an active participant in lawyer associations that relate to personal injury law. You can research these associations to gauge what meaning they have to you and how experience in one may benefit your case. You can also ask about awards and accolades the lawyer has received.
8. What will my role in the case be?
This question can help a victim understand what type of client-lawyer relationship there will be in a case. A personal injury lawyer should learn everything about your injury and prep you on what to expect during your case and how you’ll be participating. If you want to be heavily involved or would prefer to be hands-off, make sure the lawyer you’re interviewing aligns with your goals.
9. Why should I work with you?
Use this question to gauge a lawyer’s interest in and confidence in your case and how they can contribute to get you the compensation you deserve. Your personal injury lawyer should have the time, energy and dedication to make your case a success. This open-ended question can provide the insight you need to make a decision.
After a car accident, you might feel completely shocked or angry or scared about the situation. That’s all normal, but you shouldn’t let the jarring experience of a car accident affect whether or not you take care of yourself.
You might be tempted to avoid calling police, or you might want to leave the scene quickly because you need to get on with your life. You might view the car accident as minor, and not realize that you need medical treatment. As we’ve covered, there are dozens of injuries that can have delayed symptoms but result in life-long injuries. Just a few signs a car accident is delayed include:
Headaches and dizziness
Neck and shoulder pain
Numbness and tingling
Mental health issues
Not going to see a doctor after a car accident can also seriously affect your ability to successfully pursue a car accident claim in the future, if another driver’s negligence was to blame for the accident. Here are some reasons to get medical attention after any car accident you’ve been in.
If You Delay Treatment, the Cause of Pain May Be Questioned
Say you are in a car accident, and a few days later, you experience back pain that was caused by the accident. You get medical treatment and decide to file a claim against the other driver.
Having waited, the defendant can claim:
The back pain was caused by something else, anything else, that happened in-between the car accident and the doctor’s visit. It’s more difficult to prove that the pain was caused by the accident, when you could have tweaked your back making a sudden sharp movement, performing a work duty, exercising or a whole host of other behaviors you did after the accident.
The pain was always there, and the car accident did nothing to exacerbate it. If you’ve seen a chiropractor in the past or visited a doctor for back issues previously, the defendant could point to previous pain as the cause.
You’re making up the pain. If the pain is so bad now, why didn’t you go to a doctor immediately after the car accident? The defendant could argue maybe you decided to try and file a lawsuit, but you never really had severe pain to begin with.
For your own legal protection, you should visit a doctor after a car accident to get a medical opinion and to show that you were serious enough about any possible pain or injury to get treatment. If emergency services are offered to you at the scene, take them. At the very least, visit an urgent care office or your primary physician as quickly as possible right after the accident.
You Could Suffer More Severe Injuries
After a shocking event like a car accident, it’s common for the body to go into a fight-or-flight mode that is powered by endorphins and adrenaline. These hormones may mask pain to prepare the victim to stay safe and alert in a dangerous or high-pressure situation. For example, there are many cases of professional athletes breaking bones but continuing to finish a game without noticing their injury. These hormones could affect you after a car accident, too, making you feel physically fine but really covering up an injury that will only get worse with time.
A doctor will be able to feel your body for broken bones, perform an X-ray if they think that’s wise, and see symptoms of injuries that may not be noticeable to you but that are apparent to medical professionals. You might blame your dizziness for feeling anxious due to the car accident, but it could be an early sign of a brain injury. Waiting days or weeks for treatment can cause an injury to develop into something far worse that doesn’t respond as well to treatment.
Even if a doctor concludes you aren’t injured at your initial visit, you can get advice for symptoms to watch out for. If those do develop, you can revisit your physician for treatment.
A Doctor’s Visit Begins a Vital Paper Trail
Visiting a doctor results in proof that you took every precaution to get treatment for any possible injuries from a car accident. This proof can be essential if you decide to file a claim in the future. Because injuries can develop in a variety of ways, you may not decide to file a claim until several months down the road. Those doctor visit records can keep you protected and be used as evidence if you decide to file a claim.
Always review all records you receive from your doctor, and work to correct any errors you spot. You should also review your medical history. For example, if a doctor notes that you’ve had neck problems in the past, but you had never mentioned those to your doctor or received treatment for them, then make sure the record is corrected and updated to reflect the truth.
If you are in a car accident, no matter how severe it is, it is in your best interest to visit a doctor. If you feel the negligence of another driver is to blame for the accident and your injury, contact the Birmingham car accident lawyer team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums for a free consultation for how we can help you.
Alabama traffic statistics paint a grim picture: on average, there are more than 420 car crashes a day in Alabama. That equates to more than 47,650 people who are injured a year, and nearly 1,000 people who died in car crashes in 2016. Those who drive in Alabama are twice as likely to die in car crashes compared to average Americans.
Car crashes in Alabama are largely caused by preventable causes. Driving issues like tailgating, failing to yield the right of way, improper lane change and speeding are all preventable causes of car crashes. When someone’s negligence causes a car crash that results in serious personal injury or death, the offending party may be liable for damages.
To avoid becoming a car crash offender, it’s important to be aware of and follow all Alabama driving laws. These laws are in place to keep you and other drivers on the road safe. Following them can help you avoid an accident and protect you in case you’re a party involved with a car crash.
First Thing’s First: Carry Legal Driving Documentation
Only get on the road if you are licensed to drive in the United States. Proper Alabama driving documentation identifies you to police who come to the scene of a car crash. If you drive without it, you could face fines and bigger problems if you’re involved in a crash.
If you’re going to drive in Alabama, make sure you have:
Valid driver’s license from your home state or home country
Your car must have two highbeam headlights that can illuminate objects at least 350 feet away. You must turn on headlights from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise. If you’re driving in the rain, Alabama law requires the use of lowbeam headlights.
Contact Police After an Accident
Never leave the scene of an Alabama car crash. Contact law enforcement. If someone involved in an accident needs first aid, a capable driver involved should also call for emergency services.
Don’t Drive Drunk or Transport Alcohol into Alabama
Driving while intoxicated is illegal, and drivers driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or above may be charged with driving under the influence. Bringing alcohol into Alabama when it was purchased outside of Alabama is also illegal. Don’t carry it in your car if you purchased it from another state.
Don’t Smoke or Transport Tobacco If You’re Under the Age of 19
It’s illegal for those ages 18 years old and younger to use, possess or transport tobacco or tobacco products. If you’re underage and are caught smoking while driving or have cigarettes or other tobacco products in your car and are pulled over, you may face a charge.
Be Aware of Buses
If a school, church or other bus that is marked with flashing lights and stop signals stops in your vicinity, you are required by law to stop and wait until passengers get on or off. Even if you’re approaching the bus from a road and are not directly behind it, you must still stop and let it proceed before crossing it.
If you’re riding in the front, either as the driver or a front-seat passenger, you must wear a seatbelt, according to Alabama law. Any children under the age of 15 years old must wear a seat belt wherever they are in the vehicle or be in a child safety seat, which is mandatory for children ages 4 years old and younger.
Stop at Red
Right turns after stop signs and red lights are only permitted after a driver makes a full stop and sees that the lane is clear. If a sign is posted that forbids a right turn, the driver must obey the sign.
Put Down the Phone
Texting or using one’s smartphone to send an email while driving is illegal in Alabama. If you’re looking at your phone and cause a car crash, the victim could claim your distracted driving negligence was the car accident cause and pursue a claim against you.
Pay Attention to Emergency Vehicles
If you see an emergency vehicle with flashing lights, move as far to the right as possible, and stop until the emergency vehicle passes. If a driver in Alabama is approaching an emergency vehicle that is stopped and has flashing emergency lights activated, the motorist’s next action will depend on how many lanes there are.
If there are four or more lanes, like on a freeway, the driver must move over at least one lane or slow down to at least 15 miles per hour below the posted speed limit if moving over is not possible. If there are two lanes, the driver must move over as far as they can without exiting the lane and slow down to at least 15 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.
Follow Motorcycle Laws
If you’re riding a motorcycle in Alabama, be aware of these additional laws:
You must wear a helmet while on a motorcycle.
You must have a passenger seat if you are carrying a passenger.
You must have at least one mirror on the motorcycle.
Motorcycle handlebars must be no higher than 15 inches above the seat.
You are not allowed to pass another vehicle in the same lane.
You are not allowed to ride between lanes.
What to Do If Someone Breaks the Law and Causes Your Car Crash
If you are following all Alabama driving laws and someone breaks the law and causes your car crash, you may be entitled to compensation. Make sure to:
Contact police and get a copy of the police report.
Gather evidence, like witness testimony and photos of the accident and injuries.
If you’re the owner of a 2017 Ford Focus, you may have received an important safety recall notice in December 2018. In October 2018, Ford announced it was recalling more than 1.2 million of its 2012 to 2018 Ford Focus cars because of a faulty part that may cause unexpected stalling. The company discovered the problem stemming due to a stuck canister purge valve within the fuel vapor system, which can lead to excessive vacuum and cause the plastic fuel tank to malfunction. This can result in:
An erratic or inaccurate fuel gauge indication
An inaccurate distance to empty
Other drivability concerns, which can all lead to an engine stall while driving
Ford says it will have parts ready for a repair by the first quarter of 2019. Owners of affected vehicles can get their cars repaired for free through Ford.
Getting a safety recall like this for your vehicle can be alarming. We use our cars for so much of our daily lives, so you might be wondering how to proceed and how to stay safe. Read on for information on when a recall is necessary and what to do if your car is recalled.
Why Do Recalls Happen?
Vehicle recalls may originate from the manufacturer or from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when it’s determined that a vehicle component creates an unreasonable safety risk or does not meet minimum safety standards. Manufacturers have the responsibility to ensure their products are safe to use.
Vehicles are serious machines. They weigh thousands of pounds and can be deadly when they don’t work properly.
When there is a safety problem with a vehicle, it is up to the manufacturer to fix it. This may mean replacing entire vehicles or reimbursing customers for them, or repairing the problem.
How Will You Be Notified of a Vehicle Recall?
Vehicle recall notifications are sent by letters in the mail. The recall will be sent to your address that is on your vehicle registration, so you should always make sure that address is up-to-date.
You can also sign up for the NHTSA’s email recall notification system. You’ll receive automatic updates on vehicles and parts that have been recalled, including school buses, motorcycles, car seats and tires, or you can select your make and model and whatever parts you’re interested in for custom notifications.
You can also always look up possible recalls on your car here. Make sure you have your 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to look up the recall. You can idenfity the VIN on the lower left part of your vehicle’s windshield, on your vehicle’s registration paperwork, and possibly on your insurance information.
Even if you don’t receive a notification from the manufacturer about a recall, if your vehicle is affected, you are entitled to receive the free remedy the manufacturer is offering.
Steps to Take After a Vehicle Recall
Follow all instructions set forth in the recall notice. If dealers are ready to make repairs, schedule an appointment with your dealer as soon as possible. Bring your recall letter with you.
If your dealer refuses to make the repair according to the recall letter for free, you should notify the manufacturer. Try to gather as many details as possible, including the name of the dealership and any employees you dealt with. You can also make a complaint at www.safecar.gov.
What If Your Car Is Not Recalled, But There’s a Safety Issue?
If you’re experiencing safety issues with your vehicle, other drivers may be, too. Get it repaired and listen to your technician’s recommendations.
You can then report your vehicle or the equipment safety problem to the NHTSA here. If there are similar reports from other drivers, the NHTSA may open up an investigation that can help keep you and other drivers safe. All personal information you submit is kept private, but an NHTSA investigator may call you to follow up. The NHTSA reviews every online report it receives, and it may open up an investigation at any time, not only after it receives a certain number of reports.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of a Recalled Vehicle
If you are seriously injured in a car accident due to a recalled vehicle or recalled vehicle part, you should contact a Birmingham car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Manufacturer negligence can result in serious injuries or even death. Your rights as a consumer deserve to be protected.
Contact the Pittman, Dutton & Hellums car accident attorney team for a free, no-obligation consultation. We only take on your case if we think we can win, and you don’t pay unless we do.
Pittman, Dutton & Hellums is honored to receive five 2018 regional rankings in the U.S. News – Best Lawyers® law firm rankings for Birmingham compilation. Our firm has received regional recognition as follows:
Tier 1 in Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs
Tier 1 in Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
Tier 1 in Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
Tier 2 in Commercial Litigation
Tier 2 in Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs
The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® ranking takes into account 14,000 law firms across the United States. We are thrilled to receive these distinctions, as we strive to provide the very best service to all our clients. These include those in both the Birmingham, Alabama, area, as well as clients we represent throughout the country. We have settled or gone to trial for hundreds of million-dollar lawsuits.
In addition to the recognition our law firm has received, we are proud to have four lawyers on the Best Lawyers® ranking, as well.
Thomas E. Dutton: Commercial Litigation, Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs, Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs, Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
Chris T. Hellums: Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs, Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
Jonathan S. Mann: Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs
W. Lee Pittman: Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs, Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs, Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
Honors like these continue to inspire our firm to hold only the highest of standards in our work and our relationships with our clients. If you need a personal injury attorney, product liability lawyer, commercial litigation attorney, medical malpractice lawyer or a lawyer who will fight for your rights, please contact the Pittman, Dutton & Hellums law firm.
The recoveries and testimonials on this website are not an indication of future results. Every case is different, and regardless of what friends, family, or other individuals may say about what a case is worth, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances as they apply to the law. The valuation of a case depends on the facts, the injuries, the jurisdiction, the venue, the witnesses, the parties, and the testimony, among other factors. Furthermore, no representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.