Coleman: Welcome to the podcast for the law office of Sonia D. Coleman, PC. I’m your host, Sonia Coleman, and I’m so happy that you’re joining us today. The office of Sonia D. Coleman is a Professional Corporation where we advise and counsel clients on wills, trusts,powers of attorneys, represent clients in real estate closings, probate, corporate and employment law.
Today, I am excited that we are talking about a very important topic – personal injury. And joining us today is a very special guest, Matt Willens, a fellow alum of my alma mater, Loyola University of Chicago’s School of Law. Matt, thank you so much for joining us today.
Willens: Thank you for having me.
Coleman: So, tell us a little about what it is you do.
Willens: Well, I am a personal injury trial lawyer. Now I emphasize trial because if you’ve been around for more than a couple of years, everyone seems to know a personal injury lawyer, but I emphasize trial lawyer because so many personal injury lawyers are trying to settle cases and only settle cases. I’ve met guys who have practiced law for fifty years, and have never had a trial. But we’re actual trial guys.
So, do a lot of our cases settle? Absolutely! But I think they’ve settled for more because we’re not afraid to step in the ring with the other heavyweights called the defense industry.
Coleman: Absolutely. I agree with that Matt. I think that it’s very important to know that you are willing to go to bat for your clients and that you’re not willing to just settle because you’re afraid to go to trial, but that you’re willing to do what you need to do. And to zealously represent your clients. So, what would you advise individuals who have experienced a personal injury?
Willens: Well, the first thing is to contact a personal injury attorney. We’ll tell you if we don’t think we can help you. We’ll also tell you if we can help you with your case. But it’s important to contact someone right away because evidence needs to be preserved. For instance, yesterday we got a call, a very sad call, from a family whose lost a loved one. He was a 50 year-old man who was hit by a truck and killed. We got a call from his brother.
Coleman: That’s terrible.
Willens: We want to get moving right away cause right now, presumably, the truck driver called his insurance company or reported it. I promise you they’ve already started doing their investigation. Now, the family, I’m going to meet with them tomorrow. It’ll be a sad day but I’m anxious, because I want to get going. Right now, the insurance company has a little head start on us so I want to catch up with them. If the family had waited weeks and weeks and weeks, videos get destroyed, pictures get destroyed, things happen mysteriously.
So, we want to get involved right away, so we can be at the same starting point as the defendant insurance company.
Coleman: So, you mentioned a couple of things Matt that I think are very important that people need to know.
First of all, you mentioned the importance of having an attorney by your side when you’re going through something very traumatic because you don’t want to be grieving and at the same time trying to remember what it is you need to do, or research what you should be doing and one of the things you mentioned was preserving evidence.
What you’re saying is there are certain things that attorneys who are trained in this field that know what to do to preserve that evidence to make sure it’s not destroyed.
Willens: If they’re doing their job properly, they’re uncovering every rock. So, in this particular case, are there video cameras in the area where this happened? I don’t know, but I want to know that and I promise you if there are, we’ll get those videos. If the family waits a little too long or hires the wrong lawyer who decides “I’m just not going do much about it,” well, it is very likely that if there is video then it’s gone fairly quickly.
Coleman: I can imagine that it’s very challenging when you are experiencing a personal loss to then try to retain an attorney. What are some of the things an individual should be thinking about when they want to retain counsel?
Willens: It’s a hard thing because it seems like the inappropriate thing to do when you’re either hurt or whether you’re grieving for the loss of a loved one. What we try to tell people is you need to let us focus on your legal case, while you get your life back on track. Whether that’s grieving for a loved one or taking care of injuries, let us take the insurance company off your back. Let us investigate. Let us get a lawsuit on file. Let’s get protective orders, again, so we can preserve evidence that might not otherwise be preserved. Let us worry about all that, and you worry about what’s important, and that’s your health, work, or in some cases grieving the loss of a loved one.
Coleman: And so, Matt, with that being said, are there some things that individuals can do that can harm their cases?
Willens: Absolutely. I’m going to use a car accident for an example. Someone gets in a car accident and fairly quickly, they’re contacted by the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and they want to take a statement. Those statements are completely designed to benefit the defendant or the insurance company and completely against the victim of the negligence. You can trust me on that. In addition to being a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, at one time I worked for an insurance company. I promise you those statements are not designed to help someone who’s been in an accident. Don’t talk! No statements!
Coleman: In that context, how soon should some contact an attorney if they have been involved in an auto accident?
Willens: A.S.A.P. You know, it doesn’t cost anything to call most attorneys. Right? Certainly personal injury attorneys. We don’t get paid. We only get paid if we win your case. At the very least, it’s smart to call a qualified personal injury attorney right away just to get a few pointers. You know, some people call us and they’ll say:
“I’m at the scene of the accident, should I talk to the police?” Absolutely. You always want to cooperate with the police.
“Should I go get checked out? I’m feeling OK.” Yeah, but you should get checked out. And I think the answer is ASAP.
Coleman: And how would they know to select the attorney then?
Willens: That’s a great question. There’s a lot of personal injury attorneys out there, people who’ll handle personal injury cases. I wish I was the only good one, but I’m not.
Coleman: You are.
Willens: So, I think a couple of things. One is check the person. Make sure they have success both in and out of the courtroom. Out is pretty easy, anyone can settle a case. But a person with a track record of success at the courthouse. That doesn’t mean your case is going go to trial. But the insurance companies take note of who’s not afraid to step in the ring and who is not and people who are not afraid get bigger settlements across the board. That’s one.
You want to find someone with skill. That’s obvious. Also, you want to get someone you can relate to. So, that’s one thing we offer at our firm, we really want to meet with you. Nowadays, you can sign someone up just by pressing a button on your computer and say “OK, you’re hired.” But, we want to meet you. We recognize that not everyone wants to come to our main office in downtown Chicago. We’ll come to you. That’s OK. We make house calls. We’re a service business and at the beginning of a relationship, looking at each other in the eye, talking, getting to know each other, is a huge part of a successful relationship and a successful case.
Coleman: I agree with that because your relationship really is built on trust. At the end of the day, you want to feel you trust your attorney and your attorney trusts you. And that you know that he’s going to do what he says he’s gonna do. When he says he’s gonna do it. Or she. So, those are some things that are very important because you are building a relationship. So, what are three things an individual can do that can help their case?
Willens: OK, so I think the first one is to get the proper professionals in place right away. One, we already talked about, at a minimum, calling a personal injury attorney. Another, when I say professionals, also the right doctors. Not everyone knows who the right doctors to go to are. And we generally try to stay out of that process. But some people just don’t know. So, we guide them in the right direction in terms of getting past that, so get the right professionals on your side quickly.
Two, stay off the internet if you can. I mean that in a few ways. One, people like to post everything nowadays. So, they’re posting pictures of themselves at the scene of the accident, and they think it’s just going to their Facebook friends or Twitter friends. It’s not.
The defense will get those somehow and they have a right to them. And if there’s pictures of you smiling and taking pictures at the scene of the accident, it really devalues your case. And another reason to stay off the internet is that there’s a lot of information out there— everyone’s kind of a Monday morning lawyer nowadays — so they’re going on the internet and they’re reading all this information. “Well, I went on the internet,” they’ll say, I get that there is some good information on the internet, but I’d say 95% or more of it is bad. So, we have professionals, we have the internet, and let me add a third thing. I would say to be a good patient.
Most of the people who come to see us are, well, they sometimes miss physical therapy sessions. They miss doctors’ appointments, and that’s all evidence that going to hurt them later on. We appreciate it if they’ll cooperate with us.
We want them to cooperate with their medical professionals, as well.
Coleman: I think that makes a lot of sense. What you’re telling us then is that it’s not enough to seek an attorney, but to make sure you’re doing what your doctor advises you. And to see the physician. So, there you have it.
Today, we learned about what we have to do if we are experiencing a personal injury. We learned about how to select a stellar personal injury lawyer such as Matt Willens. And we learned things that we can do to either help or hurt our own personal injury case.
So, Matt, how can we contact you for more information?
Willens: My phone number is 312-957-4166. My email [email protected]
Coleman: So, for more information about our podcast and the law office of Sonia D. Coleman, PC, please visit our website at scolemanlaw.com and don’t forget to like us on Facebook. The law office of Sonia D. Coleman, PC where we are preserving your wealth and protecting your future.