Here are three of the most common mistakes that can significantly reduce the value of your personal injury case:
1. Waiting for too long to treat after your injury incident.
Few things cast more doubt on the severity of your injuries in the eyes of the insurance companies / opposing counsel than large gaps in treatment. This makes sense. After all, the other side (the insurance company for the driver at fault, etc.) is only entitled to doubt how much pain you are suffering from if you were not eager to get help soon after sustaining the injury or if you didn’t treat consistently. Thus, it’s probably not a good idea to be “tough” after serious accident and decline ambulance services and emergency room treatment if you experience pain. If you don’t have health coverage, don’t let it stop you from getting the treatment you need. Many doctors and chiropractors work on a lien, where you won’t have to pay for your medical treatment upfront, and you will only have to pay when your injury case settled. You should discuss this type of common medical lien arrangement with your attorney.
2. Telling the insurance company adjuster that you weren’t seriously injured early on.
It is almost always the case that the person who is injured in an accident does not experience pain immediately after the impact due to adrenaline rush and other factors. Much of the pain and discomfort in neck, back and other parts of the body appears 24 hour after the accident or even later. Some of the serious symptoms are not noticed until several days after the incident or even longer. Thus, you should not rush to inform your insurance company about what your exact injuries were shortly after the accident because you might just not know it. You are much better of generally describing the pain that you are experiencing and reminding the adjuster that you are not sure what your injuries are as you didn’t undergo a full medical evaluation yet.
3. Lying or not telling the whole story to your attorney about your prior injuries or accidents or any other facts that might make proving your injury case more difficult.
I met clients who would hide the fact that they had prior injuries and accidents until the other side found out about their medical past. I have been sent video tapes that captured my client working at a physically demanding job while claiming that he was severally injured, unable to perform any work and was unemployed. To say the least, it is an uncomfortable situation for a lawyer to find out a certain fact about his client from the opposing counsel. At a minimum, an inconsistent verbal or written statement can be clarified as a misunderstanding or some kind of inadvertent omission. In many cases, however, an untruthful material statement by a client will cast serious doubt on that client’s credibility and can seriously hurt his / her chances to recover the settlement or the judgment that he / she deserves because it can be used to impeach the client at subsequent trial proceedings. Thus, lying on a deposition under oath can be fatal to your case.
The bottom line is this – be as truthful with your lawyer as you can. And if you don’t remember something, just say so. There is no harm in saying “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know” or “I am not sure”, especially if that’s truly the case.