If you want a favorable car wreck settlement – one that compensates you adequately for your injuries, car damage, and other incurred costs – you need to be extra careful when navigating your claim. Specifically, you need to take steps to avoid these five major (but all too common) mistakes:
SECRET #1: Conduct a complete investigation. Make sure you collect witness statements, police reports, medical reports and anything else related to the accident. You may need to hire private investigators and accident reconstruction experts. They can gather added physical evidence, such as pieces of the -automobile. The other party’s insurance company will collect all sorts of information which may be used against you. You’ll be at a serious disadvantage if you don’t conduct a thorough investigation to help support your claim.
Get photographs of all important elements in your case: Your car and the car that hit you. The accident scene. Your injuries. And so forth. Photos are vivid evidence of what you experienced. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Juries find photos to be powerful proof of your injuries. So make sure either you or your attorney gets plenty of photographs.
Don’t release your medical records to the other party’s insurance company. Many accident victims make the mistake of signing a release for the other party’s insurance company. This gives your opponent access to your medical records. YOUR insurance company is entitled to your medical information. But the other party’s insurance company should NOT have this information because it may use the information against you. Don’t release your medical records to the other party’s insurance company.
Get the insurance company to set up a high reserve account. After an accident, the insurance company establishes a reserve account to cover all the costs they expect to pay for your claim. The amount of money put on reserve is based on whatever facts the insurance company has soon after the accident occurs. If the reserve set aside for your injuries is greater than your damages, you shouldn’t have much trouble collecting for your injuries. But if the reserve is too small, you’ll need to get the reserve increased. Rather than increase the reserve, the insurance company will first put pressure on the adjuster to settle your claim. And, naturally, he’ll put more pressure on you.
Keep the adjuster informed about the seriousness of your injuries. If the adjuster sets up a small reserve account, he will be surprised if you ask for much higher damages in the weeks or months ahead. If your injuries have grown worse – or if other problems have arisen – make sure you keep the adjuster informed so he can increase the reserve account as your case progresses. Then, when the time comes to settle your claim, the adjuster will have the amount of money he needs to pay you for your injuries. If his account is too small and he needs to increase it, he’ll look bad to his supervisor. This will only work against you. Keep the adjuster informed as your case progresses.
Don’t let the insurance adjuster pressure you into settling your case. Adjusters use all kinds of methods to get you to settle for a smaller amount than the fair value of your case: The insurance adjuster may try to get you to admit that the accident was your fault, or at least partly your fault. The adjuster may try to get you to give a recorded statement or sign a statement, either of which may be used against you later at trial. What’s more, don’t be surprised if the insurance adjuster is polite. His kindness may be a tactic to get you to settle for less than your case is worth – and to get you to settle soon, often BEFORE you hire an attorney. The longer your file remains open, the more heat the insurance company puts on the adjuster to resolve your claim. Don’t give in to the adjuster’s pressure or kindness. Instead, hold out for every penny you rightfully deserve. If the insurance company does not offer a reasonable amount to settle your case, your lawyer can file suit and tell you whether the insurance company offers are reasonable or unreasonable.
Keep a day-by-day diary of your injuries. If your case goes to trial, you need to be able to tell the jury how many days, weeks or months you were in pain, how long you suffered from headaches, how long you experienced muscle spasms – and so forth. Unless you keep a daily log, your answers may be vague and inaccurate. Don’t risk hurting your credibility. Keep a detailed diary so you can back up your claims for damages.
Know all your damages. They include (1) cost of medical treatment, (2) pain and suffering for your injuries, (3) loss of income for time off work, (4) loss of consortium, (5) loss of business, (6) cost of a rental car, (7) cost of fixing your car, (8) cost of hiring a housekeeper, (9) cost of hiring an in-home nurse, (10) cost for psychological counseling caused by stress or some other aspect of the accident, (II) cost of hiring a taxi service to and from your doctor’s office – and ANY OTHER money you paid out or lost as a result of your injury.
Keep all bills and receipts related to your accident. If you don’t save your bills and receipts, you may not be able to prove the amount of your damages. Be sure to save everything: doctor bills, hospital bills, pharmacy bills and all other bills you incurred because of your accident.
Know all your injuries. Many victims feel that if it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t injured. Yet injuries caused by accidents may not develop for days – even weeks. Don’t be too quick to rule out injuries just because they haven’t yet appeared. Also, accidents can cause the injured victim to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This means the victim becomes less able to cope with stresses in his or her life. Depending on how well you cope with stress, you may want to be evaluated for this problem in addition to your physical injuries.
Know your sources for insurance coverage. In many cases an injured victim can legally collect from two or three different insurance policies at the same time. Yet many accident victims don’t know where to look for various insurance coverage. If you’re interested, call us and we will tell you how to determine whether you can collect from more than one policy.
Stay under your doctor’s care until your doctor releases you. Many people stop going to their doctor when they feel better, before the doctor releases them from treatment. Make sure you continue going to the doctor until your doctor releases you! He knows the complications that could result from your injury. And the cost of going to the doctor will, in the end, be paid by the other party’s insurance company if your case is settled. If you can’t afford the continuing cost of treatment, I invite you to call me to discuss your options.
File your lawsuit right away. After your doctor releases you from treatment, prepare your case quickly and file your lawsuit. Insurance companies are not in a hurry to settle cases (1) unless they can settle the suit for far less than it’s worth,.or (2) unless they feel the pressure of the approaching court date. Insurance companies usually get serious about settling if they see they’ll have to start paying lawyers to defend your case. So file your lawsuit right away and put pressure on the insurance company.
Ask a qualified trial lawyer to evaluate your case. You probably had a doctor evaluate your injuries. So doesn’t it make sense to have a lawyer evaluate your legal claim? The insurance company wants you to settle quickly in hopes that you’ll settle for far less than your case is really worth. An experienced personal injury trial attorney can help you by reviewing your file. He will look at the police report, doctors’ statements, medical bills, time lost from work and other information. Then he can give you an informed opinion about the estimated value of your case. If you’d like me to evaluate your case – without any cost or obligation – please don’t hesitate to call.
If you decide to hire a lawyer, choose a trial attorney who isn’t afraid to go to court. Insurance companies keep tabs on lawyers. They know which lawyers will take them to court – the fighters. And they know which lawyers will not go to court – the settlers. The fighters usually get more money for their clients than the settlers. An experienced trial attorney can usually get you enough additional money to cover his fee and increase the amount of money you receive. While I can’t say for sure that you need a lawyer, I urge you to at least talk with an accident lawyer to make sure you’re not settling for less than you deserve.