There is much information written on what those who are victims of personal injury should and should not do. Checklists abound on the internet for accident victims to follow, to make sure that they get the care they need and preserve their right to get reparation for injuries.
Many of those checklists list simple things to do or not do after an accident. But we thought we would put together a list of some of the most common mistakes that we see injury victims make, that are not on those lists. You will not make many of these mistakes if you retain and listen to a good personal injury lawyer. Still, it is worth reading about the most common errors we see injury victims commit when pursuing their cases, many of which can permanently damage a personal injury claim.
Agreeing to Settle too Early
In many cases, insurance companies will offer settlements to accident victims quickly after an accident. At first blush, this may seem like a generous thing to do, and many accident victims’ strained financial situations may make these offers seem tempting.
The insurance companies are not offering settlements out of generosity. Rather, they are seeking to cut off their liability for a nominal sum. When and if you accept these settlement amounts, you will be forced to agree that whatever you receive will be all that you receive. You will not be able to come back to the insurance company later and ask for more.
Many victims find that as time goes on, the severity of their injuries or their damages increases, often to levels they could not have anticipated in the beginning. What seems like a minor concussion becomes a long term brain injury. A week out of work becomes an inability to perform your profession. A disc sprain ends up being a herniated disc needing surgery. Unfortunately, these kinds of things may not be apparent immediately after an accident, but a victim, who accepts a settlement early on from an insurance company, will not ever be able to recover for these damages.
Throwing Away Vital Evidence
In today’s age, with scanners and digital storage, there should be no excuse for getting rid of evidence, but many accident victims do just that. Some may not anticipate ever suing, and thus, do not preserve evidence. Others accidentally delete emails or pictures or throw away vital documents.
Some may destroy evidence innocently. For example, someone who has an airbag defectively deploy, may get that airbag fixed without ever being inspected, not to destroy evidence, but just because they need the car in working order so they can get to work the next day. In many cases, our computers or cell phones may automatically delete old data.
If you have to file a lawsuit to recover for your injuries, destruction of this information, even innocently, can end up prohibiting you from recovering. Technically, what you have done is spoliated evidence. If a judge finds that a party has spoliated evidence, the judge can order that certain presumptions go against you in trial. In other words the judge will ask the jury to assume that the piece of evidence that was destroyed would have said or revealed information beneficial to them, and not you.
Trying to be Brave
There is a misconception that accident victims tend to overstate their injuries or make them sound worse than they are. But in fact, the opposite problem often presents itself—the accident victim who tries to be brave and keep a stiff upper lip.
In an effort to be tough, a victim may minimize what she is suffering when speaking to doctors. A victim who tells a doctor “I’m in pain but I can deal with it,” when in fact she lives every day in excruciating pain that has affected her ability to drive to work in the morning, is not doing herself any favors. In fact, minimizing the effect of an injury is as dishonest as overstating these effects.
Often, victims will even perform physical tasks that they should not be performing given their injuries. A victim who tries to “tough it out” by doing hard labor in the face of a debilitating injury does not just risk making the injury worse, but risks looking like a liar to a jury. That jury will only see or hear about your activities, discounting the fact that you are doing them under extreme pain.
Not Seeing Doctors
In the face of long term injury, repeated doctors visits can get tiresome. There may be the perception that nothing more can be done by the doctors. In some cases, victims may have fear that a doctor will prescribe surgery or some other procedure. Thus, doctor visits are missed, or referrals to specialists are not followed up with by victims.
At trial, the jury can not see your pain, but they can see your medical records and what you told your doctors, and the procedures and ordeals that are captured in those medical records. Accurate or not, juries believe that people who are injured and in pain seek treatment, and those who are not do not.
Surely, you should not seek medical care just for the benefit of making a case. But if you are still hurt, still need therapy, or have been recommended to a specialist or for a procedure, you should follow up and get the treatment that you need.
Do not make mistakes in your case. Contact the attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi for a free consultation, and for guidance as to handle your personal injury claim.