One common mistake people make is to delay getting medical treatment, in part because many people are injured and don’t realize it right after the accident. Perhaps they’re upset by the accident and their adrenaline and endorphins are pumping through their system, and those substances, which produce when we are in flight or fight state, can mask the pain temporarily. Sometimes, an injury is not readily apparent because it’s not a cut, bump or bruise; often muscles, ligaments, and tendons that are stretched and damaged in a car accident, but they don’t show up immediately.
Those types of injuries are not apparent right away because, although the muscles, ligaments, and tendons have been stretched beyond the normal movement, many of the capillaries in the circulatory system are engorged with blood to heal the damage, and it’s not until person relaxes, perhaps when they go to sleep that night or the next that they begin to feel pain and knots and trigger points in their necks, their backs or their legs. That’s why one of the most common mistakes is not getting medical care immediately after an accident, even if you are not hurting at that moment, just to be on the safe side.
Secondly, a big mistake is not being honest with your attorney about previous accidents and injuries. Insurance companies have databases that store this information. They probably already know if you have settled a claim against GEICO or STATEFARM two years ago. They probably already know if you had a knee replacement surgery 5 years ago. I was recently sitting in a jury trial involving a car accident with injuries, in which I was not involved. I was waiting to talk with the insurance company attorney about my case that was not pending that day.
The person injured in the car accident was on the stand. She testified she had never been injured in a car accident before and had never settled a case with an insurance company. The attorney for the insurance company knew she was lying. She had settled a claim less than two years ago. The attorney had got a copy of the medical records from the previous accident. The case was over. He caught the victim in a lie. She lost all credibility at the point. Be honest about your previous accidents and injuries. We can normally work around them.
Third, not telling the truth about your current injuries or talking about your injuries through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can cost you money. It is not beneath an insurance company to hire a private investigator if the claim is running very high. It’s their job to minimize the amount you recover. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, social media tends to hurt a person’s personal injury case. By definition, social media is social and chatty; it’s “What did you do today?” and “Here’s what I did today” and Here’s how I am feeling”, and “Here’s what I have done at work.” Such chatter can potentially expose the client to actual problems with the insurance company, by giving them the ability to misinterpret what’s going on in the client’s life.
For instance, if they are told to stay in bed, but they post the picture of themselves out riding a bike; that is going against medical advice and may also indicate the person is not badly injured. This is not an exaggeration, an adjuster brought up my client’s Facebook page last week.
Fourth, and maybe the biggest mistake is the injured party gives a statement to another person’s insurance company.
With auto accidents, several things begin to occur almost immediately after the accident that can make a victim’s head spin; first, the at-fault party’s insurance company, within days of the accident or even sooner, will begin to call the injured party and ask for a recorded statement from them on the phone about what happened.
The worst thing they can do is to give a recorded statement to the other person’s insurance, until they talked to or have retained an attorney, who may or may not allow them to give a recorded statement, although they’ll usually advise against it, until after they’ve organized aspects of the claim and coached the client, and even then, only with the attorney present.
When the other party’s insurance company contacts them for a recorded statement, they’ll ask questions in a way that attempts to minimize the responsibility of their insured, to make them seem at fault and therefore cancel out any type of recovery.
Lastly, call the police if you are in a car accident. Don’t agree to handle without the police getting involved if you have been injured. The Police will establish who is at fault and create a record of the events. Not calling the police is exactly what the insurance company wants you to do. The police will gather all the information you need.