When you’ve just suffered injury in a traumatic auto accident, it’s understandable that you feel a little shaken, panicked, and perhaps even a bit disoriented. But how you conduct yourself after an accident is a huge determining factor in your ability to file a successful personal injury claim. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common mistakes injured parties make that can result in claims being denied or significantly reduced in value.
Failing to call the police. When another driver causes an accident, he or she may try to convince you not to call the police. However, a police accident report is vital to your personal injury case, since it’s one of the clearest ways to demonstrate that you were not at fault. Without it, the other driver may try to manipulate the truth when speaking to their insurance company in an attempt to appear not at fault. Even in Florida, which is a no-fault state, this can be important for an injury claim.
Failing to seek medical attention. Medical documentation is very important to your injury claim. It’s essential to seek medical treatment after an auto accident as soon as possible—even if you feel your injuries were minor. Oftentimes, car accident injuries don’t fully materialize for days or even weeks after the accident. If you wait too long to see a doctor, insurance companies may argue that you couldn’t have been hurt that seriously, and therefore don’t deserve compensation, or that your injuries were sustained in another way.
Failing to be honest with your doctor. While visiting a doctor after your injury, make sure to answer his or her questions as honestly as possible. Don’t try to conceal any previous injuries or illnesses, which can both impact the quality of care you receive and harm your legal case. If you supply doctors with false or partial information, you give insurance companies grounds to have their opinions invalidated in court.
Missing doctor’s appointments. Your medical records can be accessed by both insurers and juries. Your records will contain information about any missed appointments, and this information can be used as evidence of your lack of commitment to recovery or the minor nature of your injuries.
Neglecting to take prescribed medications. Much like missing appointments, neglecting to take prescribed medications or follow your doctor’s advice can demonstrate a lack of commitment to recovery, and severely harm your claim.
Ending medical treatment prematurely. If you stop your medical treatment too early, insurance companies may argue that you must be completely recovered from the accident. Similarly, if there are large periods of times between your treatments, insurers may argue that you could have recovered from your initial injury and may now be seeking treatment for an unrelated injury. It’s a good idea to continue treatment until you are confident in your full recovery, or a doctor advises you to do so.
Posting sensitive information online. Insurance companies are likely to search the internet for information that can invalidate your claim. If you use Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites, refrain from posting details or photos of your injuries or the accident online in status updates, comments, or blog entries. Remove previous posts that could limit your claim, such as a post on an old injury.
Losing important documents and information. To help your case, it’s highly advisable to keep track of medical treatments, doctor’s orders, and work restrictions. If possible, take photographs of your visible injuries—including scars and bruises—and the damage to your vehicle at the scene of the accident. This information will be invaluable when evaluating your case with your lawyer.
Giving in to insurance companies. To dissuade you from getting an attorney, insurance company representatives may contact you to try and reach a settlement. Without an experienced and aggressive attorney helping you, insurers know they will be able to get away with paying you a substantially smaller settlement. Always remember that insurance companies are first and foremost a business, and their main goal is to secure maximum profit for their company by paying you as little as possible. Never give a statement or sign a document with an insurance company before speaking with a lawyer.
Waiting too long to contact a lawyer. Under Florida law, you only are allowed a brief window of time to file a personal injury claim. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance to consult with an experienced Florida auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you evaluate the true value of your claim, and keep insurers from bullying you out of the compensation you deserve. With your attorney’s assistance, you can fight for your right to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and overall pain and suffering.
About the Author:
Steven Slootsky is a 1985 graduate of Nova Law School, which means he’s been a practicing Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer for more than 2 decades. He founded the Law Offices of The Injury Law Firm of South Florida in 1991. The Fort Lauderdale-based accident attorney is a member of the Florida Bar, as well as the Federal Bar for the Southern District for the U.S. District Court. During his career as a personal injury lawyer/auto accident compensation attorney, Steven has served as the co-chair of the Workers’ Compensation section for Broward County, Florida. He is also a Bronze member of the Florida Workers Advocates, a former member of the board, and serves as an “Eagle” member of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.