Here are ten common mistakes we see injured people make when trying to handle their own accident or injury claim.
1. Not Getting a Free Consultation with a Lawyer
Almost all personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation about an injury claim. Free professional advice that can help you understand your situation is out there being offered to you. Pick up the phone and call.
2. Giving a Recorded Statement
We have discussed recorded statements in detail in an earlier post. Insurance company claims adjusters try to force all injured people into making statements. As we discussed in our earlier post that is just a ploy to get a chance to have you make a mistake.
If you are dealing with your own insurance company (uninsured or underinsured coverage you bought) your contract might well obligate you to give a recorded statement.
3. Assuming the System Makes Sense
Injury and accident law is constantly changing and evolving. Old rules that used to make sense get kicked out by lobbyists at the legislature or the court interprets language differently. There are nuances and subtleties in the law and things that people who are not familiar with the law’s complexities just don’t know about. Whats “41-1839”, the “made whole doctrine”, the “duty to pay”, the “SLRA” and a host of other issues.
Of course, this helps the insurance companies who work in the law everyday when dealing with people who are unrepresented or represented by lawyers unfamiliar with the system’s quirks.
4. Undervaluing or Overvaluing The Claim
One of the things that many years of practice have taught us is that clients tend to either vastly undervalue or vastly overvalue their claims. It is a rare client who has a good sense of a potential verdict range. Its easy to understand what happens if you undervalue your claim and ask for that low amount in settlement: the insurance company pays what you ask and keeps for itself what should be compensation for your losses.
It is a bit harder to understand the impact of asking for or “demanding” too much. Recognize that “too much” does not mean more than they are willing to pay. It means an unrealistic amount that indicates you do not have a legitimate sense of the value of the claim. When you show you don’t understand the claim’s value you are telling the company that you are also willing to settle for less than the value of the case. This is because you have shown you don’t know the value of the case. The ordinary Insurance company response to over the top offers is to hold back money it would otherwise pay.
5. Believing the Insurance Company’s Actually made a “Final” Offer
A tactic the carriers use is too often expressly directly or indirectly present an offer as a “final offer.” Self-represented claimants present no real threat of suit. Or the threat is a hollow one at best when the person does not have the ability to fulfill the threat. The carrier feels no risk so the claimant has no leverage. Experience teaches us that many injured people take a carriers first offer and leave their money in the coffers of the insurance company. Understanding when an offer really is the final final offer is one of the skills good injury lawyer develop over the years.
6. Settling Before Your Injuries have “Seasoned”
Some of the insurance companies have adopted the get to the injured person and get some money on the table quick approach. You can bet your life they do not do that because its what is fair or in the injured person’s best interest. Particularly for a seriously injured person, a quick settlement will get you less than the fair compensation you have a right to recover. The only way to provide an insurance company a reason to make a reasonable, or at least somewhat reasonable, offer, you have to build your claim. This requires all of your medical bills and records and often a written opinion from a your doctor. Or a hired expert doctor in many cases who was not your treater.
You have almost no chance of receiving fair value without a complete work up of the claim. To understand how important this is, understand that our law firm will not even consider taking a case if the client is trying to settle the case before her doctors understand the full scope of her injuries.
7. Assuming the Insurance Company Will Accept What You Say Without Documentation
Understanding the role that medical records and other documentation play in establishing your claim is one part of what people do not get right. Things in medical records, for good and for ill, are usually accepted in the settlement process as accurate. But your statements and descriptions are discounted and rejected if not backed up by documentation. Get the care you need. One perverse effect of this is that people who consume more medical care than they might otherwise are better protected in a claim because the medical records create a documentary history of the injury course.
8. Not Understanding or Dealing with Liens and Subrogation Interests
Health insurance, medical payments coverage and other payors often have a right to be repaid from your settlement proceeds. Some medical providers also have a right to be paid under the Idaho health care lien statutes. Frequently having a lawyer who understands the law and lien issues more important to how much money the client recovers than how well the attorney negotiated the settlement.
Without that representation people regularly pay their health insurer (or the government/Medicare) far more than they are obligated to pay. Not paying these liens can get cause problems as can failing to make sure the greatest legal reduction is taken.
9. Falling for the Notion that the Insurance Company Is Trying to Be Fair
They aren’t your “Good Neighbors” and you are not in “Good Hands” with claims adjusters. They have a different ste of goals than you do. Whether an insurance adjuster or an insurance company lawyer, they want to keep the corporate money in the corporation. Their goal is to pay you as little as possible. Their goal is not to treat you fairly.
10. Not Getting Help from a Lawyer
Yes this is the same as number 1. We are happy to talk with you about your claim and situation. Its free. Our lawyers generally handle serious injury claims but we are glad to talk to you about any potential claim you may have. Call us and find out if we can be of assistance to you in maximizing the value of your personal injury claim.
You don’t need a lawyer in every car crash case. Certainly in smaller accident cases with minor, connective tissue injuries you may very well be as well off without an attorney as you are with one. In serious injury cases, there is really no question that you need a lawyer to protect your interests. Don’t make any of these basic mistakes.