These five mistakes are most often made by automobile accident victims during a lawsuit, playing a crucial role in hurting good people with legitimate cases. This article is meant to assist honest individuals to avoid making innocent mistakes that insurance firms and defense lawyers will exploit to avoid responsibility for damages they owe.
Waiting Too Long After Your Automobile Accident to Talk to a Lawyer
There is a two-year time limit to apply for benefits in California for a first-party no-fault case. California no-fault law covers important automobile insurance benefits such as wage loss, medical bills and mileage, replacement services (chores, help with children) and attendant care (nursing services), based upon the severity of your personal injuries. In California, medical bills are generally paid by the car accident victim’s automobile insurance carrier. If you do not apply in time, you will not be able to receive your benefits.
In addition, when automobile accident cases are referred too late, critical and debilitating injuries are frequently missed, and documentation of injuries is disregarded. Sometimes car accident victims don’t understand how serious their injuries are and therefore, do not seek appropriate treatment. Treatment for personal injuries from automobile accidents is not only necessary for proper recovery, but creates a record of the injuries, which is necessary to meet California’s injury law for recovering damages in an automobile accident case. Additionally, all car accident injuries (even minor ones) must be documented on your California no-fault application for benefits. A person who suffers injuries in an automobile accident but who fails to give specific notice of each of those injuries to his no-fault insurance company within two years can later be barred from having the insurer pay medical bills.
Regarding a truck accident case, critical documents to prove liability can be destroyed within months. For example, if a truck was involved in your accident, a trucking company is only required to keep the bulk of their records concerning a truck accident — no matter how serious the injuries or even if someone was killed — for a very short period of time. The destruction of these and other incredibly important pieces of evidence in serious truck accident cases is not only legal but commonplace. If a lawsuit is not filed in a timely manner, these documents that are vital to proving negligence on a truck company’s behalf will be legally destroyed, and that can devastate a truck accident case.
Not Considering First Impressions During Pending Lawsuits
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, but automobile accident victims with pending personal injury lawsuits should also remember that some opinions, whether political, religious or social, can offend or turn off jurors who do not share the same views. If there’s one universal truth about winning trials, it is this: Juries tend to help people they like, and tend to punish people they do not like. Plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits must keep this in mind.
Please consider the recording you leave on your cell phone or answering machine. An insurance adjuster will likely be calling you repeatedly, and if she finds something questionable or offensive, it can affect how that insurance adjuster handles your claim. Outside of phone messages, accident victims must always think about the overall impressions they’re leaving, because if a defendant insurance company decides to conduct video surveillance, a jury will see facets of a plaintiff’s life that might have the potential to offend people. Remember, complete strangers may one day be sitting in judgment on your jury. Why risk offending people who will be asked to return proper compensation for your accident?
Internet Activity and Using Your Social Media Accounts During Pending Lawsuits
Of course, in the realm of innocent mistakes that car accident victims can make, your answering machine message is pretty minor in comparison to say, posting certain information on Instagram or Facebook. These days, posting to social media accounts is practically second nature for many people, people share almost everything about their lives on social media. However, you really should not talk about your crash or your injuries on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. An insurance company may try to use your words or photos to deny or minimize your financial recovery.
Of course, in the realm of innocent mistakes that car accident victims can make, your answering machine message is pretty minor in comparison to say, posting certain information on MySpace or Facebook. For example, a victim who was disabled with closed-head injuries from a truck accident posted pictures of themselves skiing or hiking on an online social networking site. These pictures are completely innocent and were taken before the person was ever injured in the accident. But the accusation of fraud by defense lawyers can be enough for suspicious jurors who are ready to assume the worst about a person.
Expect that defense lawyers, claims adjusters, and other interested parties will scrutinize everything that you post. They will look for pictures and posts in which you appear not to be as injured as you claim. It may actually be a good idea to stay away from social media altogether until your case is over. Strengthening your privacy settings is not a foolproof method of protecting your case. So, while your accident lawsuit is pending, it’s best to avoid them entirely.
Applying for Social Security Disability Without Consulting an Attorney
People injured in California car accidents and collecting no-fault insurance benefits are frequently told by their insurance companies and claims adjusters that they must apply for Social Security Disability (SSD). But it’s a big mistake for an automobile accident victim to consider a Social Security Disability application or SSD claim as separate from his or her automobile accident case. It’s imperative that you contact your California automobile accident attorney as soon as an insurance adjuster instructs you to apply, to discuss how applying could affect your case. For example, if you’re accepted for SSD too soon, it could literally wipe out the entire economic recovery from your third-party case. Common Automobile Accident Lawsuit Mistakes.
In almost all cases, especially when a no-fault insurance company asks you to apply for Social Security Disability, you are required to do so. But what happens next, such as appeals and other actions that an automobile accident victim needs to apply, is very case-specific. This must be discussed with your lawyer, so he or she can point you in the right direction to minimize the impact on your existing automobile accident case, and to avoid costly mistakes.
The practice of insurance companies requiring the accident victim to apply for Social Security Disability has led to abuse, of which many California automobile accident attorneys have become all too familiar: Some insurance company adjusters threaten automobile accident victims who want to return to work to apply for SSD as a requirement to keep receiving their no-fault insurance benefits. They urge these accident victims to then re-apply and keep appealing if they are not awarded disability benefits.
The reason California insurance companies are requiring you to apply is simple: it saves them money. But there is no basis under California law to have a person apply for Social Security Disability benefits and then be forced to appeal after a denial, just because a no-fault insurance company adjuster is trying to cut costs.
Neglecting to Document Your Injuries and Recovery
Everyone knows the adage of a picture is worth a thousand words. And when it comes to getting a jury or an insurance adjuster to understand the hardship a person has been put through because of a car accident or other personal injury, this adage is vitally true.
One of the biggest problems automobile accident lawyers face is that accident victims do not take photos of their injuries. Why take pictures and video? According to California law, victims of automobile accidents must show impairment — not pain — by proving “serious impairment of body function.” That means that a person can be in pain every day, but if they cannot show how life is different after the accident, it’s unlikely the case will be successful.
Aside from hiring a lawyer, one of the most effective ways to facilitate a favorable outcome for your case is to gather strong evidence. If you are injured in a car accident, you need to seek medical attention right away. Waiting weeks or months to seek medical care in order to see if your injuries can heal over time can significantly harm your claim. Not only is it important for your health, but having documented medical evidence can benefit your case.
Not Taking Proper Photographic Evidence
Photographic evidence of your injuries, surgical wounds, or the damage to your vehicle can be effective in cultivating the support of the jury. Pictures are objective, credible evidence, and they help to correlate a car accident with the occupant’s trauma; especially when the defense later contests that the collision wasn’t severe enough to cause the claimed injuries. Additionally, taking photos of injuries is compelling. It makes the injuries real, believable and vivid. Anytime an accident victim has a surgery or a visible injury, take pictures. Or contact your California no-fault lawyer so he can send a professional photographer to document the injuries.
If you’re having significant problems moving around, you may even wish to have someone record video footage as you try to complete daily tasks. Videos are also great tools to illustrate to a jury or an insurance company adjuster just how difficult normal tasks, hobbies, and activities can be for someone in the days and weeks following major trauma or surgery.
Additionally, save all physical evidence you collect during your recovery, such as pill bottles, braces, casts, and similar items. If you have problems carrying out everyday activities like bathing, laundry or chores, you may be entitled to make an attendant care claim. California attendant care benefits are sometimes referred to as nursing services. Be sure to discuss this with your lawyer.
And it’s also important to remember to take pictures of car damage. Crash repair estimates are often misleading and don’t reflect the full amount of vehicle damage. Common Automobile Accident Lawsuit Mistakes.
Failing to Communicate with Your Lawyer During Your Pending Lawsuit
The best way to avoid mistakes in a lawsuit is excellent communication with your personal injury attorney. There are so many confusing laws that can trap the unsuspecting and wreak havoc on a California automobile accident case, even when people are trying to be truthful, honest and do the right thing. The best advice remains the simplest: Call your accident attorney if you have a question, and certainly before doing something that can have a major impact on your personal injury case, like filing an application for social security disability, not understanding why an injured person cannot file for unemployment or posting misleading photos of yourself on the Internet.
Discussing Your Case with Anyone Other Than Your Lawyer
One of the most common mistakes that accident lawsuit plaintiffs make is to discuss the incident with claims adjusters, defense lawyers, defendants, or other parties. This is never advisable. If anyone contacts you to ask about the case, you should direct all questions to your car accident attorney. Otherwise, you might inadvertently say something that could compromise the outcome of your case.
Forgetting to Keep Your Lawyer Updated
It’s essential to keep your lawyer in the loop while your case is pending. Let your lawyer know if you’ve been diagnosed with any complications, if you’ve been referred to another medical provider, or if any other developments arise. On another note, many clients hide information, such as a prior drunk driving arrest or poor school grades, because they are embarrassed. Understand that in this world of computers and social security numbers, everything can be discovered.
Again, real support in automobile accident cases boils down to a plaintiff being credible and likable. Because jurors want to do the right thing, they need to believe something is true in order to be motivated to help.
If there’s any basis of truth to a question being asked, admit it. There is no reason why a client cannot disclose something, and then explain the circumstances behind it. Remember, many things can be kept out of court as irrelevant and unduly prejudicial – as long as you admit to them and testify truthfully. And if you have questions, ask. It’s far better to discuss a concern with your lawyer before filing a lawsuit than to it is to be exposed in front of a jury.
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