5 Common Ways People Sabotage Their Own Personal Injury Claim
When you are injured in an accident that happened as a result of someone else’s negligence, you are legally entitled to seek damages. However, the amount that you stand to recover (and whether or not you will recover anything at all) depends on several factors. Personal injury claims are delicate matters that must be handled with the care and expertise of a skilled attorney. That is the most significant contributing factor – the quality of representation you have on your side – but it isn’t the only factor. Besides entrusting your case to an experienced personal injury lawyer, you need to act wisely while your case is pending to ensure that you don’t do anything to negatively influence your award amount.
Often, injured accident victims do not realize that their actions, no matter how well-intentioned or neutral, can be used against them by opposing counsel (the defendant or defendant’s insurance company). Your lawyer can only do so much to advocate on your behalf if you are not willing to follow their instructions. When you avoid making careless mistakes, you increase your chances of recovering maximum compensation.
Here are 5 common ways that people sabotage their own personal injury claims.
- They stay active on social media.
- TThey disregard medical advice.
- They conceal prior injuries or accidents.
- They don’t keep their case confidential.
- They sign something without talking to a lawyer.
While your case is pending, it is in your best interest to be extremely careful about what you post, make all of your settings private, ask family and friends not to tag you in posts, and consider refraining from posting all together (not everything can completely be made private). You can discuss specifics with your lawyer, depending on how long they expect your case to take, but insurers and investigators will often look at your social media account to find evidence that could devalue or discredit your claim.
For example, imagine you were in a car accident that caused severe whiplash (an invisible injury), and you sue for thousands of dollars in damages, which you rightfully deserve. But then one night a few weeks after the accident, even though you are in pain, you accept your friend group’s invitation to enjoy a nice restaurant downtown. One of your friends takes a group selfie of everyone standing and smiling outside the restaurant, posts it on Facebook, and tags you in it; the insurance company of the driver you are suing sees that picture in their research, and admits it as evidence that you must not be enduring the pain and suffering you are claiming to endure if you can still enjoy a night out with friends. Your injuries must not be that severe and do not warrant the amount you are claiming to deserve.
In one famous case (McMillen v Hummingbird Speedway, Inc.), a race car driver (Bill McMillen, Sr.) was injured during a race and sued the racetrack for shared liability. However, the defense found photos on his Facebook account of him fishing and driving, and found comments made on Facebook where he discussed the good state of his health – evidence that was at odds with his personal injury claim. That evidence was made accessible to the court, setting the precedent that Facebook privacy is not a guaranteed right, and the judge did eventually throw out the case.
Remember that anything posted online is permanent and potentially admissible in court! Staying active on social media until your case is settled is an unwise decision that could have financial consequences.
As soon as you are injured, it is extremely important that you undergo a full medical examination immediately so that a doctor can record the state of your injuries right after the accident and begin to treat you. If you wait to seek medical attention, an insurer/defendant may claim that something else was the cause of your injuries, not the accident. If you disregard the medical advice that your doctor gives you, the insurer/defendant may claim that you are not as injured as you say or that you are actually contributing to your injuries (and therefore, that they are not responsible for full damages).
If your doctor tells you to avoid strenuous exercise, listen and rest. If they tell you to complete a physical therapy regimen, see a chiropractor, or do anything else, listen and follow their advice to the letter. Do not miss appointments; do not fail to take medications unless you have a valid medical reason that your lawyer upholds. When you disregard medical advice, you may be unintentionally devaluing your settlement.
No matter what, never lie during a personal injury case because it hurts your credibility – which is key for a judge and a jury. If you have a prior injury, or were involved/injured in another accident previously, be clear about this. If the accident you are pursuing the claim for has aggravated another existing injury, your lawyer can help you figure out the best way to present that, a way that will not hurt your claim. If you intentionally try to conceal injuries or medical history from your laywer, you can be sure that you will be found out; insurance investigators are experts at digging up your past records and identifying mistruths. No matter how fearful you are, be honest with your attorney, who can help you secure the settlement you deserve!
Don’t discuss your personal injury case until it has been resolved, with anyone! This could seriously impact how your case proceeds. If an insurance adjuster, defendant lawyer, or juror attempts to contact you, refer them to your attorney – you are not legally obligated to speak with them and you should not, as they can use things you say against you or learn details that would have made a difference in your case. If your interaction is discovered and classified as “interfering with a juror”, you could even potentially face criminal charges. Do not discuss your case with extended family or friends, because they could also let important details slip.
Insurance companies may try to offer you a lower settlement than what they know your injuries are truly worth because they know you are likely to accept the first offer if you have not yet spoken with an attorney. Once you accept a settlement, though, it is nearly impossible to continue your case or recover more damages. Anything you sign without talking to your attorney can mean the end of your personal injury case, even signing a check for a car rental reimbursement, for example. Signing a contract or medical release document can have the same effect! You always want to hold on to your legal rights in the process, but because personal injury cases can be so complex, it is important to trust your attorney and follow their legal advice.
Injured in an accident? Want to make sure you are filing a solid claim for compensation? Contact The Florida Law Group today! We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients, and we are ranked in the top 1% of personal injury law firms nationwide. You don’t pay us anything unless we win your case! Call today for a free consultation.