If you get in an automobile accident which is the fault of another insured driver, you should be cautious about what you say and do. If you have been injured, you are entitled to receive fair compensation, but the insurance company responsible for your damages will want to pay you the least amount of money they can. Here are just a few examples of pitfalls you should avoid:
(1) Be careful what you say at the scene. Similar to the predicament of a criminal defendant, whatever you say can and will be used against you. Be careful not to say anything which might possibly be construed as an admission of fault, or even a partial admission of fault. You may be angry if the other person’s carelessness caused the wreck, but you are better served not to express your frustration. If the other driver or a witness says something to you, do your best to remember it and tell your lawyer later; it may be important evidence.
(2) Don’t talk to just anybody about your accident. If you plan to hire a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim, you should discuss that claim only with your lawyer or with people your lawyer approves. Privileged matters only stay privileged if you keep them between yourself and your attorney.
(3) Be careful what you sign. If you sign and cash a check or sign a document that contains language that releases your bodily injury claim, your claim will be gone. Make sure there is no language on your property claim release or check which pertains in any way to your personal injury claim. If you are unsure, ask a lawyer for help.
(4) Don’t delay. You need to be proactive. It can hurt the value of your case if you wait too long before talking to a lawyer, filing a claim, or seeking medical treatment. If you get hurt in January and wait until March or April or later before getting needed medical treatments, this will make it seem like your injuries are not that bad, regardless of what the truth is. If you wait until a year later to hire an attorney, you will have missed important opportunities to develop your case to your best advantage.
(5) Whether you are negotiating by yourself or with the assistance of an attorney, do not accept the adjuster’s first offer. Rarely do they offer all that they have the first time.
(6) Don’t settle too early. It is generally not in your best interest to settle your claim until after you have finished receiving necessary medical treatments. You cannot know the true value of your case until you know the full extent of your medical treatments, billing and condition after you have been released from care.