MISTAKE #1 – Failing to seek or follow medical advice. In every personal injury claim the main evidence relied on by the other side in assessing the claim is the information contained in the medical documentation. As a result, if you fail to seek medical treatment immediately or shortly after the accident, fail to follow advice received from your doctor, miss medical appointments or fail to continue seeing your doctor on a regular basis, without good reason, you will significantly jeopardize the value of your claim.
MISTAKE #2 – Failing to keep valuable evidence. Opposing parties and the courts are not usually prepared to rely 100% on a claimant’s recollection of events. Accordingly, if you fail to keep valuable information such as: receipts from expenses incurred, names and contact information of witnesses, photographs of injuries (where visible), and notes about the accident and your symptoms, you will be less successful than claimants who do.
MISTAKE #3 – Losing your temper. Insurance adjusters, doctors, therapists, lawyers, judges and juries are all human. Therefore, the easiest way to achieve a good result is by maintaining a pleasant and positive attitude with everyone who has the ability to affect your claim. This does not mean you have to cooperate or agree with everything they say, but it does mean you should address disagreements with an open mind and in a professional manner. Claimants who lose their cool jeopardize their claim. There is no longer an interest by the recipient of the hostile behavior to assist or deal with them in a fair and reasonable manner.
MISTAKE #4 – Exaggerating the effects of your injuries. Claimants who unnecessarily whine and complain or exaggerate the effects of their injuries do themselves a huge disservice. While unquestionably, if you have been injured, you will be in pain, the above behavior makes you less believable, which in turn reduces the willingness of the opposing party to assist you. It is also very easy for opposing parties, doctors, therapists, lawyers, judges and juries to see beyond the statements made and appreciate when you are exaggerating the effects of your injuries. If your complaints cannot be reconciled with the medical evidence, your credibility will be jeopardized. Claimants who exaggerate will fair much worse than claimants who do not.
MISTAKE #5 – Providing false or misleading information with respect to previous or subsequent injuries. Claimants who provide false or misleading information about previous or subsequent injuries undermine their credibility. The best way to address these issues is head-on. In some cases, lawyers can argue that the current accident aggravated previous injuries or that the subsequent injuries would not have occurred but for the first. Alternatively, it may be possible to argue that the previous or subsequent injuries are different from the injuries suffered in the accident for which the claim is being made. Where an opposing party is successful in uncovering deceit, which can include silence, the reliability of any other information provided by the claimant will be significantly diminished.
MISTAKE #6 – Failing to provide a complete list of symptoms to your doctor. Often claimants sustain several injuries in an accident. Unfortunately, they often focus only on the more significant injuries leaving out symptoms that are critical for linking the development of future diagnoses to the accident. As a result, the court is left unable to conclude that a condition diagnosed at a later date was caused by the accident and therefore no compensation for that injury will follow. To avoid this risk, make sure your doctors and therapists aware of all your symptoms.
MISTAKE #7 – Engaging in questionable behaviour. If you are pursuing a personal injury claim you should consider yourself to be under a microscope from the date of the accident until the trial is complete. In some cases you may be placed under video surveillance. Any questionable behaviour demonstrated during this time will affect your credibility and be used against you. Bragging to your friends about your weekend drinking binge or posting questionable information or photos on your Facebook or Myspace page could also be damaging.
While the above list is not exhaustive, it covers some of the key areas where problems can arise.
*Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.