What Can You Do to Help Your Personal Injury Case?
As a client, you are at war with insurance companies, and you may not even realize it. To this point, I want to talk a little bit more about communications with the insurance company.
As discussed earlier, the insurance company will be very nice to you at first. They may say things like, “It’s going to be okay, just let us know how your treatment goes.” While these vagaries sound good, they legally do not mean anything. However, they are recording your voice, and they will use it against you later on. Like we always hear on television: anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. Remember, every time you talk to the insurance company, they are recording your voice for the specific purpose of using it against you.
It is for that reason your attorney should handle all communications with the insurance company. When an insurance company records my voice, it does not do them any good as I am not a witness to the accident. When you are on the phone with them, things you say that may help your claim can be deleted by them. However, if you say anything that hurts you, believe me, they will use it.
One common tactic used by insurance companies is to get you to say things that are incriminating. In an underinsured or uninsured motorist case, for example, there needs to be contact between the vehicles in order to be covered by insurance, as illustrated by the following case.
Example 2: Jim’s “Innocent Question” Case
When you’re on the phone, the insurance company will often act like a question is innocent or no big deal, when in fact it really determines your entire case. For example, in a hit-and-run case, they might ask, “Hey, by the way, did your vehicle come into contact with the other vehicle?” If you say “no,” or even “I don’t know,” they can use that to deny your claim.
I had a case like that with a person named Jim. Jim was riding his motorcycle and a person pulled out their car in front of him, so he laid his motorcycle down and skidded along the ground. He needed knee surgery. The “Good Neighbor” people (who are supposed to be helping life go right) asked, “Hey, by the way, Jim was there as a contact between your motorcycle and the other car?” Jim responded, “I don’t know, I was trapped under my motorcycle. I am not sure if the motorcycle actually came into contact with the vehicle.” Well, it turned out that the “Good Neighbor” people used that statement to deny his claim a year later. That is when he came to see me.
Jim and I decided to get an expert. We hired an engineer who specialized in accident reconstruction to look at the pattern of damage to the chrome on Jim’s motorcycle. The pattern showed grooves caused by the road surface. At one point, the grooves abruptly changed direction, indicating that the sliding motorcycle changed direction. (You could see grooves in the chrome, and then all of a sudden the grooves shoot off in another direction, as if the motorcycle had struck something.) A significant part of the “Good Neighbor’s” case was that there was no “paint-to-paint transfer” from the car to the motorcycle and vice versa, and therefore no contact between the vehicles. Our expert, however, was able to show that the pattern in the chrome proved that there was an abrupt change in a direction of the motorcycle, and probably because the motorcycle tire hit the tire of the car (which explains why there was no paint transfer). As a result of this showing of proof, the “contact” requirement in the policy was satisfied, and we ended up winning the case.
In short, insurance companies may try to get you to admit something that you do not realize hurts your claim. If they ask to you, “How are you doing today,” “I’m fine” is a socially acceptable answer that almost anyone would give, even if they are on their death bed. Still, the insurance adjuster may write down in their log, “The plaintiff says that he’s fine today,” and then may try to use that against you as well.
PRO TIP: VOICE ALL OF YOUR MEDICAL COMPLAINTS
One point we have not talked about yet is making all of your complaints known in the emergency room. If you go to the emergency room, you are naturally going to complain about the worst injury at the time, and you might miss a minor injury. A perfect example of this would be in the emergency room you say, “Yes, my neck is bothering me after this accident,” because that is the thing that is hurting you most at that time. You do not say anything about your knee that struck the dashboard because it does not hurt as badly as your neck does at that moment. Remember to complain about any body part that is injured, because it may be the knee you hit on the dashboard that requires surgery later on.
Being an Ideal Plaintiff in a Personal Injury Case
In order to best help yourself and assist and your attorney, make sure that you follow up with treatments; never miss a medical or legal appointment; collect the information in a binder; and keep your attorney up-to-date on what doctors say about possible future treatment. Always show up on time for any depositions or doctors’ visits, and let your attorney handle communications with the insurance company.
For more information on Helping Your Personal Injury Case in IL, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 495-5598 today.
Call Now For A Free Strategy Session