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If you have been injured in an accident or due to a malfunctioning product, you should seek the guidance of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Top accident attorneys can help you avoid some common mistakes people make that can affect the amount of your settlement. According to a study by the Insurance Research Council, injured people who have an attorney working on their behalf receive settlements 3.5 times larger than those who settle on their own with insurance companies.

However, many people do not realize that an experienced personal injury attorney does not take every case that is brought to him or her. Personal injury attorneys usually work on a contingency fee, which means that they only get paid if you win a settlement. If the case does not justify an attorney’s involvement, the lawyer will decline the case.

So, what does an attorney consider before accepting your personal injury case?

When the accident or injury occurred. There are prescriptive periods or “Limitations” regarding the amount of time in which you can file a personal injury claim following the accident, and these vary from state to state. Your attorney will know what the rule is in the state in which you would file your lawsuit.

Where the accident or injury occurred. This would include the state, county and municipality where you were injured. You may have exceeded the prescriptive period in the state, or perhaps failed to comply with other rules that regard personal injury cases.

If the liable party is insured. Car accident attorneys often are reluctant to take a personal injury case if the liable party does not have insurance that would pay a settlement. It is very difficult to procure payment from individuals who are not insured.

The extent of your injuries. Monetary damages are established based on the impact of the injuries to your ability to carry on tasks of daily living and to work, as well as the amount of estimated medical bills. The injury may be real, but an attorney may decline the case if you will quickly recover to your previous abilities, and without sizeable medical bills.

Documents you have collected. Documenting an accident as soon as it occurs is very important to maximizing your settlement. Take photos and/or videos (even if you must ask someone at the scene to help you). Write down everything you can remember about the incident and obtain names and contact information of any potential witnesses. Keep records of any medical treatments. Keep a diary of your activities to show the accident’s impact on your personal and work life.

Actions you have taken. If you have been injured by a medical mistake, your medical malpractice law firm will want to review all the records associated with your case. Be sure to collect all medical records if you were taken to the hospital following an accident. If you aren’t in need of emergency care, it is often best to talk to your attorney before visiting a doctor or health care facility. If a defective product injured you, keep the product in precisely the condition it was in at the moment you were injured, and retain all packaging, instructions and receipts that accompanied the product.

If you have been injured and another individual or entity is at fault, do not delay seeking the guidance of a highly experienced attorney, who will determine if you have a viable case and what actions you should take next.