In our 28 years of legal practice, we’ve seen how quickly devastating injuries can happen. One wrong move on the freeway leads to a multi-car pile up. A motorist glances at their cell phone and plows down a cyclist. An uneven or wet walkway leads to a quick slip and a head injury. Dogs get riled up and bite an unsuspecting neighbor. The list goes on.
People react to these injuries in different ways. some have no idea they may have legal recourse to deal with their mounting medical bills and lost income from missed work. Others may file a legal claim but unwittingly make mistakes that hurt their case.
If our Utah personal injury attorneys could speak to every injury accident victim in the state, here are 7 truths we would share to ensure improved outcomes for their accident injury cases.
1. If you are partially at fault, you may still have a case. Some accident victims assume that if they had any fault in an accident, it is useless to file a personal injury claim. However, Utah is a “modified comparative fault” state. This means that you can file a claim if you are less than 50% at fault in an injury accident.
For example, if you rear end another vehicle, you may automatically assume that you are at fault. However, the other party may have contributed to the accident. Perhaps the driver you hit was driving recklessly or was under the influence. Perhaps they were driving with broken brake lights. It’s always best to consult with a personal injury attorney to see if you could have a case, even if you bear some fault for the accident.
2. Insurance companies have their own best interest in mind. As courteous and empathetic as the insurance company may be on the phone, they have one primary interest in mind: their own bottom line.
This is a numbers game. Insurance companies develop formulas for settling accident disputes and paying out as little as possible to protect their profit margins. To achieve their goal, they may seek to minimize your injuries or blame them on preexisting conditions. They may make it seem like you were at fault or try to get you to settle for less compensation than you deserve.
In our own firm, David Francis, Director of claims, lost his sister in a car accident. She bore no fault in the accident, and there was a $1 million policy available for the claim. Even so, the insurance attempted a lowball offer of $32,000 for his sister’s life. This injustice steered Francis toward the personal injury legal profession.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you see through the tactics of Big Insurance and not be intimidated by them. Having your attorney communicate with the insurance company can keep you from saying something that will hurt your case and from accepting a lowball settlement offer.
3. The more evidence, the better. Emotion will not win your case; evidence will. From the moment of the accident, it is critical to start collecting evidence. This includes taking pictures of the accident scene, recording the details of the accident, getting police on the scene to document the accident, and getting witnesses’ testimonies and contact information. You should also document any resulting health problems and how they affect your function. Keep track of days off of work due to your accident.
4. Get medical care (and keep documents). After the accident, you should not try to be a hero. Even if you don’t see any immediate medical problems, it’s best to get checked out by a doctor who may be able to identify health issues that aren’t immediately apparent. For example, some traumatic brain injury victims may not notice symptoms right away. The same goes for neck injuries like whiplash. Ignoring these injuries could make them worse.
It’s also important to have a doctor document your injuries right away. This is especially helpful if the opposing party tries to frame your injuries as pre-existing conditions. Your doctor will be able to draw a clear connection between the accident and the injuries it caused.
Make sure to document all medical expenditures, including travel to specialists’ offices, prescriptions, etc. This helps create an accurate picture of your financial losses.
5. It’s risky to represent yourself. Injury law can be particularly nuanced and complicated, and there is a seemingly endless amount of paperwork to submit by certain deadlines. Unfortunately, Big Insurance can be overbearing and quick to take advantage of you if you don’t understand the pertinent laws and the full extent of what you’re entitled to under those laws.
An experienced attorney can help you stand your ground against the insurance company and get the best outcome possible. They know the medical and legal jargon. They can help expedite your paperwork for faster results. They know what constitutes a fair financial award for your specific case.
If you have been injured, you are likely dealing with a lot of stress in your life. Enlisting the help of an attorney can not only help you win your case but it can also give you the time and space you need to focus on healing without added stress.
6. Social media can hurt your case. We advise all personal injury victims to approach social media with great caution until their case is resolved. Your social media posts may be considered public information that can be used against you. In fact, many insurance companies are now hiring investigators to find social media content that could discredit injury accident victims.
Here’s how social media could hurt you. Let’s say that the whiplash you sustained in your car accident limited your mobility so that you cannot work. Then, you post a picture of yourself on the softball field with your buddies. Even if you weren’t playing, your injury claim could be called into question.
And it’s not just posts that are the problem. Even your social media “likes” can hurt you in court. For example, if you are accused of speeding and you show a history of liking pictures of fast cars or videos of people trying to outrun the cops, you could be building a case against yourself. The safest option is to stay off of social media altogether for the duration of your legal case.
7. Consider the future before settling. You know what your injury has cost you. What you may not know is what it may continue to cost you. An attorney can help you understand the full scope of future costs.
These costs could include visits with medical specialists, hospitalizations, surgeries, mental health care, medications, physical therapy and other rehabilitation services, in-home nursing, assistive equipment, and adaptations to your home. This is especially relevant for spinal cord damages, burns, and traumatic brain injuries, but it extends to many other injuries with ongoing ramifications.
Personal injury attorneys can help you anticipate and calculate these future costs so that you don’t accept a low offer and find yourself footing the bill for years of unexpected medical charges.
There is recourse for the losses you have suffered due to your injuries, and there is life after injury accidents. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to get the full compensation for your losses and move toward a brighter future. Contact us for help with filing a personal injury claim.