Here are the top mistakes I see on a daily basis, and how you can avoid them.
1. Failure to go to the Doctor While They are Hurting
Despite having gone to the Emergency Room and being told to follow up in 3-4 days with their personal family doctor, the injured person fails to do that. Instead they try to “tough it out”. While I admire people who hate going to the doctor (I am one of those), in these type of situations you are jeopardizing your case.
Whenever I follow up with my clients, the first thing I ask them is “How are you doing?” If they are hurting, then they should be treating. If they are not hurting, they should not be treating. It is that simple.
In every single trial I have participated in, the defendant is fully insured. They do not have to pay their lawyer a red cent (appointed by their insurance company) and they typically never have to pay a penny of the judgment awarded by the jury. The Rules of Evidence typically do NOT allow a jury to know insurance is present all over the courtroom. This is kept secret from the jury.
The insurance defense lawyers quickly want to know if there are any lapses or “gaps” in treatment. If so, they seize upon this and infer that you are “not that hurt”, or that you “sat around and thought you might make some money off of a lawsuit.” Their bottom line is… If it is not in a doctor’s note, it did not happen. You MUST document your pain by going to the doctor. ALWAYS be honest with your doctor. Especially when asked about prior injuries. Even if not related to the instant case, I advise telling your doctor about it if asked. Otherwise, the defense attorney will say you “lied” to your own doctor.
Even if a doctor has told you there is nothing else she can do to help you, you need to make a record. If, for example, you fail to treat for a year after you have been “released” and are “as good as you are going to get” then the insurance company will insinuate that you are 100% better, because “if [you] were really hurt, [you] would have done something about it.” Many juries will buy this argument. Protect yourself!!
2. Failure to Take Pictures of the Wrecked Vehicles
This seems so automatic to many, but a majority of people fail to do this. With the prevalence of smart phones, this should be done unless you are severely injured and unable. If someone you care about is hurt, do them a favor and take pictures and video for them. If you see the defendant and they are under the influence, take video of them. Document everything you can.
Many times, particularly in rear end crashes, a person’s vehicle will not show much or any damage to the rear of their vehicle. However, the defendant’s car who smashed you might be totaled, leaking radiator fluid, or the airbag deployed. The insurance company may conveniently “lose” or “never take” any pictures showing the real harmful pictures to their case. They will instead focus on the lack of damage to the plaintiff’s rear bumper, only.
Whatever the case, take pictures of your vehicle AND the defendant’s vehicle(s), and any other vehicles involved in the crash. Whenever you take these pictures, it is a good idea to take pictures from all 4 corners of each vehicle, and at ground level. If the airbag went off, take pictures of that as well. If the defendant who hit you has been drinking and you or someone with you sees that, take pictures of that also. That information always disappears quickly. If you can take pictures at the scene, show the position of each of the cars in relation to local landmarks to give perspective.
If there are skid marks or yaw marks in the roadway, take pictures of those also if you can. Take as many pictures or video as you possibly can to document the scene and the vehicles. There is no such thing as too many pictures.
3. Waiting to Talk to an Experienced Attorney and/or Trusting the Insurance Company
In small cases, there may be no need for you to get an attorney. I have helped many people totally free of charge by holding their hand and walking them through their auto claims process. People often wait too long wondering "Do I need to hire an attorney?" People are often afraid it will cost them too much money or try to handle it themselves. That is not the case. Free is free.
If you are not hurt, it is okay to handle property damage cases yourself. I do those free of charge for my clients anyway (unless it is litigated). Adjusters can often give wrong information about payment of medical expenses out of the settlement, and about how your medical expenses in the future will be paid. As a former claims adjuster, I can tell you that I was trained to do one thing for my company at that time… Save them money. Insurance is the only industry that sells you a promise in exchange for money. Many times that promise to pay for all the harms and losses caused by their insured is broken, and they leave you to make up the difference yourself. Don’t let that happen to you.
What Other Questions Do I Often Hear From Injured Clients?
There are several other issues that don’t get handled correctly that cost you money that did not make the top 3, but are all close #4’s.
What happens if I need medical care for the rest of my life?
How are my lost wages determined?
How do I know how much insurance coverage the other person has?
What if the defendant does not have enough insurance? What do I do?
Should I give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster? What should I tell them?
Should I keep a diary of how this injury has affected me / my spouse?
If you have questions regarding these issues, or any other issues in your specific case, please let me hear from you. I won’t charge you a dime, and I want to hear from you. Call our Franklin law office at (615) 807-7900 to speak with an attorney today.