It's Not Something You Plan For
Nobody is looking to have to deal with a personal injury claim. And when we meet our client the first time, many express shock at the interruption a serious injury causes in even the most routine parts of every day life. It's new and difficult territory. Pile on top of that all the calls, letters and lawyer solicitations, and you can easily see how things get overwhelming.
Some people come to us right after a injury, and others wait to see how things will develop. Whether you choose to handle the claim on your own, or wait before seeking legal help, avoid these potentially fatal mistakes.
Don’t Post Details About Your Collision or Injuries on Social Media Web Sites
Some people are willing to share the most intimate details of their life on social media, so it's no surprise that the details of a auto collision or even a serious injury show up on a social media web site. This is an evolving area of the law, but you can expect an insurance company or their lawyers to ask for at least those social media posts having to do with the injury, or at worst, a complete copy of your social social media data. Do they have a right to that information? Maybe not. But if there are entries about your activities, your injury, or your medical care, chances are, they will get it. I used to tell my kids that when they post something to their social media account, pretend that it will be seen on a billboard on the busiest road in our town. You should do the same.
Don’t Talk to Everyone You Know About Your Case, or Even People You Do Not Know
Just like a person reading a social media post, someone could take a comment out of context, and later it could be used against you. Do not talk to anyone about the details of your case. If some one presses you for information about the claim, or your injuries, just tell them that everything is moving forward. Chances are that nothing will come of it, but we have seen private investigators testify about how they showed up at our client's yard sale, and "friends" with a grudge testify against our client.
Signing Medical Releases
Maybe this is not a deadly sin, but signing an authorization that allows an insurance company to get all of your medical records is probably not a good idea. These authorizations or "releases" cover everything under the sun, not just the injury related medical treatment records. An insurance adjuster does not need to know every last detail of your medical history to evaluate your case. The good news is that you can revoke any authorizations you may have signed.
In Oregon auto injury claims, authorizations from your insurer are a different story. If you are insured in Oregon, you have personal injury protection coverage that will cover medical expenses. Your insurer has agreed to cover those expenses, and because of that, you need to let your insurance company see the medical records to ensure that they are injury related.
I would put this in the deadly sin category, but it is worth mentioning. Again, this caution applies to giving a statement to the liability carrier. If you were injured in an auto collision and you are insured in Oregon, your insurer is likely going to pay your medical bills to a point, and because they may also have a claim to get reimbursed, your insurer may want to get your side of the story. It's part of the agreement you have with your carrier.
So, why not give your side of the story to the liability insurance company?
Liability insurers are on the other side of the legal fence, but you would not know that when you listen to a statement. Sometimes starting out with expressions of empathy for your situation, insurance adjusters will use their training to extract admissions from you that can taken out of context and later used to harm your claim. Remember, that you have the "burden of proof" to establish that the other party was at fault in causing your injury, and the nature and extent of the harm you suffered. A liability adjuster's job is to make that difficult for you, and save its employer money.
Many clients we help have given a statement, and most of the time, there is no harm done. However, I would strain to remember a case where a client's statement to the other party's insurance company actually helped the cause.
Don’t Blow Off Your Doctor
Insurance Companies love it when people do not follow their doctor’s instructions. The working assumption is that if someone is injured, they will see a doctor. No medical treatment to an insurer means no injury. We know that is not true all the time. Some people put off the doctor, thinking they will be fine, but they are not. Medical care can be a hassle. It cuts into your work day, and you have to go two, maybe three times a week. But, if you do not go, then someone, whether it is an insurance adjuster or a juror, is going to assume you are probably not badly injured. Life is busy, and we have responsibilities to our families, our co-worker’s, and bosses. But if you can, avoid blowing off your doctor.
Don’t Hide Past Accidents or Injuries From Your Lawyer
Once you file your case in court, the defense and the insurance company have the right to ask about your prior health history. Of course, they will be interested to know if you have been in any prior accidents or collisions. The truth is that the insurance company will probably already know whether you were in an accident in the past. Insurance companies share information, and have access to claims indexes. The insurance company’s question about prior accidents is not driven by curiosity, but instead an attempt to see if you are being up front and honest. This will certainly come up later if your case is filed, and you have to give deposition testimony.
If you hide this information from your lawyer, you are killing your case. I do not know any other way to say it. I caution my clients that I cannot help them if I am left in the dark. Many times, we can address any issues that come up with prior accidents, but concealing this kind of information is fatal to the case.
Misrepresenting Your Activity Level
Insurance companies routinely hire private investigators to conduct video surveillance. If you claim that you cannot run, climb or stoop, and you get caught on video, your case is over. Even without surveillance video, a neighbor or co-worker could testify about seeing you run, jump climb or stoop. Probably most damaging is claiming you cannot do an activity, but then being shown a chart note from your own doctor where you state you were doing the very same thing you claim you cannot do! Not good.
There is a lot to know when moving forward through this process. If you have questions, contact us. At the very least, we can help you learn where you stand.