Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Personal Injury Case

Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Personal Injury Case

LAKE COUNTY’S BEST INJURY ATTORNEY, ROBERT EDENS

Mistake 1:Failing to act immediately at the time of the accident.

At the time of an accident, people are often dazed and in a state of shock. They may not be thinking as clearly as they normally would, even if they have no outward appearance of injuries.

Certain things should be done at the time of the accident, including remaining calm. Without compromising your own well-being, offer assistance to anyone else with injuries, but do not move seriously injured people unless it is absolutely necessary to prevent further injury. Call 911 to get necessary medical attention and police assistance for yourself and others.

Write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved, including any witnesses.  It is often a good idea to write down the license plate numbers of those who stopped as they may not want to provide the police, or you, with their name and address.  Be sure to write down the other person’s driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance information, including the policy number, before leaving the scene of the accident.  If possible, take pictures with a cell phone of damages to both vehicles and injuries to yourself and others.  Be sure to include the license plate number showing the corresponding vehicle so there is no question that the vehicle was in the accident.  If you are incapacitated, a police officer will document all of this information in their report.  You can obtain this report at a later time.

As soon as possible you should document everything you can remember about the incident. Details you may think are insignificant can prove to be critical to your claim at a later date. The more time that passes after an accident, the more details will be forgotten. Make note of anything that was said by you and the other driver to the police, emergency personnel, each other, and witnesses.  How many times do we say to ourselves, “I should have written it down?” It is for this very reason you need to write down the details before they slip from your memory.

A record should be kept of the nature and extent of all injuries and any pain or symptoms you may be having as a result of your injuries. A good method to accomplish this is to purchase a separate calendar to keep track of your doctor’s visits and document your symptoms in one place. It can be a wall or pocket calendar, or something as simple as a print out from your computer.

Finally, make sure to keep copies of everything, including all costs associated with the injury.  Those costs may include loss of wages, car rental, special services, or necessary after care. Also, get copies of all of your doctor’s records, x-ray, MRI or CT results and lab reports every time you have an appointment. This cannot be stressed enough.
It will save enormous amounts of time, energy, and expense rather than you or your attorney having to do it at a later date. Keep these and the corresponding medical bills together in a folder or large binder. 

Mistake 2: Falsifying your injuries and symptoms or failing to follow your doctor’s advice.

Sometimes people feel the need to embellish their symptoms or fabricate additional injuries in an effort to strengthen their claim. Unknowingly to you, doctors will generally perform several tests during your examination to determine if you are exaggerating your injuries.  While this might be tempting, it can also be the end of your personal injury case. If a doctor believes you are embellishing your symptoms to bolster your claim they will note the term “malingerer” (which means faking or exaggerating injuries) in your medical records and that can destroy your case. This is a bad idea as it can actually devalue your claim, or dismiss it altogether. Additionally, insurance fraud is illegal; the risk is too great and the benefit too little.

Another way your claim can be diminished is by not following your doctor’s treatment plan or advice. If your doctor orders follow-up tests or physical therapy, it is extremely important that you follow up on everything, even if you are feeling better. Patients often think of their treatment like aspirin – take two and you will feel better. When they feel better they wrongfully assume they can discontinue care. However, if your injuries could be treated this way you wouldn’t need to file a personal injury claim.  Symptoms often diminish during treatment but can rapidly return, or even worsen, if treatment is discontinued. Failing to follow your doctor’s advice is the easiest way for the insurance company to argue that your injuries are not as serious as you are making them out to be.

With the advent of social media the insurance adjustor can follow your activities with a few clicks of a mouse. They will visit your FaceBook pages, your friends’ FaceBook pages, MySpace, YouTube, and any other networking sites, to view posts and pictures about your daily life. They may even go so far as attempting to “friend” you. The slightest hint of questionable activities will surely be brought up at a trial.

Contrary to exaggerating your injuries, you should tell your doctor everything about your injuries. How they were caused, all symptoms you are experiencing, no matter how minor, as well as any prior injuries you had before the accident.br>
Many clients wrongfully believe if their injuries were pre-existing they have no claim. As stated in the prior chapter, this is a myth that is widely held by victims.

Mistake 3: Not hiring the right attorney or not hiring a lawyer at all. 

No matter how nice an insurance adjuster appears to be, do not falsely believe he has your best interests at heart. They work for the defendant’s insurance company. If you both have the same insurance company, still do not believe that they have your best interests at heart. The adjuster’s job is to present you with a settlement that is in the best interest of his employer. This is not to say that all insurance companies, or their employees, are out to intentionally deceive people.  In some cases the settlement they are offering is fair. Injuries that do not present long term health consequences may not require a larger settlement than they are offering. Only you can decide. The decision should be made with all the facts considered. A personal injury attorney will be able to discuss those facts, pointing out anything that you may not have even considered.  An adept personal injury attorney will evaluate the proposed settlement objectively and make any appropriate recommendations before you sign the settlement agreement.

Perhaps the most critical factor to receiving a favorable settlement outcome for your personal injury case is the attorney you select to represent you. Just like doctors that specialize in a particular field of medicine, attorneys specialize in specific practice areas.
For the best possible outcome in your personal injury case, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney that has a proven record of success in various types of injury cases.

Mistake 4: Failing to be honest with your attorney.

It is imperative that you disclose everything that could be relevant to your case with your attorney. This includes: prior injuries, current medical conditions, any doctor’s care you are under, prior legal issues, financial issues, alcohol or chemical use, employment history, or anything the defendant’s insurance company can use to discredit you. It is important to remember your attorney is fighting for you and cannot defend something he/she is not even aware of.

In today’s day and age it is difficult to keep things confidential. With a few keystrokes anyone can access public information online about you through the FIA (freedom of Information Act) including prior arrests, property transactions, bankruptcy, prior and pending lawsuits, and all court proceedings.  With a little foresight and savvy, an insurance investigator can track your activities and whereabouts through social media sites. People unsuspectingly post details and pictures online that can devalue or jeopardize their entire case. You can be sure the insurance companies will have someone checking, at least intermittently, to see what you are posting online that they can use against you.  It is advised that you not discuss the details of your case with anyone except your attorney while the outcome is still pending.

Mistake 5: Giving a recorded statement or signing a medical release.

You do not have to give a recorded statement or sign a medical authorization.  Much like a criminal case, anything you say can and will be used against you.  My clients are often shocked when they find out they were never required to give a recorded statement.  The adjuster may tell you they can’t process your claim until you do so. They may tell you it is just part of their procedures or policy. There is no law or rule that requires you to give a recorded statement.  The insurance company may have this “policy,” but it does not mean you are bound by their “policy” or even that the “policy” is enforceable. I will go into more detail in the next section, Five Traps The Insurance Companies Hope You Fall Into; and what to say when you are asked to give a recorded statement or what to do if you have already given one.