If you have been involved in a car accident, there are 9 critical things that you need to know to make the best of your case.
1. You should never lie about any aspect of your case (not to either insurance company, your attorney, or your doctor). The truth will always surface and once your credibility is damaged your case can easily be dismissed.
2. Do not accept payment or sign any type of release from an insurance company unless you know exactly what it covers. If you have an attorney, make sure that your attorney is made fully aware of every piece of mail, phone call, or email that comes from the insurance company. Although the insurance company is not supposed to contact you directly once an attorney is brought into the equation, do not think for a second that they will not try to go behind your attorney’s back to trick you into signing something. A technique they often employ is having you sign a paper that releases them from “any and all claims” while they explain to you that you are only settling the property damage portion of your case. if you do not have an attorney, it is a good idea to check with one before you sign anything just to get a second opinion. If you already have a lawyer, don’t sign anything that your attorney is not aware of.
3. Never hide past injuries from your lawyer. In all probability, the insurance company will discover that you had the old injury. Since the advent of the internet, it is that much easier for them to determine whether or not you have a preexisting injury simply by using a central database that is shared by many insurance companies. If you tell your lawyer about any previous accidents from the beginning, he can foresee any issues that may arise and formulate a strategy well in advance to deal with those issues. Your case may be destroyed if he is not informed and he gets caught off guard in the middle of negotiations.
4. Develop a “pain diary” that is updated daily. Use this pain diary to chronicle how you feel, any medications and side effects, visits to your doctor and chiropractic or therapy appointments, and the effect your accident has had on your ability to work or perform normal activities the way you did prior to the accident. You don’t have to get too carried away with the diary. It just needs to be a few short sentences each day explaining how you feel. Armed with such a document, your memory of your injuries and suffering becomes quite credible. Without such a document, your recollection of the pain may be called into question.
5. Don’t be a “tough guy or girl”. If you are feeling any level of pain, stiffness, swelling, etc. after your accident, consider that as your body’s method of telling you that something is wrong. You would not believe how many times I have been hired to represent a car accident victim who thought they were just “a little sore” only to find out that they were in need of major surgery. In other words, see a doctor immediately after your accident and find out what is wrong.
6. Imagine that the insurance companies are always watching you; because they just might be. Photo and video cameras are quite small these days, and as such, you can be videotaped or photographed any place at any time. You cannot expect to do normal activities after your injury. Sometimes, an accident victim will have a genuine injury, but they will make the mistake of “playing through the pain” by performing an activity that a healthy person would do. (for example: lifting a bag of dog food from the grocery basket into your car) The accident victim may be in excruciating pain while doing so, and their injuries may be completely justified, but on camera, it will look like they are faking their injuries. Such damning footage will destroy your case. More on this webpage
7. Always keep in mind that there has never been an insurance company with a policy of playing fair, paying claimants in a timely manner, or paying clients the maximum amount that they are entitled to. Insurance companies just do not work that way, and making you wait is one of the tactics that adjusters use in order to force you into accepting less than you should when they catch you off guard with a low ball number after you have been waiting. Additionally, the insurance company wants to keep that money liquid for investment purposes or earning interest in the bank. (Are you aware that most insurance companies profit more per year by investing insurance premiums (in real estate for example) than on new premium dollars received?)
8. Try not to think of your case as all or nothing or 100% or 0%. This is tied together with rule number 1, don’t lie. It is human nature to want to feel 100% justified in things. The law is not that black and white, and there are varying degrees of every element in a car accident case from liability, to impairment. What does that mean to you? If you are partially liable, that does not mean that you can’t obtain a legal victory. Do not feel the need to exaggerate in order to make yourself 100% in the right. It’s just not necessary. It could very well destroy your case.
9. Be mindful of all of your damages. If you have not already hired an attorney, it is very likely the other driver’s insurance company will know that they can give you a little “go away” money and they may offer you some cash for your pain and suffering after your accident. The real question is are they really compensating you for all of your damages? Your damages may include normal elements such as medical expenses or lost wages or less obvious damages such as compensation for disfigurement (however slight it may be) or loss of consortium. An insurance company has no incentive to volunteer compensation for all of your damages, especially if you do not have a lawyer to put the entirety of your damages into perspective. A good lawyer will be able to help you properly quantify all of your damages to maximize your recovery.