Personal Injury mistakes that can hurt your results
Don’t give the insurance company an opportunity to minimize your case. If you want to get the maximum compensation you deserve please follow these 8 simple rules to avoid costly mistakes.
Through representing my personal injury clients over the years, and being on the side of the insurance companies early in my career, I have received first-hand knowledge of the extended lengths insurance companies will go to avoid paying out on an insurance claim. From this, I’ve come up with the most common ways insurance companies try to expose an injury as less severe or non-existent in an effort to reduce your compensation. I’ve also provided a solution for avoiding the mistakes in each scenario below:
8) Failing to follow medical recommendations
Doctor’s recommendations exist to prevent further injury and aid in the healing process. Every plaintiff in a personal injury case has a duty to do everything they can to heal in the proper manner within the proper time frame. If those tips didn’t already remind you of receiving parental advice, this surely will:
Solution: Follow the doctor’s orders and be extra careful to not participate in any activity that may lengthen your recovery or damage your claim. As an example, if you are told by a doctor to avoid sunlight to prevent scarring after surgery, but ignore their recommendation and go outside every day, insurance companies will argue that your scars are a result of your failure to follow your doctor’s orders and will be reluctant to include them as part of your claim.
7) Delays in medical treatment
Many clients say “I felt fine at the scene of the accident” only to find out the next day that they are in pain. This is a very common occurrence. Knowing the extent of your injuries may take time. When you are injured there are many things that occur internally that you don’t immediately notice. When tissues tear from an injury they swell, bleed, and may eventually lead to permanent internal scarring. This is why injured clients often feel much worse in the days and weeks following the injury. The results of some injuries last for a lifetime. How long the effects of your injury may last is determined by medical professionals based on your documented medical records related to the injury. In a typical scenario, someone who is injured seeks medical advice, then a short amount of time passes before any medical treatment and/or surgery occurs. This can happen for numerous reasons (such as seeking a second opinion, assessing insurance coverage, traveling to a specialist) at no fault of the injured victim. Insurance companies jump at this opportunity and claim that, since you temporarily delayed getting medical treatment, you weren’t injured to the extent you claimed or even injured at all. The insurance companies will use any reason to question the validity of an injury claim so here’s what to do:
Solution: If you sustain an injury, seek treatment as soon as possible to put yourself in the best position to fully recover and eliminate any argument insurance companies may have about the truth or degree of your injury.
6) Missed medical appointments
Along the same lines as the validity of an injury being questioned due to gaps in treatment, I have seen multiple defendant’s attorneys argue in court that my client must not be injured because they had failed to attend a scheduled doctor’s appointment. It’s even worse if you fail to attend a scheduled doctor’s appointment and don’t call first to reschedule. To avoid this dilemma, heed this advice:
Solution: If you can’t make an appointment, give as much notice as you can. Anything is better than an unexcused absence. Also, make sure the reasons for any appointment changes are documented and appointments that are rescheduled stay as close to the scheduled timeline as possible.
NOTE: This does not mean that your case will be more favorable because you made more trips to the doctor’s office. Insurance companies and their expert witness physicians are well-trained at identifying fakers so that strategy will likely backfire.
5) Limited or no record of medical visits
If it’s not in the medical records, it didn’t happen. Insurance companies review all of your medical records to see if the complaints you are making in your case match up with what’s documented in your records. Some people are hesitant to talk to their doctors about issues that they don’t think are important or that they don’t think are related to their injury. As an example, if you hurt your neck in a car accident, your doctor doesn’t need to know about your fingers tingling, right? Wrong. Things that may seem unimportant or unrelated may be very significant. In the example above, the tingling in your fingers could be an indication of an impinged or injured nerve in your neck.
Solution: When you go in to see your doctor it is important that you tell them about all of the issues you are having, even those things you don’t think are important. By doing so, you give your doctor the best information to allow him to diagnose your condition, treat you, and help you obtain a full and quick recovery. Additionally, by telling your doctor about all of your pain complaints and other issues you have been having since the accident, it provides us with a complete medical record that we can rely on to establish the impact of your injuries and the connection between your injuries and your accident when dealing with the insurance company.
4) Gaps in medical treatment.
Often times life events will cause a client to have to take a break from their scheduled medical treatment, such as ongoing physical therapy appointments. If you begin treatment and then take a break before your treatment is completed; insurance companies will try to argue that any treatment after that break is not related to your accident.
Solution: If you have to take a break from your treatment, make sure you tell your doctors why you need time off and what, if any, changes occurred over the course of your break, when you resume treatment. This will not only help your doctors treat your injuries, but will circumvent the insurance company’s argument.
3) I didn’t tell the doctor about pain related to a pre-existing injury. I thought that didn’t count.
Most people are injured at some point in their life, and these previous injuries may make them more susceptible to medical problems arising from additional injuries. Some people think that if they don’t tell their doctors about these prior injuries, they have a better chance of recovering more money in their lawsuit. Not only will failing to tell your doctors about prior injuries affect your credibility in your lawsuit, it may make it more difficult for your doctors to properly diagnose your injuries and treat the root problem, potentially delaying your recovery.
Solution: Tell the doctor about all symptoms related to your injury or accident, as well as any prior similar injuries you have had. Make sure you let your doctors know about any pain or other symptoms you were experiencing prior to the accident, and how those symptoms changed as a result of the accident. In Connecticut, even if you have a pre-existing injury, if that injury was not causing you issues at the time of the accident, the insurance company cannot attempt to diminish the value of your case by arguing that you were more susceptible to an injury as a result of your pre-existing condition. Even in cases where a prior injury was actively causing pain or other symptoms, the at fault party remains responsible for any changes attributable to the accident. By being honest with your doctors you give them the information they need to help you and avoid losing credibility with the insurance company.
2) Don’t exaggerate your injuries
Some people think that if they claim that they can’t do anything after an accident, their case is automatically worth more. Insurance companies rarely take you at your word, and will likely investigate your accident and your claims to ensure that the claims you are making match up with the injuries that are documented in your medical records. In certain cases, they may even send a private investigator out to see if you are still engaging in the activities you claim you aren’t able to do as a result of the accident. If the records don’t match up or worse, if an investigator takes surveillance video of you doing things you claim you can’t, your case will be worth significantly less than if you had been honest from the outset about the limitations your injuries have caused.
Solution: Honesty is the best policy. If you are injured as a result of an accident and are limited in what you can do, as a result, make sure your doctors and your attorney know about those limitations. Don’t, however, make up additional issues just to make your case sound better. By being honest with your doctors and attorney, you can avoid the insurance company’s claim that you are lying about your limitations and the injuries you sustained.
And #1) Be honest
Along the same lines as not exaggerating your injuries, there are some people who think that, because doctors can’t see or test for “pain” if they tell their doctors that everything they do hurts, their doctors will diagnose them with more significant injuries and their case will be worth more. Although doctors can’t see or test for “pain”, doctors do have tests that they can perform to determine if your subjective pain complaints are consistent with things they can test for. If you have a back injury and your doctor asks you to raise your leg or bend over and touch your toes, they are checking to see if your responses match up to what would be expected from people with similar injuries. Some of these movements are designed to decrease pain rather than increase it. By lying to your doctor and saying that a certain movement hurts when it doesn’t, you could be giving your doctor a reason to doubt the truth of your complaints and your injuries. Insurance companies will highlight a doctor’s report that states that your subjective complaints are inconsistent with their objective findings and will use that to minimize your case.
Solution: Again, this pitfall can be avoided by simply being honest with your doctors. Make sure you tell your doctors about all of the issues you are having, what increases them, and what provides relief. By being honest with your doctors you give them the information they need and put yourself on the road to recovery and avoid the biggest pothole that can derail your lawsuit.
I tell every one of my clients that your first priority after an accident is to focus on getting better. By focusing on your recovery, being honest and listening to your doctors, you put yourself in the best position to obtain a full and quick recovery and simultaneously eliminate some key arguments the insurance companies try to use to minimize or avoid paying claims altogether. Once you become a client of Bartlett Legal Group we will discuss these rules, and many more.