The Top Ten Mistakes You Can Make In A Personal Injury Case
BY: Ron Bamieh
There are many things in life that can cost you money; most of those mistakes are out of our range of expertise. At Bamieh and De Smeth we can help you with are mistakes that can cost you in a personal injury case. Of course there are other mistakes that are not in the top 10, so if you commit Number 11, we truly apologize for stopping at 10. Now even though you may not expect to get all 10 in this article, do to a special promotion we have going on we are giving you all 10 at no extra charge.
10. You Do Not Have Automobile Insurance
California law says that you can only recover your medical bills if you are in an accident and have automobile insurance. Yes, even if you are not at fault in any way. You can literally be leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table if you are driving without auto insurance. Not to mention the fact that you are also committing a crime because California law requires that all drivers be insured.
9. You Do Not Wear Your Seatbelt
How many times have you yelled at your kids to put on their belts, or if you are like me, calmly told them in a nice and caring fashion to buckle up for safety. Common sense tells you that seatbelts are designed to protect you in the event of an accident – really they are. Any meathead knows that seatbelts are there not as a fashion accessory but they are made to help minimize injury. Maybe you think that since your car has an airbag you are covered. You would be wrong the seatbelt is still your best line of defense in an accident. Oh, and by the way, it’s the law.
8. Refuse or Delay Medical Attention
Trying to be a hero or play the tough guy and not seek medical attention is not a good approach. Even though you may not feel that medical attention is required or needed, it is always our advice that you seek medical attention immediately. Such an examination may in fact show injuries that you are not aware of or may just reveal that you are perfectly healthy, which is never bad news. If you just don’t feel the need to see the doctor but start hurting the next day, remember reading this and then scold yourself for not being seen immediately. A delay in medical treatment might allow argument that you weren’t hurt or that you are making up injuries in anticipation of a lawsuit. When you are seeking to make a claim for money you do not want to provide the other side with extra arguments.
7. Don’t Follow Medical Advice
So you go to the Doctor to avoid mistake No. 8 but then you refuse to follow the Doctor’s advice, because what does that Doc know that you couldn’t learn from a half hour with Dr. Oz? In the same way that refusing or delaying medical treatment can lessen the value of your claim, not following your doctor’s directions can significantly reduce the value of your personal injury claim. California law states that an injured party must prove that they were injured and that the treatment for the injuries was medically necessary and medically reasonable. Your failure to appear for examinations or treatments will cast doubt upon your need for medical assistance and your sanity. If your doctor orders physical therapy to help you heal and you don’t go as directed, expect an argument at trial that your injuries, if any, couldn’t be that bad or you would have been at every appointment. Same analysis goes with medications; make sure you follow doctor’s instructions.
6. Heed the Social Websites
In our computer savvy age, we all seem to be doing something on the internet (even our mothers are on the net, but your author’s fragile psychological health prevents us from knowing exactly what they are doing). Your case can be severely jeopardized if you are not careful as to what you say or post out there on the internet. Your funny pictures of you face down on the bar surrounded by 28 empty shot glasses could be misinterpreted by an opposing party. Words and meanings can be manipulated, and photographs of the family skiing vacation to Mammoth Mountain can be disastrous, especially when the other side sees the highlight pictures of you getting big air and then sipping an aperitif in the lodge only a short time after your accident.
5. Past Medical History Can’t Be Hidden
Often, a person in an accident has had previous injuries or pains in the same area of the body as they suffered or aggravated in the accident. People often think that such information can be damaging to their case and think they can hide this info from the defendant. Most people can’t hide the car keys from their 16 year old and they think they are going to cover up their medical history. Don’t be afraid that your past will destroy your case, and if you fail to tell your doctor or the defendant about it you will have something in common with former President Nixon – it’s never the crime it’s the cover up that kills you. You can significantly harm your case if you fail to disclose a previous injury to the same portion of the body – the oversight (however innocent) will negatively affect your credibility. Also keep in mind that an accurate diagnosis by your doctor means that he or she needs to know everything about your medical history. So be careful, and know that any misstep in this area will catch up with you, and potentially destroy your case.
4. Making Statements About your Case
How comfortable are you trusting a insurance company when they are investigating a claim you are making against someone they insure? Insurance companies are not philanthropic agencies, they goal is not to pay a large claim, their goal is to pay as few claims as possible and cash checks from the federal government (whoops social commentary not intended to reflect the views of Bamieh and De Smeth, well except for Bamieh). Insurance representatives are highly trained in the field of personal injury and in the art of taking statements from injured parties (i.e. screwing the little guy). Insurance companies pay their employees to obtain all possible information related to a claim with the hopes that they can find things that they can use to reduce the amount of damages they will have to pay. Therefore, they will use all methods to try and get you to say something that is not in your best interests. Doesn’t it make sense to have someone on your side that knows how to help you answer questions so as to maximize your potential damages in the matter? That person is called your lawyer.
3. Misrepresentation and Thinking They Will Not Find Out
You have two options in a any legal proceeding in most cases, keep your mouth shut, or tell the truth. Some people see the third option of ‘stretching the truth’ when they perceive that it benefits their case. Insurance Companies have huge databases full of lots of information and they will not hesitate to use them. Insurance companies love the lying plaintiff, and no matter how small the lie. People who misrepresent their medical history (By the way No. 3 here is totally different than No. 5, we would never have a duplicate in our top 10, if you didn’t notice any similarity in No. 3 and No. 5 keep reading - nothing to see here, move along), you must know that they will find out about something in your past – warts and all. Full disclosure is the only way to go, even if the past accident was simply a fender bender in the Vons parking lot, your forgetting to disclose it will harm your credibility and undermine the value of your case.
2. Trying to Negotiate by Yourself your own Settlement with the Insurance Company
Insurance companies are in business to make money (see above analysis where I referred to them blood suckers). Businesses operate to maximize the money that they make. Do you think that an Insurance Company is going to voluntarily give you the maximum value of your personal injury case without a fight? You could have six nuns testifying as to the fault of the defendant, qualified doctors who will testify as to your injuries, and dozens of credible witnesses testifying to both your damages and the affects of your accident, and the insurance company will still end up offering a very low settlement because that is who they are. Hiring professional help you obtain a better personal injury settlement makes common sense, especially if you hire the right professionals.
1. Hiring The Wrong Lawyer To Represent You
To Avoid Hiring the Wrong Lawyer, Call Bamieh and De Smeth for our free publication to California Residents to find out “How to Hire A Lawyer in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties”. However since you made it all the way to No. 1, and that’s probably more reading then some of you do in a month, so here are some tips on how to hire a lawyer: 1. Hire someone who regularly practices in the jurisdiction where your case will be filed. 2. Hire someone who has actually tried a personal injury case in the last two years (make them tell you the exact case and the result) 3. Hire a lawyer that has the resources to handle your case (If lawyer will not agree to spend money on your case he’s not taking it seriously); 4. Hire a professional lawyer – if you don’t know how to identify a professional lawyer – the guy with the closet full of neck braces and the chiropractor on speed dial would be unprofessional. Finally only hire a lawyer who is actually interested in your case and you as a client. Just like dating, if the lawyer doesn’t treat you right early on he or she will most likely not treat you right later. Hearts heal but you cannot fix many things a bad lawyer does to a P.I. case.