Experience has taught me many injury victims unknowingly make huge mistakes that can have a significant impact on their ability to recover. I discuss the mistakes here so that you do not make them. I call them the 7 Deadly Sins of Injury Victims.
- Waiting days or weeks to get medical attention.
If you feel pain after a car wreck, see your doctor (or a doctor) as soon as possible. I commonly hear – I thought this was minor and the pain would go away so I did not see a doctor. What happens if the pain is not minor, gets worse, or does not go away? If you see a doctor for the first-time weeks or months after the accident, proving your pain is related is much more difficult! And, it gives the defendant and the insurance company reason to question your credibility.
- Failing to obtain sufficient information at the scene and Failing to call the police.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle crash or a slip-and-fall incident, you need to do what you can to get as much information as possible. This includes writing down the date and approximate time of the incident; obtaining identification information of those involved including full name, address and phone number; witness identification information; insurance information from all involved; type of vehicles involved in crash (year, make, model); pictures of damages; and other conditions (rainy, sunny, etc.)
If it is a motor vehicle crash - call the police!! Even if the wreck happens in a parking lot, you should make a report. The police officer will take witness statements and document other important information in the police report. The officer also is an important witness to what each person said immediately after the accident. Why is this important? Some witnesses or parties may change their stories later, and memories of the persons involved in the accident, as well as those of independent witnesses, can become less accurate over time.
If you are able, ask any witnesses to write, sign and date a short statement describing what they saw.
- Providing too much information to the insurance company after the accident.
After an accident, the other driver’s insurance company adjuster will probably call you and ask you to give a “recorded statement.” The adjuster may ask you to sign forms allowing them to request your medical or other records. You are not required to give a recorded statement or sign medical records authorizations or anything else for the other driver’s insurance company, and it is a big mistake to do so.
The adjuster is highly-trained to get you to give your statement in a certain way, and statements you make can easily be misinterpreted to later undermine your case. The adjuster is skilled at having you discuss seemingly unrelated items and then using your off-the-cuff words against you later. Be alert!
- Failing to follow medical advice.
When you are hurt or injured in an auto accident you should visit your doctor. If your injury is serious, you will have to keep going. But if your doctor makes recommendations that you do not follow, you can damage your case.
Make sure you: (a) attend all follow-up doctor appointments, (b) follow medical advice in terms of taking medication, (c) attending physical therapy, and (d) anything else the doctor recommends.
If the doctor recommends a course of treatment or a follow-up appointment, it is important for you to comply. Missed appointments and failure to follow medical advice permits the insurer to argue that you must not have truly been hurting, or that your failure caused your injury to be worse than it would have been had you followed advice.
- Failing to disclose past accidents, injuries or medical conditions to your doctor or your attorney.
Life happens. You may have been involved in an accident in the past, or have been dealing with pain for a long time. Do not hide this information! You need to tell your doctor and your attorney about any prior injuries or medical conditions you had before the accident in question.
The defense will eventually learn this information from your medical records or through other methods and if you lie about these things – they will paint you as a liar about everything.
An accident victim being untruthful about anything, even if completely irrelevant to the claim, can destroy even the most legitimate and serious personal injury claim.
- Misrepresenting your level of activity or exaggerating the effects of an injury.
Misrepresenting or exaggerating the effects of your injury during your case is a crime, insurance fraud, and you can be prosecuted and receive jail time and a heavy fine. It is also morally wrong and will not, and should not, be tolerated by insurance companies, judges, juries, attorneys or anyone else.
Insurance companies will spare no expense to prove exaggeration or fraud. The stakes are high. Their attorneys and adjusters are not fools, and they do this every day for a living. No matter how legitimate your claim may be, they will assume and hope from Day One that you are like “the subject” mentioned above who went skiing and keep looking for ways to prove it.
You can bet your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites will be combed through to see if you are exaggerating. An investigator may follow you and you would be surprised at what some people will do when claiming they have a disabling injury! Do not be that person!
- Failing to adequately document injuries.
You should photograph any cuts, bruising or other physical evidence of your injury. I also recommend clients have someone video them if medication side effects are significant or if photos are not sufficient to accurately display the effects of the injury or side effects. Another good idea is to keep a daily pain journal documenting when, where and the level of intensity of your pain and how it affects your life. If you have headaches, you can keep a headache journal.
Be as specific as you can. Describe any activities you were unable to perform or had difficulty performing or found painful. This is often helpful in the claims process to describe how your injury affected your daily life. It can also help you to recall and communicate the specifics of your complaints to your doctor. But above all, be truthful, and no matter what, DO NOT EXAGGERATE!!!
HURT IN A WRECK – GET HELP NOW!
If you need to speak with a local personal injury attorney who can help you avoid these costly mistakes, Loyd J. Bourgeois stands ready to help. Contact us to schedule your FREE legal consultation – (985) 240-9773.