There are a number of things you should do and should not do to protect your legal rights from the very beginning after you have had a serious injury incident. Please read the following guidelines carefully before you take any further action. It may help you or someone you love avoids one of these common mistakes.
It is very common for insurance companies to send out investigators as soon as an incident occurs in order to gain an information advantage over you before you have time to react. The insurance company may send someone out to talk to your neighbors, employer, friends, and family, and there is no law to prevent them from doing this.
The insurance company may also have someone videotaping or photographing you right now, in the hope that they can show that your injuries are not limiting you in the way that you will claim later on.
One of the most damaging things that can happen in a case is to have inconsistency between what you say and what you do.
In order to take away the information advantage from the insurance company, we recommend that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after an injury incident has occurred. Right now would be a perfect time.
This is good advice not only in life, but to persons who are victims of injury incidents. You may think that the fact that you were hurt automatically means that you are in the right and are entitled to money or insurance benefits. As you will quickly learn if you try to deal with an insurance company yourself, being in the right or being honest is just the beginning.
While we recommend that you do not fill out papers or statements to the insurance company before you have spoken to an attorney, we also recommend that you NEVER say or write down anything that is false in any application for insurance benefits, claim form or incident report. Even when you think you are being honest, things you write down or say today can change later, leaving you in ths position of seeming dishonest later on, even if that was never your intention. Again, there is nothing more damaging to a claim than the appearance of dishonesty, and unless you are an expert in dealing with insurance companies, you cannot be expected to know where all the tricks and traps that are being set for you will be located.
Again, we urge you to speak to an attorney before you fill out any documents or give any statements to anyone about this incident. Even if you think you have the entire situation figured out, or that you will win simply because you were in the right, you have nothing to lose by learning the ropes before you take action.
This is simple. Never sign anything to do with this claim until you have consulted with an attorney. You may believe that it will speed up your claim to sign a release allowing the insurance company to get your medical records, or that you will appear helpful if you give personal or employment information to an investigator who called you soon after the incident. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, by allowing the insurance company early and unrestricted access to your personal information, you are handing over the keys to the future of your claim to someone who has a financial interest in seeing you get as small a package of benefits as possible – or none at all!
Please contact a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims BEFORE you sign any documents whatsoever. We make this point in a very strong way because it is one of the biggest mistakes we have seen people make in our many years of practice.
Over the years, we have seen countless examples of people who thought that dealing with an insurance company would be as easy as it looks in the ads on television, or that they could save money by trying to work out a settlement of their claims on their own. Others feel that they have enough life experience to be able to figure out whatever is necessary to settle an insurance claim. Still others innocently believe that because it is clear they did not cause the accident, it will be just as clear that they should be entitled to a big settlement Unfortunately, this mistake happens most often in cases where family members have been killed or seriously injured.
We cannot count the number of people who have come to us weeks or months (even years!) After an accident angry and upset that they have not been able to resolve their claims on their own. These good people have provided endless amounts of information to the insurance company, gone to insurance company doctors as requested, signed documents and returned them promptly…only to find that they are getting only an insultingly small offer – or no offer at all from the insurance company. After giving and giving, and trying to be cooperative and helpful, such people have not only become among the angriest that we see, but have given a huge tactical advantage to their opponents by handing over the entire case to them without getting anything in return!
Don’t be a victim twice. Unless you do this for a living, what’s the harm in consulting an attorney to at least get basic information before you dive in on your own?
In this age of the Internet and instant communication, something you may not have thought about is the impression you are leaving on your voicemail and through social networking pages like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You should immediately eliminate any funny or musical voicemail messages that you may have for your friends who call. When the insurance company investigators locate you and call you to try to get you to give them information (remember, as stated above, you shouldn’t give any information over the phone to anyone, and should call your attorney immediately if you receive such calls), and receive a voice message that has a funny or silly tone, they will already have scored a victory by being able to classify you as someone who must not be terribly upset about having been in an accident or having had a family member who has.
By the same token, be very careful about the information you have posted and will post from now on with your social networking sites. You not only want to eliminate anything that you have posted previously that might be considered controversial or off-color, you must also be very careful not to post anything from now on that shows or suggests that there is a difference between the damages you are claiming and the way that your life appears to have been affected. As we’ve stated throughout this article, the worst thing that you can do is appear inconsistent in the eyes of the insurance company, or, someday, a jury. People don’t have to necessarily like you – but they must believe you! Take our advice on this: clean up your appearance on the Internet and on your voicemail!
You have probably seen on TV, or heard from a neighbor or friend about a case where someone was hurt in a car accident and got a huge sum of money. When you look at what has happened to you, and compare it to those cases that you have heard about, it is natural to assume that you will get at least as much, or maybe a lot more, than the person you heard about.
There have been many changes in the law over the last few years that have greatly restricted the rights of injury victims to pursue money damages. Unfortunately, this has resulted in reducing settlement amounts in many cases – or eliminating them altogether! A matter that may have resulted in a settlement ten or 20 years ago might have no value by today’s standards, so it is unwise to compare on that basis.
Moreover, claims that you see on television or elsewhere that name a settlement amount, but don’t say much about the kind of case can be somewhat misleading. For one thing, the healthy-looking people you see on television claiming that they received big awards are usually actors – not the victims themselves. Next, you don’t know by seeing a number flashed on the screen whether the settlement was paid out all at once or over a 20 or 30-year period. Certainly, there is a difference between receiving a lump sum right now, or receiving a tenth of that amount each year for ten years.
Take a look at some of the cases we have resolved over the years. You see that we fully disclose to you the amount of the settlement and a little information regarding each case. We are very proud of our record representing injury victims, and we believe you should be fully informed and have a lot of information about any lawyer you are considering hiring BEFORE you make a decision.
Again, you have nothing to lose by calling us and asking us questions so that you can check out our background, achievements and record for fairness and truthfulness.
We will never bill you for the time we spend talking with you on the telephone, meeting with you in person or exchanging information with you through emails. One of the things our clients have said over and over again is that they appreciate how easy it is to reach Steve Matz when they have a question or problem. We don’t understand how other firms can hand you off to associate attorneys or paralegal staff when you have a question for the attorney!
That’s why we give you our personal cell phone numbers and emails and encourage you to call us whenever you like! And remember – there is never an added charge to you for time we spend talking with you, whether or not you choose to hire us.
Why not pick up the phone now? We have listed some of the most important things to watch out for early on in your claim – and throughout your claim as well. What we hope you will take away from this is that:
We will talk with you for free right away to go over your claim with you, and we will pay for the telephone call. Alternatively, we are available by email on our Contact page. You have nothing to lose by checking us out yourself. You have everything to lose if you ignore the cautious advice we have just provided to you.