In my many years as a personal injury lawyer in Dallas, Texas, I have consistently come across common mistakes clients (and even lawyers) make in handling personal injury cases. These errors can significantly effect the case’s chances of getting a favorable settlement, or even cause the client to recover absolutely nothing. Therefore, I have compiled this summary of the 10 most common issues to avoid. They are not listed in any particular order as each is just as important as the other.
1. Representing yourself in a Personal Injury Case.
So many people think that practicing law is as easy as standing up in court and making an argument. That is the farthest thing from reality. Practicing law, particularly personal injury law, requires in depth knowledge and experience with legal doctrines, insurance contracts and regulations, as well as court room procedure. Without this knowledge, a person cannot properly plan and structure their case for proper handling, thereby leaving open the probability that you will do or say something that will sink your injury claim.
2. Delayed medical treatment.
This is very simple…If your are injured, then you should get prompt medical treatment. Ultimately, a jury may have to determine whether or not you were injured in an accident. Likewise, delay in seeking medical treatment tends to undermine your injury claim. Go to the emergency room if necessary, or make an appointment with your family physician. Remember, if your injury is not serious enough to see a doctor, then it probably wouldn’t be viewed as seriousness enough to collect on your injury claim.
3. Delay in getting legal advice.
The first few days of an accident are the most crucial. Whether it is a car wreck, slip and fall, or other accidental injury, you will probably be bombarded by calls from the insurance adjuster and investigators. It is at this point where many people usually say or do something wrong. Your best bet is to call a personal injury lawyer right away and have the lawyer handle all these matters. Then you can concentrate on getting your affairs back in order.
4. Giving written statements or recorded interviews during your Personal Injury Case.
One of the first things insurance adjusters do when a claim is reported is get recorded statements from the drivers and injured claimants. When I first started practicing personal injury law in Dallas, this was a very common and accepted practice. I quickly became aware that adjusters were using these recorded statements and written reports against my clients as the claim progressed. Likewise, I stopped allowing my client to give any written or recorded statements. Even in a slip and fall case, you might be asked to either fill out a report, or even sign the report after it is written by the store manager. Do not give any sort or written or recorded statement nor sign anything before talking to an attorney or you can permanently harm your case.
5. Failing to preserve evidence.
Evidence is very important in any legal claim. But as time passes, evidence can disappear and witnesses memories can fade. Therefore, be sure to preserve as much evidence as early as possible. Take photographs of the accident scene or your visible injuries as early as possible and keep taking pictures periodically as your treatment progresses. Take pictures of any vehicles involved before they are repaired or sold for salvage. Also be sure to get the names and contact information for any eye witnesses to your accident.
6. Ignoring your doctor’s advice.
Since convincing the insurance adjuster (or a jury) that you were injured is the ultimate goal, it probably makes sense that someone who is really injured would take their medical treatment seriously. If you miss to many doctor’s appointments or stop treating altogether, then you appear as though your injury is not worthy of serious consideration.
7. Posting on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks about your Personal Injury Case.
If your personal injury attorney is forced to file a lawsuit, then any posting on social networks might be requested by the other attorneys. The last thing any case needs is improper comments or statements on these types of websites. You are better off keeping your comments about your case between your and your lawyer.
8. Signing documents or medical authorizations.
Do not sign any documents unless you know exactly what they are. Many times the insurance adjuster will ask you to sign a medical authorization permitting access to your medical records. You should not do this no matter what the adjuster says. Also, do not sign any documents which has any language releasing your claims. Otherwise, your rights may be lost forever.
9. Failing to cooperate with your lawyer.
You and your lawyer are a team. If you don’t follow your attorney’s advice, then you run the risk of doing irreparable arm to your case. Then all the time and effort spent developing your injury case may be wasted.
10. Lying or hiding evidence about your Personal Injury case.
If you have any relevant information about your medical history or any previous accident claims, let your lawyer know about it at the beginning of the case. This way, your lawyer can plan for those matters and be prepared to address them should they come up in your case.