Regardless of what type of personal injury accident you have sustained, you will undoubtedly have questions about how to build a strong claim. While your health is always the number one concern, you also should not want to receive less compensation than you deserve. Having a strong personal injury claim isn’t as simple as being the victim of someone else’s negligence. You have to be able to prove your claim and demonstrate to the insurance company that your claim is worthy of paying.
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we have guided countless victims of personal injury accidents through the process. This article is dedicated to helping people strengthen their personal injury claim by providing tips to avoid pitfalls that may occur along the way. By following these tips, you will hopefully avoid mistakes that will hurt the value of your claim.
Document the Accident and Injuries:
Regardless of the severity of the accident, always contact law enforcement or the business to report the incident. An independent investigation will assist in confirming fault and obtaining relevant witness information. A police report or incident report finding that you were not at fault will go a long way with the insurance company.
Take photographs. If you have visible injuries, document them as soon after the incident as possible and then take periodic pictures as they heal. If you are left with scarring, those pictures will be extremely important as well.
Just as important as pictures of injuries are pictures of the accident scene. If you were in an auto accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident, take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and any other damaged vehicles. Once you have left the scene, take more detailed pictures of the damage. Likewise, if you have been involved in a slip and fall, trip and fall, or another type of premises liability accident, photograph what caused the incident, including any witnesses present.
Lastly, document how the accident has affected you. For example, you may not be able to sleep, may not be able to turn your head in a certain direction, can’t sit for long periods, etc. By the time your personal injury attorney is preparing the demand, you may have forgotten all of the issues you first experienced. Having a diary or journal of what you went through can be an invaluable resource to accurately relay the extent of your pain and suffering.
Get Medical Treatment as soon as Possible After the Accident
A delay in medical treatment is one of the easiest ways to cost yourself money. After an accident, many people will wait to get checked out thinking that their injuries will heal with time. When the pain does not subside and they finally see a doctor, valuable time has been wasted that will forever devalue the case. Most people do not understand that waiting days to see a doctor automatically lessens the amount of money the insurance company will pay you regardless of your injury. The insurance company handbook of defending personal injury claims is that is someone waited to be seen, they weren’t injured that badly. So, at St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we recommend that if you have any questions about going to a hospital or urgent care, you should err on the side of caution and get checked out. If your injury does not rise to that level, we advise to get in with a specialist in your type of accident injury as soon as possible. As a matter of course, we have a long list of quality medical providers that we can refer our clients to. But, as silly as it sounds, you must be seen by someone immediately.
Get Medical Treatment For as Long as Your Doctor Recommends
Another common misstep in personal injury cases is when someone ends their treatment before their doctor recommends. A 5 star personal injury attorney will stay in contact with a client and fix this problem, but sometimes there are communication breakdowns and a client decides he or she no longer wants to treat. If you stop treatment before your doctor recommends, you are handing the insurance company a reason to pay you less. This is a signal that you have no desire to pursue the case any further and gives them an opportunity to point out that you didn’t listen to your doctor. Again, the insurance company defense handbook states that in these situations, their risk is less, and thus, they will pay you less. So, we advise that even if finishing treatment may be inconvenient, try to complete it. Sometimes those few extra chiropractic or physical therapy sessions pay massive dividends to the value of the case. Most importantly, if you do what your doctor says, you eliminate one of the insurance company’s defense tactics.
Don’t Talk to the Insurance Company Without a Lawyer
People are often confused about which insurance company they have to talk to and what they are required to say. One way to avoid this problem is to speak to a personal injury lawyer. While you may have a contractual obligation to speak to and cooperate with your own insurance company after an accident, as soon as you hire a lawyer, the insurance company needs the lawyer’s permission to speak to you. We always like to serve as the gatekeeper about what information is passed on to the insurance company. But, clients should always speak to a lawyer before divulging information. The insurance companies are not your friends and even though they may sound caring over the phone, they are gathering information about your case and how much they will have to pay from the second that they are out on notice of the personal injury claim.
Wait to Settle Until After You’ve Reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
Maximum medical improvement or MMI is a medical term meaning that you are as good as you are going to get. Once your medical professional has finished your treatment, he or she will determine that you have reached MMI and assign a permanency rating to your injury or even your whole body. Your personal injury lawyer will use this permanency rating to negotiate with the insurance company. The permanency rating is very important to the value of a case because it determines the extent the injury has affected you and even predicts how much you will need for future medical care. Both will add tremendous value to the claim, so do not abandon your treatment or your doctor until this has occurred. Without MMI, it is simply a guessing game about how the injury will affect you in the future. And, you can be certain, the insurance company will guess low. So, again, not being declared to be at MMI can be an unforced error that costs money.
Never Accept the First Offer From the Insurance Company
This section obviously does not apply to those who already have a lawyer. Any decent injury lawyer will assist you with the negotiation and inform you that the insurance company never offers all of the money they are willing to pay in the first offer. But, if you have waited for any period of time to hire a lawyer, you may have been offered money by an insurance adjuster. I always chuckle when I am told by a client that an insurance adjuster offered them money the day after the accident before even knowing anything about what happened. In these situations, the insurance company will try to buy off a potential claimant by offering a nominal settlement in the hopes that the person is ignorant or desperate and will take it. If you have been in this situation, then you know what I mean. The bottom line is that if you tried to handle a claim on your own and weren’t able to get a reasonable offer, then I advise to speak to a lawyer about cleaning up the claim and perhaps even filing a lawsuit.
Contact St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas
As mentioned in the above, we handle all types of personal injury cases successfully. If you want to maximize the amount of compensation you receive while getting better physically, I encourage you to employ the above tips. Personal injury claims are unique and using the best personal injury lawyers near you as well as trustworthy and reputable doctors should ensure that your case ends positively. If you have any questions about whether you need legal help for an injury claim, please contact us for a free consultation.