No one ever hopes to be in a car wreck, but the odds are that sooner or later It will happen to you. There are many potholes you can fall into if you are thinking about making a personal injury claim. To avoid those pitfalls before you get to them, keep in mind the following steps to take early on:
1. Make Sure You Have Auto Insurance To Protect You: This step is actually one that you need to take before you get in a wreck. Considering how many drivers in Tennessee are uninsured, it is crucial to have auto insurance that will protect you if the driver who hits you has no insurance.
2. Make Sure The Wreck Is Not Your Fault: Be a good driver. Drive defensively. Be aware of what the other cars around you are doing. Anticipate their moves so you can avoid a collision altogether. If you pay attention to what you are doing, then the odds are that a wreck is going to be the other guy’s fault.
3. Make Sure You Do Not Make Damaging Statements: Tell the truth, but don’t guess at things you don’t know. Probably the most common question at an accident scene, whether by the other driver or by the police officer is, “are you hurt?” The correct answer is, “I don’t know.” It is best to avoid commenting on your condition because right after an accident happens, you just don’t know if you have been hurt.
Most injuries after an accident are called soft tissue injuries. You may not have broken bones or more serious conditions, but the soft tissues in your body can be bruised or hurt. These types of injuries are as legally compensable as any other, more serious, condition. Because of the nature of the injury and the post-accident shock and adrenaline, you may not start to feel symptoms for days after a wreck. Because of this time delay, you should not state categorically that you are not hurt when, in fact, you may well be injured and not know it yet. The insurance company loves it when people say they are not hurt; it gives them another reason to minimize or deny an otherwise valid personal injury claim.
4. Make Sure You Do Not Play The Hero: Don’t just shake off symptoms, hoping they will go away. If you feel pain or discomfort after a wreck, tell the police officer, and let him call an ambulance if he suggests it. You may need the professional level of care the EMTs provide, and needing an ambulance is evidence supporting your injury and the wreck as the cause of the injury. It’s hard for an insurance company to say you weren’t hurt if you had to go to the hospital by ambulance. Finally, let the doctors treat you. They are not examining and testing you for their health, but for yours. Again, it’s very helpful to have emergency room records demonstrating injury immediately following a wreck.
5. Make Sure You Follow The Doctor’s Orders: Most patients are non-compliant – they fail to follow the doctor’s advice – at some point or the other. If you are thinking of making a personal injury claim, following medical advice is very important. If the doctor wants you to restrict your activities, don’t be a hero and violate those restrictions. At any time when you are in public, there may be an insurance company’s video camera following your every move. You do not want to be seen doing something physical when you are medically prohibited from doing it. Remember that you may be able to do that activity, but it will probably hurt, it might make you worse, and the video camera does not record your internal pain; it just sees you doing things you’re not supposed to be doing. Don’t give the insurance company any ammunition to minimize or reduce your claim’s value. Imagine how damaging it is to a case when you first say that you can’t lift heavy objects, then the insurance company springs a video on you showing you carrying lumber out from a Home Depot. Your credibility is shot, and so is your claim, probably.
6. Make Sure You Document The Facts: Take notes about what happened and how the injuries made you feel. Down the line, these notes will help you remember the times when you were in pain. Take photos of the car damage and of yourself, if you have visible signs of injury such as bruising or cuts and lacerations. Don’t wait, because once the bruises fade or the cuts heal, they’re gone forever. And pictures really do speak a thousand words when it comes to dealing with an insurance company. Just remember to keep confidentiality intact by not showing those notes or photos to anyone but your lawyer.
7. Make Sure You Report The Accident: It’s usually a good idea to report the accident to your insurance company right away. You may have medical payments coverage that will pay your medical bills. You may need to make an uninsured motorist claim if the other driver had no coverage. If you delay in reporting, your insurance company could deny coverage by saying you did not report the wreck soon enough, which prejudiced its investigation. Again, don’t give the carrier any excuses to deny your claim.
8. Make Sure You Do Not Give Unnecessary Statements: If you are contacted by the other guy’s insurance company, or by any stranger who wants details about the accident or your injury, politely refuse to give any statements. Insurance companies often try to get to unrepresented personal injury claimants before they hire a lawyer, so they can get damaging statements out of them. You have no obligation to give a statement to the other guy’s insurance company. Our experience is that such statements do not help, and can only hurt your claim.
9. Make Sure You Keep Your Credibility: The most important thing you’ve got going for you is your credibility. Insurance companies are winning cases in court and minimizing claims settlements outside of court by finding facts or statements that damage or destroy your believability as a witness. So tell the truth to the police officer about how the wreck happened; don’t guess about facts you are not sure of; don’t exaggerate about your injuries. It is what it is, no more, but importantly, no less.
10. Call A Lawyer: Personal injury claims are complicated, and they require someone who knows the ropes to deal with an insurance company that is only interested in shortchanging you as much as possible. Insurance companies love it when they get an unrepresented claimant trying to handle their own claim. You need a lawyer, and a personal injury lawyer at that. It seems as though every lawyer out there thinks he can handle a personal injury claim, but you want an experienced personal injury attorney, not a tax lawyer who wants to take your Knoxville personal injury case for kicks.
If you, or someone you love, have been injured in an automobile accident, you can call a Knoxville auto accident lawyer in our firm at the phone number above for a free consultation. If you prefer email, please fill out the form at the top of the page and we will reply to you promptly.