After suffering an injury in an accident that was not your fault, there are a multitude of factors that come into play when negotiating the value of your claim with the insurance companies, and/or ultimately trying the case in front of a jury. Here are a few of the more important DOs and DON’Ts that will help maximize your claim:
DO DOCUMENT EVERYTHING: Even when personal injury claims are settled, they can often take a year or longer to process everything with the insurance company. In that time memories fade and witnesses sometimes become unavailable. Documenting as much as you can with pictures, journal entries, and recordings is crucial to maximizing your settlement or verdict.
DO SEEK TREATMENT IMMEDIATELY: It may seem simple, but people often avoid seeking medical treatment after being injured in an accident for a variety of reasons. Whether it is fear of the large medical bills or simply trying to tough it out, waiting to seek treatment never bodes well when it comes time to negotiate with the insurance companies. Failing to seek immediate and continuous treatment for your injuries only opens the door for the insurance company to argue later that your injuries were not serious, or that they were possibly caused by something other than the accident.
DO CONSULT WITH AN EXPERIENCED PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY: Insurance companies often lead accident victims to believe that settling their claims is an easy process, and there are even some lawyers that share this belief. A quick online search will reveal many lawyers that include personal injury as an “add-on” to their other practice areas. It is important to seek an attorney that makes personal injury their focus, because maximizing the dollars that go into your pocket after suffering an injury that was not your fault is much more complex than simply gathering medical bills and making a few phone calls to adjusters. With the constant updates to the law and adjustments to insurance policy language, it’s vital that you speak with an attorney who focuses on personal injury.
DON’T COMMUNICATE WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANIES: This goes for the at-fault driver’s insurance company as well as your own. If you are involved in an accident where the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may have to make a claim on your own policy to recover for your medical bills, loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc. For this reason, it is important that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before communicating with any insurance companies. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, so they will try their hardest to pay out as little as possible to resolve your claim, including using recorded statements made by you at later dates. You are under no obligation to speak to them.
DON’T LEAVE THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT WITHOUT CALLING POLICE: In minor accidents drivers will sometimes exchange insurance information as long as there are no serious injuries and leave the scene of the accident. The problem is most people experience high levels of adrenaline immediately following an accident. This added adrenaline sometimes masks injuries that might not be realized until hours after an accident. When you are involved in an accident where the other driver is at fault, it is always a good idea to call police. Even if you do determine that no injuries were suffered, having a police report showing the other driver to be at fault will help when you’re settling the vehicle damage claim with the insurance company.