In a recent post, I delved into some of the common strategies claims adjusters use to harm personal injury cases. But did you know that there are plenty of ways you can severely hinder your chances of receiving a fair settlement for your personal injury claim on your own?
Oftentimes, injury claimants fail to realize that they themselves are one of the most important aspects of their personal injury case. Your actions and behavior following an accident can be a hugely determining factor in the outcome of your claim. While you may understandably be feeling shaken, upset, or emotional in the aftermath of a car accident or other traumatic event, it’s important to try and remain as calm and clear-thinking as possible, while avoiding doing anything to harm your credibility or belittle your suffering. Below, I’ve listed common mistakes that could result in your claim being reduced in value or even denied entirely.
Neglecting to contact the police or file an incident report. After causing a car accident, the responsible party may try to convince you to try and settle it yourselves and not involve the police. But having a legitimate police report on the day of the car accident is crucial to your claim, since you may be able to use it to prove you were not at fault. Although Florida is a no-fault state, proving that the other driving caused the accident may be necessary should PIP coverage not be sufficient to cover all your injuries and lost wages. If you are injured in a slip and fall or trip and fall, file an incident report within 24 hours (if not immediately) after your injury.
Neglecting to seek immediate medical attention. Seeking prompt medical attention after your accident is important to ensure your well-being and long-term health. Even if you feel your injuries are minor, it’s vital to obtain a doctor’s opinion because often injuries do not flare up until days or weeks after an incident. In addition, if you neglect to seek prompt medical attention, insurance companies may use this as evidence to prove you were not seriously injured, or that your injuries were incurred in a subsequent incident.
Not being upfront with your doctor. When seeking medical treatment after an accident, try to be as open and honest with your doctor as possible. Explain your symptoms in detail and without exaggeration, and tell your doctor about any previous injuries, existing medical conditions, or illness. Not only will this ensure you receive quality and appropriate care, but it will strengthen your credibility. If you supply the doctor with misleading or false information, insurance companies might use this as evidence that your claims are invalid. I find this to be a particular problem with clients who are in or former military as these folks are not complainers by nature. We tell all of our injured clients that they should never lie, do not make up symptoms – but don’t hold back either. The name of the game is documenting your injuries. If a symptom is not documented in a doctor’s report it might as well not exist. Your personal-injury lawyer cannot get you compensation for injuries and pain that is not properly documented.
Ignoring medical advice. If your doctor advises you to obtain certain medical treatment or take specific medications, it’s critical that you follow his or her instructions precisely. Do not miss appointments or end your recommended treatment prematurely. If you have adverse reactions to medications or therapy, let your doctor know so he/she can explore other options. Otherwise, insurance companies may argue that you could not be genuinely injured or serious about your recovery. The insurance company term for this is non compliant. They love labeling personal injury clients as being non-compliant and therefore not significantly injured. The theory being: if you were really in pain you would take your medical treatment seriously.
Accepting the insurance company’s settlement. Insurance companies are likely to contact you with an initial settlement and insist there is no reason to hire a lawyer. However, you can be sure their settlement offer is much smaller than what you are entitled to. It’s important to never accept an initial settlement offer from insurance companies, which could waive your right to seek additional compensation in the future. Once you hire a personal-injury lawyer, by law, insurance companies are not allowed to communicate with you.
Posting about your injury on social media. You can be sure that insurance claims adjusters will go through your social media accounts looking for information that could diminish your injury claim. Avoid posting any information about your injury or recovery process on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or any other social media account, whether in the form of status updates, Tweets, comments, or photos.
Neglecting to hire a personal injury attorney. After seeking medical treatment for your injuries, your next move should be to contact a personal injury claim attorney. Your attorney can explain your legal rights and guide you through the process of filing a claim, while advising you against actions that could diminish your claim. Your lawyer can help you prepare your case in a way that will maximize the settlement you receive. If it becomes necessary to go to court to secure fair compensation, your attorney can stand up to insurance companies on your behalf.