So you’ve been involved in a bad car accident. The first thing you need to focus on is your health and the health of your loved ones. It’s a simple rule of thumb but one that many people fail to follow. In fact, failing to focus on your health is the number one reason insurance companies reduce the value of your personal injury claim. Our clients have heard it 1000 times, “make your health your number one priority.” We say it because it’s true. We also say it because if you don’t it will cost you in the end. This article examines the interplay between your treatment following an accident and some of the ways car insurance companies reduce the value of your claim.
Make Your Health Your Number One Priority
People injured in car accidents need to start with the understanding that at the end of their case an insurance company is going to try to settle the claim. They will try to settle for as little as possible. Obviously, the reason for this is the less they pay, the more profit they get at the end of the year. We sit down with our clients at the very beginning and explain the process to them so they understand what they are up against. Remember, the insurance company doesn’t have any insight into how you feel following an accident. The only person who knows how you feel is you, the person who was injured. As such, here are some of the biggest mistakes people make following an accident.
Not filling Your Prescriptions
Especially in today’s day and age people are worried about taking prescription medication. While understandable, it can also cost you in your personal injury case. Remember, the insurance company doesn’t know how you feel following an accident. They only look at what you do following the accident. Imagine 2 people involved in the same accident. Imagine both of them go to the ER and both are prescribed pain medication. Imagine person 1 fills the pain medication prescription the same day and person 2 never fills it. Just based on that information, who do you think was in more pain? The failure to fill the pain medication prescription can end up costing the injured party thousands of dollars in pain and suffering money. Our advice, if it’s prescribed, fill the prescription and talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have.
Telling Your Doctor You Don’t Need Another Prescription Because You Have Some at Home
This is basically 2 mistakes in one. First, see above. Second, you are alerting the insurance company, and possible jury, that you were on pain medications prior to the accident. This of course begs the questions of why were you on pain medications. Was it for a similar injury? If so, the insurance company may request your prior medical records. This may result in disclosing things you would rather keep under wraps. If you do have a prior injury that’s been disclosed, it allows the insurance company to argue that the treatment you are currently receiving post-accident is a continuation of the pre-existing condition? Our advice, if you are prescribed medication, fill the prescription and talk with your doctor about any concerns you have.
Talking About Medical Problems Unrelated to Your Accident
This is one of the worst things people do following an accident. First, if you are going to your doctor for your accident, you should just focus on your accident injuries. If you talk to your doctor about issues unrelated to your accident you are minimizing your accident injuries. Also, the more you talk about unrelated issues the more you run the risk that you are misquoted by your doctor. Said misquote might be minor or it might be fatal to your case. Also, you might discuss things that caused you pain that could be argued by the insurance company as contributory (or causal) to your post-accident injures/treatment. Some common examples we’ve seen over the years include talking about falling down the stairs, slipping in the shower, emptying the dishwasher, and picking up babies or pets. Our advice, focus on the injuries sustain in the accident.
We always remind our clients that they are being judged following an accident. Every action they take sends a message. Missing appointments sends the wrong message. Imagine again 2 people involved in an accident. Both of these people are referred to physical therapy and both are scheduled to go 30 times. Person 1 goes all 30 times. Person 2 misses 15 visits. Who was more injured in the accident? By failing to go to all of your appointments you are sending the message that your injuries are not a priority. Insurance companies look through the bills and records for missed appointments. If they find enough they will start to deduct value from your claim. Again, it always comes back to making your health your number one priority. If you are making your health your number one priority, you won’t miss any appointments.
Downplaying You Injuries
Remember, everything you say to your doctors is written down. If you minimize or downplay your injuries, that is what the doctor will record. When it’s time to discuss your case value the insurance company will look at your medical records. If you’re telling your doctors a few weeks into your treatment that you’re “fine” then the insurance company is not going to want to pay much for your injuries. There is no award for playing the tough soldier. If you do, the only person who wins is the insurance company. Again, remember the rule to make your health the number one priority. If you let your doctor know everything that hurts (and the severity), it will be addressed and you will get the best treatment.
Not Mentioning All of your Injuries
Many times following an accident people are focused on what hurts the most. They are quick to ignore the more “minor” injuries in the hopes that they just go away. The problem is that invariably these “minor” issues can become major issues over time. If after weeks/months of failing to mention these “minor” issues they will appear as something unrelated to the accident and not be considered by the insurance company once you start treating for them. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, remember the rule to make your health the number one priority. Tell your doctors all of your problems, large or small. By getting all of your injuries on the record you are protecting yourself if those “minor” injuries become “major” over time. Plus, by mentioning all of your injuries, all of your injuries will receive proper treatment.
Gaps in Treatment
This is the biggest mistake people make following a car accident. Not receiving treatment for your injuries is also breaking the number one rule of making your health your number one priority. The major issue with gaps in treatment is it allows insurance companies to argue that the treatment received after the gap is unrelated to the accident. Their argument can be that something else happened during the gap, which caused the plaintiff to resume/restart treatment. From a logical standpoint the injured party is left with limited arguments to rebut that presumption. As such, it comes down to the credibility of the injured party. That is not the best position to be in and one that could have been avoided by continues and consecutive treatment.
In the end there are numerous ways insurance companies try to get out of paying for claims. It’s in their financial interest to look for reasons not to pay. The above list is by no means complete but just a sampling of the defenses raised in the average case. There is no greater advice we can give our clients then to make their health their number one priority following an accident. Typically, if a client follows that rule, they will take care of themselves both medically and in regards to their claim.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident please call us at (704) 714-1450. You will speak directly with an attorney who can discuss your case and go over your rights and options. There is no fee for an initial consultation.