People often come into personal injury litigation with serious misconceptions about how the legal process works. This ultimately can lead to claims being lost or settled on unfavorable terms. Personal injury claims are almost never as simple as presenting a statement of what happened and making a demand for your damages. Actually obtaining full and fair compensation from the responsible party can be tricky. Insurance companies may be reluctant to offer you a fair deal and the pathway to recovery is full of potential pitfalls. Here are a few mistakes that if made can be detrimental to your case:
- Failing to document circumstances of injury. Cell phones are nearly ubiquitous. If you are able document the circumstances of your injury (and potentially your injury itself) in photos or videos, you should do it. This will come in handy to support your version of events about who was responsible for causing your injury. In addition, if you have been in an accident, call law enforcement right away and make a police report. This allows you to develop an official record of the incident and the police report can contain important information about the other driver and any witnesses. If this is not done, you may be missing key information and evidence that could adversely affect your legal rights.
- Failing to promptly get medical help. Don’t wait to get treatment. If you have been in an accident, you should at minimum get checked out by your primary care physician as soon as possible. Your doctor can identify any minor or serious injuries and identify any actual or potential complications. Your doctor will also document your injuries, which is essential to protecting your legal rights. If you wait too long to get medical care, you may not have sufficient proof that the accident caused your injury. The responsible party or insurance company could argue that the injuries were caused or aggravated by something else due to the delay in obtaining medical care. This will make it significantly more difficult for you to get fully compensated.
- Failing to keep complete records. When you are injured by the negligence of another, the negligent party is responsible for all of your economic losses. However, in order to get full compensation, you need to have documentation of these losses. This includes records of medical bills and lost income and opportunities caused by your injuries. It may even be beneficial to write down in a calendar or diary specific examples of how your injury has affected your life so that can be preserved and ultimately used to support your claim.
- Minimizing your injuries. Failing to be thorough and forthright about the nature and extent of your injuries can be fatal to your injury claim. It is essential that the true and full extent if your injuries is documented by your healthcare providers. You may believe there are reasons to play down an injury or not tell your doctors about certain aspect of your injury. Some people don’t want to admit that they are hurt, or that the injury is serious. This can lead to an insurance company reducing your compensation or seeking to dismiss it outright.
- Overstating your injuries. On the other hand, trying to appear more injured than you actually are is always a poor decision and will ultimately come back to ruin your claim. Looking at an injury claim as an opportunity for financial gain, rather than compensation for harms and losses actually incurred, is a mistake that almost certainly will lead to adverse outcomes.
- Talking to an insurance company before you talk to a lawyer. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. Paying out on injury claims eats into their profits, so they are incentivized to settle claims for as little as possibly or deny them entirely. The same is true with risk managers in the healthcare field. When you talk to an insurance company or a risk manager on your own, they may attempt to record your conversation and try to get you to admit fault or agree to a settlement on unfavorable terms. Your lawyer will protect you from these traps and keep you from compromising your case entirely or inadvertently settling for less than your case is worth.
- Contributory fault. In personal injury claims, fault is apportioned between the parties. Your recovery is reduced by the percentage they are responsible for the circumstances of their injury. Ultimately, if you are found to be more responsible than the defendant, you will be barred from receiving any money in connection with your accident. Your attorneys can help navigate this difficult but important aspect of an injury claim.
- Social media. Everything you post on the internet can and will be used against you in a court of law. That picture of you smiling at the beach a few weeks after your injury? It will be found and used against you as evidence that your claim for pain and suffering is fraudulent. Don’t let this happen to you. Be mindful of your social media content, especially after an accident.
- Waiting too long to act. There are time limits for filing different kinds of lawsuits. For most personal injury cases in Illinois, a lawsuit must be filed within two (2) years of the date of injury. If a lawsuit is not filed within that time-frame, your claim is “time-barred” and you will be unable to recover compensation. Do not let this to happen to you. Get legal help promptly after suffering an injury.
- Not hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. Personal injury claims and litigation is a complicated process involving a variety of bureaucratic and legal issues. Lawyers, like doctors, have their own concentrations. Here at Walsh, Knippen & Cetina, Chartered, our focus is injury law. We know the claims and legal system. We know how to overcome problems and issues that can arise of the course of an injury case and how to achieve results. Our experience allows us to represent you and help you achieve fair compensation for your injuries.
Please contact us to schedule a free legal consultation and discuss your injury claim today.