Common Pitfalls of Personal Injury Claims
The world is full of rules. The same is true for personal injury claims. In fact, insurance companies have unwritten rules a person has to follow to maximize their claim. It is unfortunate that recovering from an injury involves jumping through hoops, but in defense of insurance companies, they have to vet frivolous claims. With this in mind, here are the most common pitfalls personal injury claimants run into, oftentimes without realizing these actions will affect their claim.
Waiting to go to a doctor after being injured
Among the most common personal injury pitfalls is an injured person has to prove the accident is what caused the injuries. If someone does not go to the doctor for weeks, the auto insurance company can argue, “If she was really hurt, she would have gone to the doctor much sooner. Something else must have caused her injuries.”
Of course, there are valid reasons for not going to a doctor right away. However, even if you have a valid excuse, insurance companies will likely leverage the delay when it comes time to settle your claim. To avoid these arguments, if you are in an accident, go to a doctor. It is better to find out you are okay, then to wait and find out later that something is seriously wrong.
Inconsistent Medical Treatment
Insurance adjusters look meticulously at the dates of medical service. In most cases, a doctor (often a chiropractor or physical therapist) places the injured person on a treatment plan. Whenever a doctor gives recommendations, it is imperative to follow this plan. The medical records and bills you accumulate after a collision are the insurance adjuster’s gospel! If it is not in the records, it did not happen.
Life gets busy; most people have jobs, families, and other responsibilities that do not stop just because they are injured. Insurance adjusters look through the medical records for any gaps in treatment, which are significant amounts of time in between doctor’s visits. If a person treats for a few weeks, stops for two weeks, goes back, and then does not see the doctor again for a month, an adjuster will surely argue they should pay less because the client did not follow the doctor’s orders.
If you heal quickly after your collision, you should not continue treatment. Once you completely improve, let your doctor know. Too often, clients continue to treat for months after improving. This is often because of a lack of communication between patient and doctor. Be sure to be open and honest with your doctor and do not treat merely to increase the value of your claim.
Waiting to get an attorney
An insurance adjuster’s goal is to save their company money. They are not interested in paying all claimants a fair amount. What they want is to pay claimants as little as possible. It often takes countless hours to settle a claim with an insurance company for a fair amount. While it is possible to do it alone, what often happens is the insurance company will make a very quick and undervalued offer.
For example, I had a potential client who was 7 months pregnant when she was rear-ended. After going to the hospital and to her primary care physician, the insurance company asked her for the medical bills and records. She sent them over and they, in turn, offered her $1,500. All she paid was the $150 copay at each facility, so in her mind, she just netted $1,200 and she was quickly recovering.
What she did not know, was her health insurance company had a right of reimbursement for what it paid the hospital and doctor’s office. The amount she owed those facilities was over $5,000. Because she already settled her claim, there was no way for her to receive more money from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Had she consulted with us right away, we would have told her she had a right to recover for the amount BILLED by the hospital, not for the amount she paid. The two appointments totaled close to $10,000. Her claim was worth significantly more than the amount she accepted. Had she had an attorney, we would have ensured her medical bills were paid and she would have received much more money in her pocket.
Speak to an attorney quickly after you are injured. There are times when a person does not need an attorney, but it is always better to seek advice early, rather than waiting until it is too late.
Giving a Recorded Statement to any Insurance Company
Insurance adjusters are trained to collect recorded statements from the parties involved in an accident as soon as possible. They use these statements in many ways. Many people do not realize they do not have to give a recorded statement to an insurance company. You can and should refuse.
The main reason you do not want to give a recorded statement – memories change. Personal injury claims can last a long time. If the insurance company refused to pay you a fair amount, you may have to file a lawsuit. At that point, you will likely have your deposition (testimony under oath) taken by an attorney who represents the insurance company and the other driver. Adjusters love to compare deposition transcripts to recorded statements and point out the differences as a way of showing that the injured party is dishonest and has changed their story.
This tactic works no matter how honest a person is because memories change. You will not remember things the same way a year after the event. An easy way to avoid this pitfall is to refuse to give a recorded statement.
While you never have to give a recorded statement to someone else’s insurance company, you do have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company. If your auto insurance company asks for a recorded statement, simply say, “I would like to wait until I speak with an attorney.” Our team will discuss what to expect, we sit in on the call with you, and we refuse to allow the insurance company to record the statement. All of this will help you throughout your personal injury claim.
These are just a few of the common personal injury pitfalls people make after they are injured in an accident. Each case is unique and a variety of pitfalls may arise. That is why we are here to help. If you have been injured in an accident, call Rep Law today at 623-404-7844.