the ten commandments of personal injury

1. THOU SHALT NOT MOVE UNTIL YOU KNOW YOU'RE OK.

When you’ve been hurt, you need to take a second to appraise your injury. Stabilize yourself; look around at your surroundings; check to see what hurts, and how badly. You may be embarrassed, or feel the need, if you’re at work, to ‘get back to it’. Before you obey that impulse; make sure you know how badly you’re hurt and what happened to you.

2. THOU SHALT OBSERVE THE AREA.

While you’re catching your breath, look around the accident scene. If you’ve fallen, see what caused your fall. Look for conditions that are out of order, things that don’t fit or don’t belong. Make an effort to remember what you’ve seen, and, more important, who you’ve seen.

3. THOU SHALT IDENTIFY WITNESSES.

Make it a point to get the names of people who saw your injury or the aftermath. Not just first names, but names and phone numbers, preferably addresses if you can. (This applies specifically to construction workers, who know everyone’s first name and no one’s last!) Since writing might be difficult, use your cell phone to save numbers and names if you can. If you can’t type, call yourself and leave yourself a voicemail.

4. THOU SHALT NOTIFY PEOPLE THAT YOU'VE BEEN HURT.

If you’re on the job, let your supervisor, shop steward, general foreman, and general contractor’s safety persons (as they apply) know that you were hurt and how. If you’re on someone else’s property, like a store, parking lot, or other area, tell the owner if identifiable, or at a large property, let security know. If it’s a car accident, call the police and have them come to the scene. If you’re on a work site, and there’s a dangerous condition, on a union job let your steward know and ask him or her to document the condition; that’s part of their job. If not, and you need emergency treatment, ask a co-worker to let people know what’s happened and document conditions.

5. THOU SHALT DOCUMENT THE SCENE AND STORY.

If you can, photograph the scene of the accident (a lot of cell phones have cameras); if you can’t, ask someone else nearby if they can take pictures or notes, with their own phones, cameras, or just a pad of paper. Write down what you remember about the accident as soon as possible, or leave yourself a voicemail (again, think of your cell phone as a portable data storage device).

6. THOU SHALT PRESERVE EVIDENCE.

If there’s a mechanical malfunction or failed product involved somehow in the accident, make sure someone, if possible, gets it from the scene and retains it. If it’s a product you use in the home, resist the temptation to throw the injuring product as far down a hole as you can, and save it, preferably with its packaging if you still have it, and hold onto sales slips. If it’s a broken part on a car or work site, at least photograph it, or have someone do it; even better, grab the thing if you can and hold onto it.

7. THOU SHALT GET MEDICAL CARE.

If you’re in pain, no matter how insignificant you think the injury is initially, get to the emergency room or a doctor’s office promptly. You may be in shock, and don’t know the full extent of your injury. Many sprains, strains and musculo-skeletal injuries ‘stiffen up’ within 24 to 48 hours, so don’t be surprised if you don’t feel pain initially. Statistics show that the quicker medical intervention occurs, the quicker you’ll get or feel better. And, follow your doctor’s instructions about follow up care.

8. THOU SHALT NOT WORK IF IT HURTS.

Human psychology is funny; people who get hurt often want to deny the accident happened, or deny how badly they feel, out of embarrassment or a need to ‘put the incident behind them’. This doesn’t serve the injured person; it only serves the person or company which caused the injury. Pain is the body’s ‘messenger’ and warning system, so if something hurts you, stop and don’t do it.

9. THOU SHALT NOT TALK TO STRANGERS.

The first thing that defendants want to do is get statements. So, unless it’s a police officer or your boss, don’t comment. Speak only to your lawyer. You might have to report how an accident happened in a work environment; that’s a job obligation, and you have to do it. Otherwise, though, wait until you speak with an attorney before giving any other statements (ESPECIALLY RECORDED ONES!)

10. THOU SHALT CALL ATTORNEY DANIEL MALIS.

Call a lawyer who understands and specializes in personal injury litigation as soon as possible after your accident. At the initial stage of an injury, you truly don’t know how bad it will get, and valuable evidence is eroding daily, while the party that caused your injury, with notice of your potential claim, is scurrying to develop defenses, perhaps destroying critical evidence as they do so. Experienced personal injury lawyers know how to make sure that this doesn’t happen, and can only do so if we’re involved early.

More cases are won (and lost) in the week or so after the accident than at any other time. Your real estate or probate attorney won’t know how to investigate a worksite accident (you wouldn’t have a plumber fix your electrical wiring). That’s not what they do. This is what I do.