McMullin Legal Group explains the five most common ways you can mess up your injury case. There are many pit-falls to be aware of after being hurt in a car accident. Sometimes, what we don’t know, can hurt us. This short video can prevent some of those mistakes. Being injured in any kind of accident can affect your life greatly. If you have further questions about what you should or should not do, you should call a capable attorney for further information.
Top Five ways to Mess Up Your Personal Injury Case
In this article we will be discussing five of the most common ways that a claimant can actually mess up their own personal injury case by simply not understanding the best ways to handle it. By reading this you will be armed with basic knowledge of what not to do when you are involved in an accident whether minor or major. Consulting with a trained personal injury attorney at the time of an accident will greatly increase your knowledge and provide you with legal support and the peace of mind that someone is on your side and will help you navigate through the maze of statements, claims, paperwork and bills that can follow an accident. At a time when you are in pain physically and in a stressful situation, this information will prove to be a valuable asset on your side.
#1 Failure to Call the Police
After an accident, of course the first thing you do is make sure that everyone is alright and out of immediate danger. The next thing you do is call the police. Even if you are on private property; for example, a store parking lot. The police should be called after any accident whether big or small. Often times if the accident was small and little damage was done and no one appears to be hurt, people will decide not to call the police. The problem with this is that it leaves the facts of the case wide open. This is a problem because stories can be changed after the fact. It is essential that the police file a police report and get statements from any witnesses that saw what happened. People tend to tell the truth at the scene. They are upset, regretful and usually inclined to do the right thing. It would be wise for you to also collect the names of people that witnessed what happened. If the police are not called and a report is not filed, you will have problems later. No matter how well-meaning or apologetic the other party involved in the accident may be at the scene, facts seem to have a way of changing with time and the realization that they are responsible for the damages that occurred because of their mistake.
It is not unusual for a party to completely change their story from what actually happened or what they confessed to at the accident when they are giving a statement to the insurance company. If this happens to you, the at-fault insurance company may deny payment to you and even your own insurance company could deny your claim if they don’t believe you. The last thing you want is for your insurance company to deny your claim because they don’t believe you and then raise your insurance premiums believing that you are at fault. You can alleviate this problem by insisting that the police are called and getting the names and statements from people who witnessed what happened. Also by calling the police and having a police report completed, you will be provided with insurance policy numbers and contact information that you will need as you proceed through the claim process. This is step #1 in protecting yourself and your family as well as your property should you be involved in an accident.
#2 Giving aStatement to the At-fault Insurance Company
You can be sure that the at-fault insurance company will be contacting you as soon as their insured files a claim with them. They will be friendly and helpful but they will be calling for a statement from you that will help them establish that the accident was not all their insureds fault. They are good at getting you to say something dumb to them about the accident or injury that may come back to bite you later. They will be trying to prove that you did have a percentage of fault also. They will be asking you questions that you may even have to guess about because you just are not sure. Any of your comments can be scrutinized and may be used against you at a later date so be very cautious in your comments. Be truthful, but certainly don’t guess or estimate anything until you know for sure. You can say, “I’m not sure, I will have to get back with you on that.” This is when it is very beneficial to you to consult with an attorney about your rights and the best way for you to proceed.
An example of this type of innocent statement being turned against a claimant happened when the at-fault insurance company interviewed a claimant who was traveling straight through an intersection. He had the right of way when a left-turning vehicle turned in front of him. The insurance company asked when he noticed the other car. He replied, “I saw them when the collision occurred, there was no time to stop.” The insurance company construed that to mean that the claimant was not paying attention and should have noticed the approaching car several seconds before the impact and so therefore was not paying attention. Of course the claimant noticed the other car a moment before the impact but there was no time to stop. He was paying attention but did not have sufficient time to react to avoid the impact.
#3 Being a Tough Guy
Being a tough guy means minimizing your injuries and pain. Most of us do not like to admit that we are hurting. Most of us tend to tolerate quite a bit of pain before we complain or let the pain alter how we live or interfere with our duties as an employee or responsible family member. Now is not the time to be a tough guy. If you have pain, even slight pain, now is the time to say something about it. Sure, the injury may be minimal and the pain may go away quickly but on the other hand, that may not be the case. It is better to protect yourself by mentioning the pain right from the beginning. This way there will be no surprises and no one questioning the validity of the claim or your personal integrity. If you downplay your injuries at the beginning by saying “you are fine” or “ok” and you don’t see a medical professional at first, the insurance company may not believe that you were really hurt in the accident. The problem with not speaking up about an injury is that the law says that the cost of you being hurt should be shifted to the party responsible for doing the harm. If you do not see a doctor and you later make a statement such as “my back hurt for about six months” that claim will be worth zero. The insurance company will not believe you. Your injury and pain associated with it must be documented by medical professionals with a diagnosis and what was done to aid your recovery or the insurance company looks at it as though the injury never even happened.
#4 Thinking you can’t Afford Medical Treatment
Many victims of car accidents leave the scene of the accident with pain or injuries and they know they don’t have personal health insurance; therefore, they make the decision to skip seeing a medical professional to fully assess their injuries. This is actually faulty thinking. The state of Utah is a no-fault state when it comes to who pays first. Whether the injured party was at-fault or not at fault, his/her own insurance or PIP coverage will cover their initial medical expenses. This is the first insurance benefit involved in an accident. This is in place in Utah for this very reason, so that people who need medical attention will get it. There is a minimum of $3,000 for this coverage on every car insurance policy in Utah. You have this on your car, unless you are driving illegally without insurance.
However, after this initial $3,000 has been maxed out with the costs of proper medical treatment and if you do not have personal health insurance, you may be left holding the bag of the other medical expenses which may be substantial if your injuries were serious. In fact, even if you do have health insurance, they may deny any claims until it is proven that your PIP coverage has been used to its maximum limits. Later, as the investigation of the case unfolds, the insurance of the party that was at fault will cover those expenses, but only at the end of the claim with a one-time payment. So basically, the only way that your initial evaluation of your injuries will not be covered when you are involved in an automobile accident is if you don’t have insurance yourself on your own vehicle, which is against the law.
It is not uncommon for medical bills to reach the maximum of an insured’s PIP coverage quickly. The person injured may be out of PIP coverage and yet still need medical treatment. The at-fault insurance company is only going to make one payment at the end of the claim so in the meantime; the victim is responsible to pay their own medical expenses. The care must continue in order to establish that the care was necessary for the full recovery of the injured person. In this case it is really helpful to have a personal injury attorney that can help you set up an attorney lien. This is an agreement with your medical professionals that states that when a settlement is reached the medical bills will be paid before the patient will receive any money from the claim. This will substantially relieve the financial stress and worry and allow the patient to focus on recovery.
#5 Social Media
This is an area where you need to be very cautious. In this day and age, everyone posts about everything on social media. Some people go so far as to post about the event of the accident and the details surrounding it. They may even make statements about what did or did not happen. They may even bash the involved insurance companies. Don’t do this. This can affect your case. Saying negative things may get the insurance companies frustrated with you and less willing to help you. Some claimants have even claimed an injury and complained that injuries effect on their everyday lives and then posted pictures of them recreating that shows that they are indeed not injured. At least it appears to anyone observing, that they are not injured enough to alter their activities. Juries have been swayed by this very thing when in fact the person in question was still very much in pain but just trying to go on with his/her life. Also be careful that friends or family members don’t post pictures of you that would make it appear that you are not injured as you claim to be.
In review, in the event of an accident, it would be unwise to skip calling the police. You need that police report filed and you need statements from witnesses that can verify what actually happened. Be cautious when providing your statement to insurance companies. Make sure you are truthful but thorough and consult an attorney. If you are not sure about a question, say so. Remember now is not the time to be the tough guy. If you are hurt, even if you feel your injury is minor, report it. Seek medical attention even if you do not have health insurance. Your own auto insurance will cover your injuries at least up to $3,000 as long as you are insured in a no-fault state and your policy is in force at the time the accident occurred. And finally, do not use social media to tell the world about your accident, your injuries, or your claim and be careful about posting your activities if they can possibly prove that you are making a false claim to an injury. For further information call the attorneys at McMullin Legal Group at 435-673-9990.
McMullin Legal Group is in Southern Utah and we are here to help. Give us a call at 435-673-9990. Our primary focus is helping car accident victims in St. George and Cedar City, Utah.
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