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June 2011 Archives

DON'T WAIT...GATHER EVIDENCE

Today I am thinking about the problems our clients have with the failure to gather evidence early in the case.  You can't imagine the number of times a person who did absolutely nothing wrong in the accident says "no, I didn't take pictures or get the names of the witnesses who stopped to help me.  Don't the police do that?"    The answer is no.   If you don't help yourself nobody else will.Collecting and preserving evidence is critical to an injured person's ability to receive justice through our tort system.  We live in a time when injured victims must prove all aspects of their case, even the obvious aspects.  If you delay gathering evidence and simply depends upon the insurance company, or law enforcement, to gather evidence serious harm can be done to your case.  Whether you have a personal injury, or work comp situation important items of evidence would include:1.         Taking photographs of the accident scene.2.         Taking photographs of both vehicles.3.         Photographing your injuries, if visible.4.         Taking statements from the other party.5.         Taking statements from witnesses.6.         Larning about the law that will control your case.7.         Documenting  your wage loss.8.         Starting the process of collecting your medical bills.9.         Getting reasonable and necessary medical care for your injuries.Although this list looks simple, in practice, it is hard to do a complete job when gathering evidence.  Taking statements and photographing vehicles require that you know what you are doing.  So give us a call if you have questions about what you should be doing.  The call is free.

ELECTRONIC COURTHOUSE

Soon Iowa will see the arrival of electronic filing for work comp and personal injury cases.  In a personal injury case electronic filing is already required in Plymouth and Story County as of 2011.  The Work Comp Commissioner's office is likely to move to electronic filing in the near future.  This promises to bring a whole new set of headaches.First, you have to know the forms.  Second, you have to know where to get the forms and how to get them filled out.  Third, you have to know which hoops to jump through when using the Internet to get your case properly filed.  This will be a challenge for all law firms and will be doubly challenging for an individual.The move to electronic filing will likely increase the need to use an attorney to make sure that things are done properly, and are done in a timely manner.  The day of being able to wait till the last second to file a lawsuit is practically gone for an individual.  Some law firms will still be able to do this but only if they are "online" and ready to go.  The best advice here is that if time is short… hire a lawyer! And remember, the lawyer isn't obligated to help you just because you waited till the last second.  So plan ahead, and be smart.

MANAGING MEDICARE'S MONEY

Understanding the role of Medicare, and other state/federal benefit programs is practically a full-time job. Here in our office the heads are spinning, and the eyes are watering by the time we think we have a plan in mind that helps protect the interest of the government, and the clients. What you have to understand is that work comp insurance companies are ruthless in trying to get off the hook for the obligation to take care of future medical expense. Those insurance companies will do anything to get the injured worker to take on the administration, payment, and reporting requirements to the federal government on cases that have been settled.Why the insurance companies are this way is a mystery to most workers. But if you think about it, it's not hard to understand. It boils down to more than simply paying for future medical care. Someone has to look at the bill as it comes in. Someone has to decide to pay the bill. Someone has to then write a check. Someone has to mail the check. Someone has to make a record of what has happened. Someone then has to keep track of those records, receipts, or other information pertaining to the payment. Finally someone has to report the details of what happened to the money to the satisfaction of the government. All of this costs money. Lots of money.Recently we looked in a case where the insurance company stated the minimum cost for maintaining a future medical account where only prescription medication was involved would be $2500 per year. Doesn't sound like very much when you think about it that way, does it? However, if the injured worker is 26 years of age this expenditure will cost more than $100,000 just to keep track of the numbers and paperwork during the estimated lifetime. Trust me, an insurance company is highly unlikely to pay you $100,000 even if you're willing to take on that work and accompanying risk. They think most lawyers and injured workers are blinded by money and won't consider the cost of administering the account.An injured worker should be very careful before taking on this challenging task. It's basically the same as trying to prove up expense account items for an over the road truck driver at tax time. There's a bunch of Mickey Mouse record keeping, organizing, and reporting that will drive most people crazy.

HOW FAIR IS THAT?

Today I was looking at the law of general releases. You know, you want to go on a charity bike ride and they press a paper in front of you asking you to sign. BEWARE! People don't ask you to sign stuff to make your life easier. They do it to really put the screws to you when they hurt you. Here's what they say when their negligence has injured you: "Too bad sucker, we got you to sign a release. You have no rights against us, no matter how bad we acted." Can this be right? Can they make you to sign a paper to get a free shirt at a charity event and then force feed you the paper after they hurt you? YES, they can. It has happened 100's of times and is so totally unfair that it defies belief. Yet, our courts routinely say that if you can read you are bound by the silly terms they put in the release.  With that said, there are some loopholes in the law of releases but these have to be carefully researched before any good conclusions can be drawn. So, the next time you think about signing a paper on a nice sunny Saturday morning, think again. Your signature counts and you should not just toss it around simply because someone sticks a paper under your nose. Just say NO. Chances are you'll get that free tee shirt anyway.

A LITTLE BIT OF KNOWLEDGE IS A DANGEROUS THING...CALL US!

Ok, you've made it to the LLDD.LLP blog.  As we embark on this challenge of blogging the reader needs to understand that we offer this information as very general advice on topics that we find interesting.  None of it may help your case, or it might be just what you are looking for.We hope you use this blog to generate questions and to think about your case.  Only by sharing information with each other can we hope to move forward on a given case.
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Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake, L.L.P.

Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake, L.L.P.
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