People dealing with injuries caused by others often make mistakes that cost them money because they don’t understand the liability injury world and the perspective that insurance companies bring to it. Here, is a brief checklist of things you should know to protect yourself and make sure your claim is treated fairly.
1. Get medical care from a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Don’t assume you will get better. The visit with the doctor visit is not only for diagnosis and medical treatment. The key to protecting your claim is adequate, appropriate, documentation. Any delay between the accident date and the date you first go to the doctor can cause problems. The longer the delay the bigger the problem. Insurance companies love delays because they then dispute the validity of the claim.
2. Go to the right doctor. “Doctor” means traditional western medical doctor, i.e an MD or D.O. (osteopath). This does not mean you cannot or should not have care from a chiropractor or alternative medicine care provider. However, don’t make that type of treatment the ONLY care you get. Insurance companies (and juries) are suspicious of non-traditional medicine.
3. The emergency room doctor will NOT do a comprehensive analysis. Follow-up with an office visit. ER doctors have a limited focus and if nothing is bleeding, broken or presenting a risk of death, the ER doctor will release you.
4. Do not skip doctor and physical therapy appointments that are prescribed for you. People sometimes fail to complete their treatment program. This is a mistake, both for medical reasons and in terms of the insurance claim. The responsible party’s insurance company will penalize you for not doing what the doctor’s recommend to make yourself better. And, you may not heal as quickly or even at all. And, you will likely receive less money in a settlement. If you think you do not need to attend an appointment, consult with the care-provider and get the decision to curtail, reduce or change treatment documented.
5. If you have been contacted to the responsible party’s investigator or insurance adjuster, do not speak to them. Speak to a lawyer first. It is almost never a good idea to give any statements to the other side. Click here to read a more complete discussion about insurance statements and how to deal with them. You have to be careful what you say to the insurance company—for example, how you describe the accident or your injuries. They will try to use everything you say against you. Even an offhand remark or side comment can potentially lead to a dramatic decrease in the settlement offered to you on a claim.
6. The insurance company adjuster is not your friend. It does not matter how they act. Some act like jerks, some are all sweetness and light. All of them have only one ultimate goal: to convince you to settle your case for as little as possible, and often for much less than it’s worth. Be careful about recorded statements.
7. Don’t wait to report your accident. Generally you are legally obligated to report collisions with property damage. If you were injured, it’s almost certain that the responsible person or their insurance company have already started to work against you. You are likely obligated to report any accident to your own insurance company. There may be portions of your own policy that provide benefits that a failure to report could lose you.
8. Protect your own interests, discuss your case with a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you can. Take advantage of the free consultation that lawyers like us offer. You do not have to hire the lawyer but we all will give you some insight and understanding about your particular situation.
9. Document, Document Document. Make a record of all damages and get the names of any witnesses. Medical records (assuming you follow rule 1 above) and bills are the easy part of the documentation. Have photographs taken of your injuries, damage to your vehicle and the bad guy’s vehicle if you can. Use your cell phone at the scene even. Keep a calendar of doctors visits and prepare a brief diary for your lawyer. It does not have to be complete just some notes that will help you recall what was going on.
10. Understand your damage claim. You may be entitled to recover financial compensation for a variety of losses under Idaho’s law. For example, in addition to the property damage claim for your vehicle, you can recover for things like:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earnings
- Past and future pain and suffering (general damages)
- Loss of consortium
- Permanent physical impairment
11. Choose the right lawyer for you personal injury case. Selecting the person you work with is is an important and personal decision. Dont just hire the person who advertises the most. It is important to know how much experience and how successful the attorney has been in the type of matter involved. You can learn about us on this blog or call for a free copy of our book. Take time to choose someone you are comfortable with and who has a track record of success.
12. Understand that injury law is a specialty and not all personal injury lawyers are the same. And lawyers who just “dabble in” personal injury or who don’t specialize may well not fully understand, the law or appropriate tactics and strategy to fully protect you interests.
While all the following apply to us, in reality when it comes to personal injury attorneys:
- Few have obtained multi-million dollar settlements for their clients
- And even fewer have obtained multiple million dollar plus verdicts at trial for their clients
- Fewer still have protected those verdicts on appeal
- Many do not have significant experience in handling accident and injury cases
- Just a portion understand the unique nature of the negotiation process with liability insurers
- Not all personally pursue their clients’ cases
- Hardly any have been selected by fellow injury lawyers to serve as President of their Trial Lawyers Association
- Only some have been asked write and lecture other lawyers on personal injury law, and
- But a handful have actually worked on insurance company side to learn their tricks.
We help people all over Southern Idaho. Call us if you have any questions about your injury claim. The initial consultation is always free.