By Logan Quirk
If an auto accident injures you or a family member, you’ll want the person responsible, or his or her insurance company, to pay proper compensation. You can do many things to support your personal injury case, but some mistakes can seriously undermine it. Here’s a brief summary of what not to do in four key areas: documentation, getting legal advice, medical treatment, and discussing your claim
Beginning with the accident, don’t ignore or neglect gathering information useful to prove your case. So, if able, immediately document other vehicles involved, and get personal information (including insurance) for others involved. Don’t let yourself be talked out of calling the police or filing an accident report.
To help prove how the accident happened, and the amount of property damage, if possible get photos or video of the accident site and vehicle damage, and the names and contact information for any witnesses. And don’t delay – make a record promptly and keep it somewhere safe, since that will be more persuasive, and probably reliable, than trusting to your memory. (The same also holds true for documenting the damages you suffer as a result of the accident – e.g., if your injuries keep you away from work, notify your employer in writing and keep accurate records of workdays you miss.)
Getting Competent Counsel Early On
Even some seriously injured accident victims postpone getting competent legal advice, then accept an insurer’s first offer, only to discover later it doesn’t cover the full extent of their injuries. The first mistake in your personal injury case: delaying in getting the advice and help you need, especially right after the accident (when other mistakes can be most damaging). The second error: accepting an initial offer, or trying to negotiate on your own for a higher one.
Even if you believe the insurer is acting in good faith (when is this the case), you should recognize it holds extensive data on how to value and negotiate personal injury claims. Without similar expertise on your side, you will inevitably be at a severe disadvantage.
So don’t delay: give yourself a fair chance for a favorable outcome by getting the advice and assistance of a capable personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. Most offer a free initial consultation, and many won’t charge you for their time until you get a satisfactory settlement or win your case in court.
For both your own well-being and a favorable outcome for your claim, you’ll need to know the full extent of your injuries, get prompt care, and follow prescribed treatments. So don’t delay getting medical attention, or skip scheduled therapy sessions. If you do, an insurer or jury can question whether you were actually hurt, or whether the severity of your condition was caused by your delay, not by the accident. Besides, medical records can play a major role in whether or not your claim succeeds, so you’ll want your injuries fully documented.
Discussing Your Claim
Unless you have already carefully discussed this with an experienced personal injury claims lawyer, you should not make a recorded statement or sign a statement for the other driver’s insurance company. An incautious remark could be very harmful to your claim, and you should never sign a document unless your lawyer has already reviewed it for language limiting or even surrendering claims you could otherwise make.