You probably already know that when you are injured in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation for your medical treatment and related losses through filing a personal injury claim. But you should also know that there are several frequently-made mistakes that can jeopardize your chances of recovering compensation or at least minimize the amount that you are finally able to recover. These are simple mistakes made every day by personal injury plaintiffs.
Usually, these kinds of mistakes are made innocently and with the best intentions because plaintiffs do not have the proper legal advice during the first hours and days immediately following a serious accident. If you are injured in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, after obtaining medical treatment, speak as quickly as you can with a good personal injury lawyer, and in south Florida, contact an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney. Listed here are three of the most commonly-made mistakes that can sink a personal injury claim:
Failing To Obtain Medical Treatment
This may seem like a no-brainer to some people. After all, when you’ve been injured in an accident, you immediately get medical help by going to a hospital emergency room, right? That is not necessarily how every injury victim reacts, however. Some people continually procrastinate and put off going to a doctor or a hospital; other people simply refuse to get medical treatment until they must. The truth is, however, that moderate or even trivial injuries require a medical examination. Untreated injuries that first appear to be insignificant can slowly – or sometimes swiftly – become serious medical problems. For example, if your neck is sore after a traffic accident, gobbling a few over-the-counter painkillers is probably not a good idea at all – unless that’s what a doctor tells you to do.
Failing to seek medical attention immediately after an accident is a common mistake that could severely damage your credibility if you do decide at a later time to file a personal injury claim. The insurance company could easily claim that your injuries were “clearly” not the result of the accident at all, since you didn’t bother to obtain medical help immediately. If you wait to see a doctor – or if you don’t seek any medical treatment at all – you will not be prepared to pursue a personal injury claim if you eventually need to recover compensation for your injuries and your injury-related expenses.
It’s also vitally important to get the right kind of medical help as quickly as possible after you’ve been involved in an accident. It’s better to be seen and examined by an M.D. simply because a medical doctor’s authority carries more weight with juries, courts, and insurance companies. A personal injury claim quite candidly has less chance of success if you are relying primarily on the testimony, for example, of a chiropractor or a homeopathic practitioner.
Along the same line, personal injury cases are more successful when the medical treatment consists of traditional medical treatments such as surgeries, prescribed pharmaceuticals, doctor and hospital visits and follow-up visits, and lab tests to monitor your progress. Treatments that consist primarily of massages, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and aromatherapy are very frankly not likely to be taken seriously when it comes time to assign a financial value to your damages. You may spend a great deal for herbal cures and acupuncture treatments, but if you need to file and pursue a personal injury claim, you are in a much better position to prevail if you consult with a medical physician and obtain a conventional medical diagnosis and treatment for your injuries.
Also, always be certain to obtain the exact treatment that your doctor recommends. Don’t try to self-diagnose or self-medicate your own injuries. If your doctor wants you to stay off your feet for a month, comply with those orders. If you need to file a personal injury claim, you cannot be second-guessing the doctor. The longer you are hospitalized or need to take medications, the more credible your personal injury claim becomes.
Failing To Gather Evidence
The success of your claim for damages will largely depend on your ability to provide the evidence that you actually suffered the financial losses you are claiming. Remember, the main goal of a personal injury claim is to prove that your accident and injuries resulted in specific financial losses, so you must provide credible, precise documentation or evidence of those losses. One of the most common major mistakes that plaintiffs make in personal injury cases is failing to hold on to all of the pieces of documentation and evidence that could help them recover damages after an accident.
Be very methodical about collecting the evidence after an accident and injury. Hold on to all of the medical paperwork such as receipts, invoices, hospital records, test results, and other medical documents. All of these items may play a very important role in establishing the severity and extent of your injuries and the nature of your financial losses. Keep lab reports, x-ray scan reports, and other types of diagnostic reports. Too often, injury victims arrive for their first consultation with a personal injury attorney with virtually no documentary evidence of the injuries that they’ve suffered.
Along with your medical documents, you will also need to maintain a complete record of your correspondence with the insurance company. Record the dates and times of all telephone discussions with the insurance company, and take notes about the conversation. Keep anything you receive in the mail, and if you correspond by email, make hard copies. Do not accept any settlement or make any statements to an insurance company before consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. If you are offered a quick settlement, it will probably be for an amount far less than your case is actually worth. Let your personal injury attorney do all of the negotiating on your behalf.
If you can take photographs at the time and scene of the accident, or if someone can take photos for you, do it, or do it as soon as possible afterwards. Take pictures of your injuries, too, provided that they’re visible. The more pictures you can take, quite frankly, the better. Photographic evidence can be powerful, key evidence in personal injury cases. Hang on to anything that might be evidence; don’t throw away torn or blood-stained clothing, for example.
Try to obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. Eyewitness accounts, much like photographs, can often play a key role in personal injury cases. A good personal injury lawyer will want to interview those witnesses quickly and record their testimony before their memories fade. Keep all of the evidence that you collect organized and secured, and start collecting it at once after an accident. Thorough documentation is imperative for any personal injury claim to prevail.
Falsely Representing The Details
Falsely representing, misstating, or exaggerating the details of an injury can severely damage or entirely derail a personal injury claim. Lying even a little about any particular detail of your claim could have serious legal consequences – like a criminal charge for fraud. Courts and insurance companies are painfully aware that large numbers of fraudulent personal injury claims are filed – all the time. Some statistics put the number of fraudulent personal injury claims as high as fifteen percent. It’s imperative in a personal injury case to be as truthful and precise as possible and to avoid exaggerating in any way your own injuries.
It’s human nature to feel the need to magnify the severity of your injuries in order to recover damages. It’s important to you, so you feel insistent. However, if your insistence leads to exaggeration, it’s a common mistake that can be a serious mistake. When you file a personal injury claim, your credibility is going to be closely scrutinized, and exaggeration or overstatement cannot help. If you’re caught lying about even one detail of your personal injury claim, the other side’s attorney(s) will put your credibility on trial and take the spotlight entirely off the defendant. Just one exaggeration could discredit your entire claim. That’s why it’s important to take notes and keep meticulous records of everything pertinent to your accident, your injury, and your claim. Personal injury claims sometimes take months to be resolved, and you don’t want to forget a detail or misstate a fact. The best advice is simple. Write down everything.
Avoiding these three mistakes may seem easy, but people consistently make these very same mistakes every day and ruin their chances of receiving personal injury compensation. The one final mistake that you must not make if you’ve been injured by another person’s negligence is failing to retain legal counsel immediately. Contact a good personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible after you’ve been injured by negligence, and in south Florida, arrange to speak with an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney. Having the advice and insights of an experienced personal injury lawyer – from the very beginning – will help you avoid any missteps that could damage your ability to win personal injury compensation. The mistakes discussed here are almost always made by injury victims who have not obtained legal counsel. To learn more about personal injury claims – or to obtain personal injury representation – speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer promptly.