When you are hurt in a car accident, the first questions that most people ask are, “How bad are my injuries?” “When will I be able to go back to work?” “How am I going to pay for the medical treatment that I need?” For most people, the question of “How much can I recover from the guy that hurt me?” is about tenth on the list of important questions. But once things settle down, you realize that all of the immediate questions come back to money. How you get better is a problem for you and your doctor; how you get compensated for your injuries is a problem for you and your personal injury lawyer.
You generally have two years to file your personal injury claim. But if you are not careful, you could be doing things in the meantime that could make you lose your case.
- If the other insurance company calls you to talk about the case, be VERY careful. In our experience, you get the best results if you call a lawyer right away, before you make any statement to the insurance company.
- If the insurance company wants to make a settlement with you, be EVEN MORE careful. In many of these “quickie” settlements, you end up giving up your right to payment for future disability, or for pain and suffering.
- If the insurance company wants you to sign anything called a “release,” come talk to us first. If you sign it and send it back to them, there will probably be nothing more that a lawyer can do for you.
When you talk to your lawyer, make sure you tell your lawyer about past accidents and injuries, even if you don’t see how they can be related. We had a case a few years ago where our client didn’t tell us about another hospital visit related to a work injury; it didn’t seem to be related. But when the insurance company got the records from the hospital visit, it turned out to include some very damaging information. Tell your lawyer everything.
On the medical side:
- If you are hurt, go to a doctor. Don’t try to “tough it out.” If you don’t go to a doctor because you figure, “Oh, it’ll be better next week,” and it doesn’t get better, you can expect to hear the insurance company adjuster or lawyer tell you that “You weren’t really hurt; you didn’t even go to a doctor for another ten days.”
- Tell your doctor about your full health history. If the doctor doesn’t know about some prior injury, it may make both his opinion and your credibility suspect.
- Follow through on your doctor’s instructions (for medication, therapy). If the doctor tells you to take your medicine, take your medicine. If the doctor tells you to go to physical therapy, go to physical therapy. And show up for your appointments with the doctor.
- Be honest about your injuries. Don’t exaggerate them.
- Document your injuries. Keep a calendar, and write on it when you have appointments, when you are unable to do something that you used to be able to do, or when you were in pain.
- Keep a thorough, comprehensive file on everything related to your claim.
If you don’t think about these things while you are in pain and hurting, it may be impossible to prove your claim when you are ready to file suit.
At Snook & Haughey, P.C., we have 30 years of experience in representing people hurt in car accidents. If you have been hurt in an accident that is not your fault, call us at 434-293-8185.