LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Todd Frank Bovo | Aug 26, 2013

The 7 Biggest Mistakes That Will Kill Your Personal Injury Case: and what you can do to avoid them.

You were involved in an auto accident, and you’re injured. On top of the stress of having your car wrecked, you’re also in pain, and you need to take time out of work, family, and other obligations to see a doctor and begin to heal. Will the other person’s insurance company pay for your care? Will your insurance company pay for it if the other person’s insurance company refuses or they don’t have enough coverage to pay for all of your medical bills? The decisions you make following your car accident can affect the outcome of your entire case.

The 7 biggest mistakes that will kill your personal injury case and how you can avoid them are listed below.

1. Failure to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Failing to seek medical attention immediately is the first mistake that can cost you your entire case.

You Are Responsible For Proving Your Injuries Happened In Your Collision.

If you wait to seek medical care after your accident, no doubt the insurance company will argue that you may have been injured in some other situation, between the time of the accident and when you sought treatment. If the insurance companies agree that the injuries were caused by the accident, they will still argue that your injuries were not serious enough to seek immediate medical attention, and they may offer you a lower settlement amount.

2. Failing To Document Your Accident And Injuries

Keep a journal and make sure to write down how you are feeling each day. It sounds tedious but it will help refresh your memory if your trial falls a few years away from the original accident date.

Following your accident, you should document every single detail right away. Take pictures of the vehicles, and also take pictures of the area where the accident occurred. Sketch out a scene of the accident. Make sure to get witness statements and full witness contact information including an email address. Also take pictures of your injuries and document them in a journal.

• Take pictures of the vehicles, the scene, and any injuries you may have that you can photograph.

• Document your injuries: keep a file with any materials provided by your health care practitioners, especially treatment referrals, work restrictions and progress reports.

3. Giving A Statement To The Insurance Company

The insurance company will contact you fairly quickly after the accident and ask you to give a recorded statement over the phone. You may still be recovering from the accident, and you may also be nervous. You most certainly will be unprepared. You may talk too much, or say things you didn’t mean to say. The insurance companies will use whatever you say to their advantage to discredit you and offer you a lower settlement or none at all.

Do Not Consent To A Recorded Statement.

Anything you say in a recorded statement can be used against you later in your case. Insurance adjusters will scrutinize your every word to see how they can minimize your recovery, they are looking for any reason to deny your claim.

4. Signing Releases And Authorizations

You never want to sign any releases or authorizations:

a. You are giving away your precious information; and

b. You may just sign away all of your claims and rights.

Insurance companies will try to get you to sign blank releases that allow them to access all of your medical records. Allowing them full access to your medical history is dangerous. The insurance companies will search through your entire record to see if you have ever experienced a similar injury in the past. If they are able to find a similar injury, they may deny your claim.

5. Failure To Continue Your Treatment

Keep Going! Make sure you continue your care until you are fully recovered.

If your health care practitioners have prescribed chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, or any other continuous medical treatment, you must continue with the prescribed treatments. Attend every appointment. If the insurance adjuster sees in your treatment history that you skipped appointments or worse had gaps in your timeline of care, they will highlight those skipped appointments and gaps. They will most likely claim that either you were not as seriously injured, or that you were fully recovered. Additionally, with gaps in treatment, they may claim that you may have experienced another injury unrelated to the accident during your lapse, and may deny your claim or substantially reduce your recovery amount.

6. Settling Your Case Before You Are Fully Healed

Do not settle your case before you have been discharged by your healthcare practitioners or before you feel that you are fully healed:

a. Insurance companies will try to contact you as soon as possible to assess what your injuries and get you to settle before you may even know how serious or permanent your injuries may be. Once you agree to settle, they will have you sign a release that prohibits you from going back and claiming more for any further recovery.

b. Make sure to report all of your injuries and pain to your health care practitioners. While you may assume a slight pain might just go away, it is better to be sure before settling your case.

7. Settling Your Case Without Consulting An Attorney

There are two important reasons to consult with an attorney before you settle:

  1. Personal injury attorneys are experts in dealing with the insurance companies and their tactics. Personal injury attorneys deal with adjusters daily, and know how to protect your rights throughout the process;

  2. Attorneys are familiar with the legal issues involved in your case. Personal injury attorneys are experts in determining if you have a claim for negligence or loss of consortium. Additionally, our attorneys are aware of all of the deadlines and statutes of limitations that may affect your case; and personal injury attorneys are specialists in valuing in your case. The insurance companies will always try to undervalue your case. Personal injury attorneys know the value of your case, and know how to use strategies to maximize your recovery.

“But I Don’t Want To Sue Anyone." There are a lot of people who do not want to sue anyone at the outset of their accident. Insurance adjusters are hoping you won’t want to sue anyone, that way they can offer you the lowest settlement possible because they know you aren’t willing to take the next step in pursuing your own recovery.

“I Can Do This Myself." There are certain cases where in fact you can manage your own personal injury case. If you know the insurance policy limits of the other person’s policy, and your medical bills and injury impairment have exceeded or will exceed that policy limit, than you are in a good position to settle your claim on your own. The easiest way to answer this question is by identifying all of the categories of damages to which you are entitled to recover compensation from the incident. For example, permanent impairment, permanent disfigurement, lost past wages, lost future wages, mileage, loss of household services, pain and suffering, etc.

1) if you believe that you fully understand the extent of your damages and 2) you are able to present documentation of the extent of your damages to the adjuster and 3) the adjuster agrees and offers to pay what you’re demanding, then you very well may be able to do this on your own. However, if you don’t fully have an understanding of the extent of your damages and all the categories and the adjuster will not agree to what you’re demanding and you don’t have all of the documentation you need, you will need an attorney to help you.

You should still have a personal injury attorney review the recovery and the release before you sign them and go over the final recovery and documents to make sure your settlement is reflective of your injuries, lost wages, future medical care, permanent impairment, etc.

If you decide to obtain a personal injury attorney, make sure they are experience and will be the right partner for you in your personal injury case.

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