Sometimes, injured people will try to negotiate and settle their personal injury insurance claim on their own. Doing so may be appropriate in some cases, but in others you can permanently impair your ability to get a fair recovery. Unless you are a seasoned personal injury attorney or insurance adjuster, going forward on your own without a legal consultation is almost certainly a bad idea that will result in less compensation and possibly even claims being brought against you for unpaid liens. There are rare cases that you may be better off handling on your own. Most personal injury attorneys will offer a free consultation and can tell you whether or not your case is one that requires legal assistance.
The attorneys at Gibbs & Crivelli are available and happy to discuss your matter in a free and private consultation. Inevitably, people will attempt to proceed on their own without any legal consultation. Whether the goal is to save money on attorney’s fees, or simply not wanting to face the daunting task of choosing the right attorney, if you choose proceed on your own, these are a few things you should do:
1- First, create a record of the incident.
If this is a car wreck, you MUST call the police. Call 911 from the scene of the collision. No matter how small the damage, the law requires you report any motor vehicle accident if it caused injury or death to any party, or if it caused at least $1,000.00 dollars in property damage to any person’s vehicle or personal property.
Most serious motor vehicle collisions will trigger a police officer to respond to the scene, take statements and perform a brief investigation. This may include taking witness statements as well as pictures that could prove invaluable during your claim. A police officer will often take notes, statements, preserve evidence, issue citations and perform an investigation into the causes of the collision. Such opinions often prove invaluable during the negotiation and litigation stages.
For non-vehicle related incidents, such as slip and falls and dog bites, it’s important to make sure that someone has been notified of the incident as soon as possible. If it occurs at a store or business, this means notifying the manager and ensuring someone investigates the claim. Most businesses will have risk management measures to determine the cause of the incident.
2- Document everything you hear and see at the scene.
Don’t just rely on investigating law enforcement officers or store managers to document your loss. Take pictures on your own. Get the names and phone numbers of witnesses. Most phones now are capable of recording video. Record your interactions. Take photos of the vehicles, the scene, the person, thing or animal that caused your injury. Take photos of stop signs, skid marks, traffic lights. A driver or store manager may apologize for their negligence at the scene of the incident, but you can’t always count on people not to change their tune once an insurance company gets involved and the extent of your injuries and damages become clear.
Take pictures of your injuries. Medical records indicating pain in your hip are certainly less convincing than a photo of a large bruise, cut or scrape. These photos will often do a better job of expressing the pain your injury has caused you than any doctor or other person properly put in words.
If you’ve had ongoing treatment for serious injuries requiring surgery or orthopedic treatment, document your progress (i.e., pain and suffering) and recovery. Telling someone about your pain and showing it to them are two very different things.
3- After your initial report to law enforcement, do NOT discuss the details with anyone.
Do NOT provide a statement, recorded or otherwise, to an insurance adjuster.
Your communication should be handled by a lawyer specialized in personal injury claims. If you insist on handling these communications on your own, do so in writing only after contemplating your answers. Recorded statements taken by an insurance adjuster are designed to gather information that will be used against you later.
4- Never threaten to sue.
Do NOT tell anyone you are going to sue or hire a lawyer. This may cause the opposing party to “anticipate litigation” triggering legal privileges to information obtained during their own investigation, information you may need later but could be unable to obtain because of your threat. For example, if a party had not yet completed its investigation, and you threaten to sue them, subsequent evidence that a party knew of a dangerous condition or knew that they did something wrong may no longer be something that can be obtained through discovery under the “work product doctrine” and/or attorney-client privilege.
5- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Your health is the most important thing in this life. It’s important to get a proper medical diagnosis and treatment for both your own health and for evaluating what amounts to fair compensation for your injury. Even if you didn’t go to a doctor or hospital immediately after the incident, it is still important to get medical attention as soon as possible. If you are reading this and you are hurting but haven’t already seen a doctor, stop reading and make arrangements now!
If you don’t know who to see, call Gibbs & Crivelli now and we will point you in the right direction.
We all are busy, but if you won’t take the time to get properly diagnosed now, don’t expect to get fair compensation later.
Remember to tell your doctors about ALL of your injuries, not just the one bothering you the most at the time.
Always remember to follow up with a doctor after you are discharged from emergency room or urgent care facility.
Just because you don’t have a broken bone does not mean you aren’t seriously injured. Bones often heal far more quickly and completely than sprains and strains which linger. Most soft tissue injuries, such as disc herniation, nerve root impingement, traumatic brain injuries and other related types of traumatic injury, will not show up on an initial CT scan or x-ray.
6- Heal first. Negotiate later.
Ensure you’ve reached maximum medical improvement before trying to negotiate for fair compensation under the laws of Texas.
A big mistake many people make is to settle their case before they’re done healing or treating their injury, in a misguided attempt to “suck it up” and “get it over with.” Without reaching maximum medical improvement, you still have no idea how severe your injury is. This affects the value of your claim. For instance, a person who appears to be fully recovered a few days after an incident is likely entitled to less compensation than someone who endures years of ongoing pain, suffering and medical treatment. If you want to be treated fairly, then you must have accurate information about your condition to defend yourself.
7- Obtain your bill and records.
Request all of your itemized bills and complete treatment records to aid in the settlement demand. If you have prior injuries which have been exacerbated by this injury, you may need to obtain records of prior medical treatment as well.
8- Never accept their first offer.
Insurance adjusters rarely evaluate a claim and give you a take it or leave it number if you’ve suffered real injuries and damages. They all have to follow rules regarding their negotiations. Most insurance companies require an adjuster to make several offers and counter-offers before they’re permitted to offer the full amount they have set aside for your claim. If you’ve already received what they claim to be their top dollar and you aren’t sure if it’s the right amount for your claim, seek out an attorney specialized in personal injury to if they would be willing to review your offer in a free consultation.
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9- Assure That The Money is Yours to Keep=
Make sure you are clear that whatever money they offer you is in addition to the amounts needed to pay hospital liens, insurance subrogation interests and existing bills. If the offer is one lump sum, you will need to calculate what amounts must be paid out of your settlement. Insurance adjusters often take advantage of unrepresented claimants by having them sign off on a settlement agreement without explaining to them that the money they’ve accepted may never actually go to them due to liens on that money from hospitals, government agencies or subrogation companies.
An offer of $5,000.00 made just a week after an incident may seem very reasonable given the short turnaround time. However, this money may simply be an incentive to deter you from hiring a lawyer and assessing the true measure of your damages. Offering you $5,000.00 dollars on a hospital lien for an emergency room visit of $4,500.00 means the hospital gets their share first and you get the leftover $500.00. If you don’t know where the money is going, you’re negotiating blindly. If you haven’t recovered fully from your injuries, or reached maximum medical improvement, you are gambling with your future.
Don’t fight the insurance giants on your own. Hire Gibbs & Crivelli now and have a fair fight. Get in Touch Now.