| Read Time: 9 minutes |
Attorney Portrait

If you’ve been injured by the negligence of others, you need to think about how your actions might affect your legal rights.

The minutes, hours, days, and weeks after a car crash or other incident are crucial for building your case. In this episode of It’s No Accident, Mark Nonni and Jaeson Homola share helpful tips for what to do after you’ve been injured. These tips come from years of handling personal injury law cases, including millions of dollars in recoveries. Don’t let your injury go untreated or undocumented!

Be sure to listen and share these important tips from two of Tallahassee’s top personal injury lawyers.

Episode Transcript

Nonni: I know something that I get asked a lot is, if I’m hurt, if I get into a car wreck, or if something happens to me, what do I need to do? What do you need to be my first steps to make sure my rights are protected? I know we both get those questions a lot. So what do you typically tell people when you get
asked that?

Homola: Yeah. We get asked a lot because, I mean, that’s why people are calling us and they have no idea what to do. Most people that are walking around are not expecting to get injured you know, they’re going about their day and then a car hits them and they’re like, oh my gosh, man, you know, my neck hurts, I broke my arm or, I fractured my ankle. So what do I do? I went to the doctor and I have no idea what the next steps are. And, you know, backing up from that, just like right when the incident happens, what should you do in that situation is going to change based on whether it’s a car wreck or whether it’s a slip and fall, whether it’s a dog bite, or whether you got screwed by your insurance company.

What you do in those situations is going to be different for each one. But typically what we see in a lot of the cases that we handle are car wreck cases. So in a case like that, what do you want to do in a situation like that? You want to, well, make sure you’re okay.

Right after you get into the wreck, if you’re not feeling right and you know, you feel like you messed your ankle up or you messed your arm up, stay in your car. You don’t have to get out and run back to the other vehicle or, you know, you don’t have to do anything at that point if you’re not feeling well enough to do it, you want to try to get your vehicle out of harm’s way.

But, just stay put. If you’re able to get out of the vehicle, talk to the other driver and try to get an idea as to what happened. A lot of times the other drivers aren’t going to want to talk to you. They’re embarrassed. You know, they know that they’ve done something wrong. Try to talk to them, be nice to them. You know, don’t go back there screaming and yelling at them and just try to get an idea as to what happened. Get in touch with law enforcement, get them out to the scene, and take photos. Tell law enforcement what your side of the story is and if you need medical care, make sure they have an ambulance come up to the scene and get you taken to the hospital. If you don’t need medical care, you don’t feel like you need to go to the hospital. Perfectly okay. To drive your car from the scene if you can. A lot of times you’re not going to be able to get towed out of there, but just make sure everything at the scene is documented and you get as much information as possible.

I can tell you that about 95% of the time stories are going to change. I’m always shocked when you look at a crash report and the defendant will tell the officer one thing and then after we file a lawsuit and I get the explanation from the defendant as to what happened, it’s something completely different.

Like, oh, well, your client slammed on the brakes and that’s why I ran into them. They told the officer at the scene that they just were texting and weren’t paying attention and they hit our client. An interesting thing about that is at a trial, the crash report, you can’t enter that into evidence. And anything that the defendant says to the law enforcement officer at the scene is privileged information.

So anything that’s in that crash report about what the defendant told the officer, that’s not coming in at trial. So they can kind of come up with whatever story they want to write and we can’t then go tell the jury, Oh, well, wait, look what they said to the officer at the scene. If you’re standing in the same vicinity and you happen to overhear the defendant tell the officer, you can then testify at trial as to what you heard. But you can’t you can’t bring in that crash report and say, hey, this is what they told about.

Nonni: Absolutely. Yeah and I think that’s one of the things we’ve talked about before that one of the things that happens at a trial that people don’t realize or people don’t understand is how many times I’ve heard and I’m sure you’ve heard plenty times our clients saying, oh, well, we can just show the jury the crash report or we could just enter that evidence.

And the people just don’t realize that that’s never coming into evidence. The jury is never going to hear any of that. And so, as you said, that’s why it’s important where if you’re able if you are injured but not injured so badly, where you have to immediately go in an ambulance and you’re able to have a conversation with the other driver or, you know, hear what’s going on.

It can be so helpful because as you said, I’ve had cases kind of similar to what you said, but where my client had a conversation with the other driver before the cop even showed up and the other driver made some admissions and admitted they were on the phone or admitted this or that, that they were speeding or whatever.

But then later on, the story completely changed. But the fact that the driver, the defendant admitted that to my client before the cop even got there, especially made it so that there was no issue in terms of getting that into evidence. So, you know, doing all those things, I agree talking to the other drivers, taking photos if you can, just trying to document the information, those are all important. But, you know, I think the main thing I always tell people, is just getting the medical treatment. If you’re hurt right away, you know you’re hurt right off the bat, get an ambulance out there and get into the hospital right away.

But even beyond that, over the next day or two days, you know, I’ve had plenty of clients where right there at the scene, adrenaline’s pumping. You don’t really feel it yet, You know what I mean? It’s almost kind of like when you work out really hard and you don’t feel sore that right that minute, right that day.

But the next morning you wake up and you really feel it. And then especially the second morning after that, you wake up and really feel it and so, you know, I always just try to emphasize to people that in an injury case, the best thing you can do to protect your rights is to get the medical treatment you need and to not wait or delay on it, you know because the insurance companies are ultimately looking for any reason they can to try to pay you less money.

Right. And one of the things that we both know that they love to focus on is what they call a gap in treatment, Right? Where you maybe go get some initial treatment and then you’re still hurting after that treatment and you don’t go back to the doctor right away. You know, maybe you’re thinking it’s just going to go away.

You think, you know, you’re a tough guy and you don’t need to go to the doctor or whatever. You know, people will wait weeks or months between the first appointment after the wreck and then the next follow-up appointment. And it looks bad. You know, the insurance companies look at that and they’re like, oh, well, you went three or four weeks without getting any treatment.

If you’re not getting treatment, you must not be hurt. So, we won’t give you any money,

Homola: Right? It’s amazing. You know, we’ll have these, but it’s mostly guys. They’ll come and they will completely downplay what they’ve got going on. And then their wife will be like, he’s crying every night telling me how much he hurts. I’m rubbing his shoulders, and then he comes in here and talks to you and he’s like, Oh, you know, I think it’ll be okay.

Right? So, make sure you tell the doctors what’s going on with you. They’re not going to be able to do what they need to do unless you tell them exactly what’s going on and let them make the determination as to whether or not that’s related to the wreck or not. That’s what they’re there to do and make them and let them make the determination as to what sort of treatment you mean.

You know, a lot of times we’ll have people come in and they’ll be like, well, you know, I’ve been having really bad headaches since the wreck. And we’re like, Well, did you tell your doctor that? Well, no, not really. I didn’t say anything to my doctor. I’ve got numbness in my right hand now since the wreck. Well, did you have it before the wreck? No. Did you tell your doctor about it? No, because I didn’t know if it was related to the wreck or not. They just don’t understand how that works. So, you know, I guess I only say that to harp on the point that tell your doctors what’s going on with you, right? Yeah. Just make sure you document with them everything that’s going on with you so that they have a clear picture of what they need to do.

Because that’s another thing insurance companies love to harp on. Yeah, well, I mean, your client went to the hospital immediately after the wreck and they didn’t complain of numbness and tingling in their hands immediately after the wreck, so it must not be related. When it started like two days afterward. So it’s something that, that definitely needs to be done.

Nonni: Absolutely. We don’t certainly don’t want people coming in and exaggerating how bad their injuries are. But I also don’t want people to go the other way and downplay it.

Nonni: When someone calls here, you know, what would they expect to happen next? How do you usually explain the process to people, knowing that a lot of the time these people are coming into it, they’ve never been in a wreck right before, and they’ve probably never even hired an attorney before? They may be a little nervous or intimidated about the whole process. How do we, here at the firm try to explain it to them and, you know, ease them into it?

Homola: We’re a little bit and I think you’ll agree with this, a little bit different than what you’re going to get at other law firms where if we’re available, we try to talk to anybody that calls in. If we’re not available obviously, we can’t talk to them and will have to call them back, but we try to get back in touch with everybody that calls in that has an injury claim.

If we’re here, if we can take the time to get on the phone with them, we’ll absolutely get on the phone with them and try to explain to them what they need to be doing, whether or not they have a case. You know, when they call in, they’re not going to get us immediately. They’re going to get a receptionist.

But, our receptionist is very good, Miyoko is very good that if we’re here, she’s going to try to get us on the phone with the client. So, once we get on the phone with a potential client, they’ll tell us what’s going on and we’ll give them the advice that they need and tell them what they need to be doing.

And if they don’t have a case, we’re going to tell them they don’t have a case. And we get a lot of people that call in and, you know, they either think they have a case or they’re unsure if they have a case. And we’ll have to explain to them that, we know that you’re mad about the fact that the doctor did this or this other person did this, But, you know, you don’t really have any injuries. So, you don’t have a case. So, you know, we try to talk to everybody.

Nonni: Absolutely, as opposed to a lot of these bigger firms, you see basically have like call centers, right, where they just have staff members who are just there to take these calls from potential new clients whereas you and I always make a big effort to, we want to be the ones that have that initial conversation with the client, not, you know, a staff member at a call center. Not to say anything bad about those people, but it’s just, I think people want to talk to an attorney and they’re calling to talk to an attorney and not only at the beginning but throughout the case to, you know, I’d say another thing that people are going to expect here is, that we, to some extent intentionally keep our caseload lower than you’ll see in a lot of other firms that way have the time to be able to have the personal interactions with each of our different clients at the different phases of the case and be the ones that, they’re talking to. You know, certainly, they’ll talk to assistants and paralegals and other things throughout the case. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of times, I have to you know, people complaining about other firms where they went through a whole case for a year and a half and never talked to their attorney one time. And so to me, which is like, I don’t understand how the attorney who was in charge of that case could really feel like that he or she was, doing the best that he or she could for that client if they never even talked to the client.

Homola: Right, it’s just a different law firm model. And, you know, I’m always shocked that, you know, sometimes you talk to people that have gone through a personal injury case and they’re like, yeah, I never talked to my attorney and they got the case resolved and, you know, they’re fine with that. But I mean, I know if it were me, paralegals are great and we have great ones here, they know what they’re doing. But sometimes you just want to talk to the attorney and get a better idea as to what’s going to happen.

Author Photo

Mark continued his studies at Florida State University College of Law, graduating cum laude in 2008. While in law school, Mark was a member of the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, as well as a certified legal intern with the FSU Public Interest Law Center, where he assisted low-income clients with a wide range of family law issues. He also served as a law clerk intern to The Honorable L. Clayton Roberts of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

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