5 Ways You May Unintentionally Mess Up Your Personal Injury Claim
…and how to prevent them.
Most people don’t spend their lives preparing for the day when they get into a serious, injury-causing accident. Most of the time, it just happens and we are left to our own judgement about how to handle the situation. Sometimes people make good decisions and sometimes people don’t know any better.
This article seeks to clarify some of the most basic points about common ways you could inadvertently damage your own personal injury claim and seeks to set you on the right track by providing the alternative, better-for-your-case options.
In Florida, state law requires that any driver of a motor vehicle carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. This is insurance that you pay for to cover yourself in the event of any injury. The basic idea is that everyone carries their own insurance to limit drawn out cases over fault. However, just because you pay the premiums doesn’t mean that your insurance carry will automatically pay for your losses. In fact, they may be looking for you to make these common mistakes in order to limit or outright deny your claim.
Now, you’ll know better.
#1 Deciding Not to Call the Police
After an accident, it is imperative that you call the police to the scene of the accident. Big or small, on a highway or parking lot, the police should be contacted. The reason for this is simple: they file a police report about the incident. This information is considered highly credible by insurance companies.
Sometimes, when accidents seem to be minor, the parties involved decide not to call the police. This leaves the case wide-open to interpretation later, with a he-said-she-said battle sure to ensue.
Right after an accident, people tend to be more regretful and more likely to own up to their part in the incident. If the police are there, they can record this information as well as collect eyewitness accounts. If they are not there, the other driver’s story (the one they promised they’d own up to) can be changed later once they’ve had time to think about it.
If your own insurance company doesn’t believe your story—because of conflicting accounts and because the police were left out of it—they could consider that grounds to deny your claim.
The simple fix to all these woes is to just call the police, right away.
#2 Not Seeking Medical Treatment
Many people falsely believe that they cannot afford medical treatment, or do not need medical treatment, after a car accident. This is a major mistake and a great way to mess up your personal injury claim.
Florida law requires those involved in an accident to seek treatment within 14 days in order to be eligible for PIP coverage. If you don’t do this, you will be out of luck. Additionally, not seeking medical treatment makes it appear to the insurance company that you’re not really injured. After all, someone who is seriously injured would surely seek medical treatment right away, right? Well actually, many people are involved in accident and don’t realize they’re injured until much later. This is partially because of the adrenaline and commotion and partially because some injuries take time to appear.
This also applies if you do seek treatment right away, but you don’t follow up with the care or the doctor’s orders. This, too, can appear as if your injuries aren’t all that serious.
The short advice here: see a doctor and follow through with checkups and treatments.
#3 Exaggerating Your Losses
When it comes to making a personal injury claim using your PIP insurance—or any insurance claim, for that matter—you want to be as honest as possible. Not only is this a great policy in life, but not doing so could seriously harm your case.
When making a claim, you will have to convey to the insurance company exactly what your losses are. Some of these may be easy to come up with, like your medical bills, since the dollar amount is clearly presented in black and white. The same goes for lost wages, which can be calculated by multiplying your time off work by your usual pay rate. However, when it comes to additional losses, you will want to be careful in the number that you give the insurance company. If the provider finds out that you have exaggerated or embellished your losses, they will likely think you are just after they money. You obviously don’t want this. This could lead to a severely reduced or completely denied claim.
To prevent this, simply report your losses, as they are— no more, no less.
#4 Using Social Media
Almost everyone these days posts at least some part of their lives on social media; some of us post a lot more. This is all good and well, except when it comes to a personal injury case. This point has two variations, both of which can be devastating to your personal injury claim.
The first point deals with posting stuff to social media that specifically pertains to your case. You don’t want to do this. It is perfectly natural to want to share an important event from your life with your family and friends. We all do it, all the time. However, when it comes to your injury, you want to leave this off social media; all of it. Insurance companies can and will search your social media pages to find any information that is available to them. Even if your accounts are private, don’t do it. You just never know. Likewise, do not bash the insurance company (yours or otherwise) online. This, too, will be perceived negatively and could reflect poorly on your case.
The second point about social media pertains to stuff that may seemingly have nothing to do with your case. For example, imagine you are injured in a car accident and file a claim regarding your lower back injury. A few weeks later, you’re invited to your cousin’s wedding and reluctantly attend, swearing to keep activity to a minimum. During the event, your little nephew begs you to slow dance with him. Just for a second, he swears. You do so—despite the pain—and it’s so cute. Cute enough for your aunt to snap a picture. This photo gets posted to social media and you’re tagged in it. Now, the insurance company has “proof” that you aren’t really that injured or else you wouldn’t be dancing. They don’t know the circumstances and neither will a jury.
To prevent this, despite how hard it may be, you must stay off of social media while dealing with a personal injury claim. Not everything can or will be used against you later, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Deactivate your accounts and take a break for a few months.
#5 Not Contacting an Attorney
This is one mistake that people make all the time. Plenty of people handle their cases on their own, but whether or not they get the full value of their case is questionable. Insurance companies, even if they’re your insurance company, are trying to pay as little as possible. They are a business, after all. Personal injury attorneys know what tactics insurance companies use, how to redirect them, and at what angle to approach a personal injury claim. Whether or not you hire an attorney is a personal choice, but when dealing with a megacorporation who hold your physical and financial health in their hands, it’s always better to have an expert on your side.
So if you are injured in a car accident, you’ll now know what not to do and what to do. The information is pretty self-explanatory: call the police, see a doctor, be honest, stay off social media, and seek professional help. If you do these things, your personal injury claim will be off to a good start.
This blog post was submitted by Florida personal injury lawyer Matthew Dolman who is the President and Managing Partner of Dolman Law Group. Here is his profile.