Pursuing a personal injury claim after a car accident is a complex process, and there are a number of serious mistakes that can be made along the way. In fact, there may be an infinite number of mistakes that people may make during this process, and those mistakes can severely damage their ability to recover compensation for their injuries, medical bills, and lost wages.
However, there are a select few mistakes that Seattle attorney Chris Davis has seen more frequently than others in his time representing car accident victims. Here is a list of some of the more common mistakes we see injured victims make when it comes to working with the insurance company after a car accident:
1.Waiting Several Weeks Or Months To Receive Medical Treatment
If a person has been injured in a car accident, it’s important for that person to seek the necessary medical treatment as soon as possible. In extreme cases, this may mean taking an ambulance from the scene of the collision directly to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Most people aren’t going to delay hospitalization for broken bones or large lacerations after a crash, but you’d be surprised at how many people just deal with the pain and assume it will get better without treatment. These same people end up frustrated later on when the insurance company isn’t cooperating or is denying their claim altogether because the person has not yet gotten medical treatment, even though they are suffering through a significant amount of pain. Getting medical treatment right away can help you avoid this hassle down the road.
2. Hiring A Lawyer Who Refers You To Specific Medical Providers
This should be a huge red flag to anyone who is considering hiring an attorney for their accident case. If your lawyer refers you to a specific medical provider for treatment of injuries related to the case that lawyer is handling, jurors might question the credibility of that medical provider should your case proceed to trial. Jurors are typically suspect of “referral relationships” between medical providers and attorneys, and for good reason.
An experienced and qualified attorney will likely hire medical experts to evaluate your injuries for the purpose of presenting your case to a jury at trial, but that’s different than actually sending a client to specific provider for treatment. Your attorney should always put your best interests first, and this is something that could come back to harm your case down the road.
3. Failing To Obtain Information About The Other Driver Or Failing To Call Police From The Scene
Except for situations involving a hit-and-run driver, there is never a time where you should not gather all of the personal information of all parties involved in an accident. It’s also a good idea to try and get information from anyone who may have witnessed the accident first hand, or anyone who may have photographic or video evidence of the collision.
Waiting to track down parties involved in a collision after the fact can be a very time-consuming and expensive process, and can result in issues with your case should you pursue a personal injury claim. In some cases, an attorney will refuse to take on your case if you do not know the identity of the at-fault driver or if the police did not file a collision report.
4. Giving Too Much Information To The Insurance Company After The Accident
Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and one of the easiest ways for them to accomplish this goal is to find any possible reason to deny personal injury claims. It is quite common for insurance companies to contact people immediately after they have been involved in an accident with the hopes of capturing information they can use against that person later on.
If you speak with an insurance company representative before you have a clear understanding of your legal rights, you may inadvertently say something that can be used against you down the road. This is not a situation that should be taken lightly, and it might be in your best interests to consult with an experienced attorney before speaking with anyone from the insurance companies.
5. Waiting Too Long To Hire An Attorney For Serious Injuries
Not all personal injury cases require the assistance of an attorney, but the data shows that people who have been badly injured in car accidents often would benefit from a lawyer’s representation. Waiting too long to hire an attorney can result in mistakes being made and evidence being lost, which ultimately damages the case value and chances of a successful outcome.
Since most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, car accident victims typically have nothing to lose in at least consulting with an attorney to learn about their legal rights and options. And if the victim does decide to hire a lawyer, most qualified personal injury lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee basis, which means all attorney’s fees are paid once the case is successfully resolved. This eliminates the potential for any financial issues that might otherwise make it difficult for the average person to be able to afford a quality attorney.
6. Hiding Previous Accidents From The Insurance Company Or Your Attorney
Insurance companies and their lawyers have access to detailed records of almost every car accident that has ever been reported, so it’s a big mistake to think that you can hide any previous incidents you have been involved in from the insurance companies.
If you are untruthful with the insurance company or your attorney in any way, there is a very good chance that it will severely damage or completely destroy your case in the end. Always be up front with the insurance company and/or your own attorney about any accidents you have ever been involved in.
7. Hiding Previous Injuries From The Insurance Company Or Your Attorney
Insurance companies are legally allowed to request and review your personal medical history if you pursue a personal injury claim. That means that if there is any record of you seeking medical treatment or advice for any injury you have suffered in the past, the insurance company is likely going to be able to find out about it.
Previous injuries can sometimes impact the complexity and overall value of your personal injury case, but there are also ways that an attorney or a team of experts may be able to prove that your current injuries are not related to any previous injury. Being honest with your attorney about your medical history can help you avoid serious issues with your case.
8. Making Damaging Statements About The Case To Medical Provider
People are often surprised to learn that doctors, nurses, and other medical providers will document your conversations with them during your visit. If you make damaging statements about your case to a medical provider, there is a good chance the medical provider will document that information in your medical records. These records will typically be submitted as evidence for your case, which means those damaging statements may come to light down the road.
Avoid making any damaging statements to medical providers by keeping the focus of your conversation on the progress of your recovery and the status of your injuries. Discussing fault for the accident or minimizing your injuries certainly won’t do anything to help your case.
9. Failing To Keep Up With Medical Treatment Or “Gaps” In Treatment
Your medical records and history are some of the strongest pieces of evidence to support your personal injury claim. If you are inconsistent with medical treatment for your injuries after an accident, the insurance company will likely use that as an argument against the severity of your injuries, which can therefore damage or devalue your case.
Maintaining regular appointments and following through on recommendations to see other medical experts or specialists can strengthen your case and make it difficult for the insurance company’s representatives to argue against your case. It will also increase the odds of the insurance company treating you fairly and making reasonable offers to settle your case.
10. Misrepresenting Activity Level During The Physical Recovery Process
Sometimes, insurance companies will hire private investigators to follow accident victims and document their activity level. Insurance companies do this in hopes of capturing photographic or video evidence of you in a compromising situation that contradicts your own statements about the nature and severity of your injuries.
If the insurance company obtains any sort of physical evidence which shows you misrepresenting your activity level or the severity of your injuries, there is a good chance the insurance company will use that evidence as leverage against you. This could ultimately cause severe damage to your case, and could even result in your case being dismissed altogether.
Get Your Free Car Accident Book
These are abbreviated excerpts from Seattle attorney Christopher Davis’ popular legal guide on car accident and insurance law, “The Ten Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Washington Accident Case.” The book is free to all people of Washington state, and can be found online at www.WashingtonAccidentBooks.com.
Get your free copy to understand your legal rights and learn how to determine when it may be necessary or in your best financial interests to consult with an attorney after a car accident.