Mark Alexander is a partner and trial attorney with Stewart Melvin & Frost – one of Northeast Georgia’s oldest and largest law firms. Based upon his work with numerous victims of tragic accidents through the years, Mark has developed a crisis tool kit, called a Crisis Navigation Guide that provides advice on important personal and legal steps.
Question: Could you briefly explain again what you mean by Crisis Navigation?
Mark: In my work as a trial attorney, I work with clients who suddenly find themselves caught up in a tragic and life-altering event. These are tragedies that take place when someone has done something wrong to you or a loved one that has resulted in a serious injury or even death.
I refer to myself as a Crisis Navigator, because it is a much better description of the role that I play. Although I am a trial lawyer, most of my work doesn’t take place in a courthouse. Instead, I focus most of my time guiding clients through the legal maze of issues such as insurance and help get them back on the road to recovery – both physically and financially.
Question: Could you please recap the four key points that people should follow when faced with a personal or family tragedy?
•Number 1: Put Your Health and Family First.
•Number 2: Designate a Legal Representative as soon as possible.
•Number 3: Prepare and Assemble Key Records and Documentation.
•Number 4: Be Careful What You Say and Do.
Question: You recommend gathering key records and documentation in the wake of a serious accident. What types of documents?
Mark: Primarily insurance records. Your attorney will need to review your health insurance policy. And if you were involved in a car accident, the attorney will need to see your automobile insurance policy as well as the police report about the accident. It’s also important to begin compiling a file with your notes and photos describing your accident and how it has impacted you. This will be helpful to your attorney.
I have produced a Crisis Navigation booklet that includes a questionnaire to help you assemble a detailed Records Guide. You can follow this link – www.crisis-navigation.com – from the Stewart Melvin & Frost website where you can download a copy for yourself.
Question: In addition to your attorney, shouldn’t you also contact your insurance company?
Mark: Yes, you should. But I have to qualify this answer, because you need to be careful.
Certainly you need to contact your local insurance agent to start work on processing any future claims. But in doing so, remember a very important fact of life: your agent won’t be making the decision about your claim – typically it will be a claims adjustor whose main job is to minimize risk for the insurance company; therefore, you need to be careful how much information is provided to avoid jeopardizing your claim.
That’s why it is so important to have a skilled, experienced legal representative working on your behalf. Let your attorney handle the detailed discussions with your insurance company.
Question: The fourth point of advice in your Crisis Navigation Guide is to Be Careful What You Say and Do. What do you mean?
Mark: You especially need to be careful with electronic communications such as texts, e-mails and Facebook. Because whatever you post online becomes a permanent, public record that can come back to bite you.
Facebook, for example, is a great online tool for keeping friends and family members posted about your medical condition. But be aware that your Facebook postings can be easily reviewed by anyone –including the insurance company representing the party that caused your injury. An innocent comment like “Don’t worry about me – I’m getting better” might help ease the concerns of your loved ones, but it could also be misinterpreted and potentially used against you to limit your medical reimbursement.
My advice to clients is to refrain from posting anything about the circumstances of the accident and how it happened.