No matter how tough you are, being injured in an accident puts you in a vulnerable position. Your body is not at its peak, and your thoughts and emotions are scattered. For many people, dealing with any kind of traumatic situation — from a construction site accident to being hit by a reckless driver — means taking control where you can as soon as you can.
That said, dealing with insurance companies all alone is rarely a good idea. No matter how much trust you place in the companies who vow to be by your side when you need them, the fact remains that insurance companies are in the business of making a profit. While no outcome is ever guaranteed, we want everyone to have a general understanding of insurance company lawsuits, regardless of if they’ve decided to retain our services. That’s why we’ve put together six tips for success when it comes to successfully recovering damages.
Tip #1: Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Many places where injuries occur — including amusement parks, grocery stores, and construction sites — have their own medical staff on hand. When you have been injured on-site, you may decide to seek the expertise of the medical staff, whose primary responsibility is to provide immediate triage and reduce risk. If you are lucky enough to walk away, you may think that means you have been cleared, medically speaking.
Even if you continue to experience pain, you might think it’s simply a lingering nuisance that will go away. After all, you were already seen by a medical professional. Remember, though, their job is not to diagnose you or come up with a treatment plan, and it’s almost certain you did not receive the same level of diagnostic care you would get at an actual medical facility.
When you have been in a car accident, calling for emergency medical care is always recommended. EMTs can use their expertise to determine if you have received potentially devastating injuries, including internal bleeding or spinal injuries. Even victims of seemingly minor car accidents should receive medical care immediately. Some injuries, like whiplash, don’t require much force to cause damage. That’s why more than ten percent of car accident victims are diagnosed with whiplash.
Regardless of how you have been injured or how serious you may believe the injury is, getting immediate medical treatment is important — not only for your own health and wellness but also for your legal posture, as well. The sooner you have a record of your injury, the more accurate your claim will be when it comes to calculating damages. It’s also worth mentioning that insurance companies love to use victims’ lack of medical attention — such as refusing an ambulance ride — as a way to devalue a claim.
Tip #2: Call the Police
When you call 911 for help, the likelihood is that both police and emergency medical teams will arrive on the scene, but it’s still worth mentioning. The law enforcement officers who respond will record details about the events of crash, including factors you might not know or remember are important when you are the one who has been injured. If you are injured seriously enough that you are unconscious or even immediately whisked away from the scene, you will want an record of what the police observed. After your accident, the police will file the crash report with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which you will need for insurance or your lawsuit.
These police reports can serve as a starting point to help your lawyer investigate your accident, such as helping to compile a witness list to fill in any gaps in the crash report. Your lawyer may even find value in comparing the forensic evidence to witness statements or the report itself. In some cases, the police report may be used to make initial determinations about fault that may not tell the whole story, but with the use of “black boxes” in many vehicles today, the police report can be a tool in helping your lawyer know what to look for.
Regardless of whether more evidence is needed to tell a whole story, having police on the scene as a reliable witness is essential to investigating your case. Knowing which direction a driver was coming from in a car accident can help attorneys know which camera footage to request, for example. Should you end up embroiled in a heated lawsuit against an insurance company that refuses to take responsibility, any bit of information you have about your accident can provide an experienced and knowledgeable law firm the tools they need to dig into what really happened, who and how many people are responsible, and how to maximize your financial recovery.
Tip #3: Call a Lawyer
As a general rule, as soon as you have attended to any urgent needs you should always call a lawyer, even before calling your insurance company to report a car accident. Many people are embarrassed to call a lawyer, or they may not even know what information they could possibly have to provide so soon after an accident, but you have to trust that lawyers know what to ask you.
More importantly, you are probably not calling a lawyer right away because you are filing a lawsuit the day after your injury. You are calling a lawyer because you have a right to protect yourself from predatory insurance adjusters. A lawyer can provide you some specific information about how to navigate your next steps in a way that best protects your rights.
Your first phone call with a lawyer who is interested in advocating for you will mainly be educational — an opportunity for you to understand what options are available to you, what your insurance policy means for your accident, what unique workers’ comp or OSHA regulations might be significant to understand — and to prepare you for the tactics that are inevitably going to come from the insurance company.
Tip #4: Document Everything
Seriously, everything. Aside from a narrative of the accident itself, make sure to document any and every cost, communication, or detail related to your case. That means that you should be
- Taking photographs of your injuries day after day
- Keeping every receipt related to your care or the care of a deceased loved one’s family or estate
- Making note of every phone call, visit, or email with insurance companies, doctors, auto shops, or anyone else you are dealing with
- Logging your symptoms, even if you’re not sure what they mean yet
When you are injured, you often need help caring for yourself or taking care of everyday responsibilities, and the costs can add up quickly. If you are using a grocery delivery service because you cannot get to the store, keep the receipts. If you are hiring people to clean your home or mow your lawn, keep receipts. If you have to hire someone to help you care for your children or even your own personal needs because of severe injury, you must definitely keep documentation of those costs. While most cases are not high value in the actual, concrete costs that are associated with injuries, the noneconomic value of your case is often based on what your life is like as a result of your injuries, which can be evidenced in this kind of documentation.
It is difficult to understand the scope of your injuries and their impact when you are experiencing them at the moment, but when you, your lawyer, or expert witnesses look back at your documentation, everything will come together in a clearer picture. If you end up needing to prove that your insurance company acted fraudulently, you won’t be able to do it without documentation of exactly what was communicated to you and when.
Tip #5: Don’t Admit Fault
It’s almost cliche, but it’s true. There is nothing insurance companies like more than to use victims’ own words against them. If you are in a car accident, you are going to be legally obligated to report your accident to your own insurance company, but you do not have to give a statement to the other parties’ company. If you have been injured in a workplace accident, you will be asked to provide a recorded statement to your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company, if they have coverage.
Insurance adjusters are often trained to ask questions in such a way that either makes you sound responsible for what happened or might even cause you to doubt yourself. It’s understandable that you will feel confused, uncertain, and possibly even guilty about what happened, especially if other people were injured. That does not make you undeserving of fair treatment, but it likely makes you a compassionate, empathetic person. Unfortunately, those positive character traits might be exploited as weaknesses if you end up speaking to an unscrupulous insurance company agent.
Tip #6: Always Be Honest
Not admitting fault, even if you think it may be your fault, is not the same as hiding facts or covering up your actions or those of others. Remember that you are only one piece of the investigation that will take place, and while different people experienced different versions of the same event, it will be clear if you are attempting to shift blame onto or away from yourself or someone else.
Part of speaking with a lawyer before giving statements to insurance companies is to help you feel better about being up-front about what happened. Even if your actions did, in some way, contribute to your injury, that does not mean that you are ineligible for financial recovery. In fact. Texas law even accounts for the fact that situations, including ones in which people are injured, are complex. Texas is what’s known as a comparative negligence state, which means that more than one party can be found responsible for what happened to you, including yourself. As long as you are not more than 51 percent responsible for your injury, you still can file a claim against another party in a lawsuit, especially if your accident exceeds your insurance policy limits.
How Can FVF Help?
When you call FVF, the first thing we will do is make sure that you are aware of your options and next steps, including how to get medical care and protect yourself from insurance companies or other parties that may try to exploit your vulnerability. Regardless of whether we represent you in a lawsuit against an insurance company or another organization, it’s our goal that you will walk away from your initial conversation with us equipped with the information you’ll need to make decisions about what is best for you.
Speaking with a lawyer early on can help you understand how to navigate the process of seeking medical care, negotiating with insurance, and, if needed, filing a lawsuit. Even if you have already settled your case with your insurance company, but you have concerns about whether or not all parties responsible were held accountable or whether the insurance company may have even been dishonest with you, it may be worth a call to FVF.
FVF wants all victims of accidents to feel as though they are being taken seriously when they seek legal help. This means providing you with the knowledge you need. Contact FVF today for a free, no-pressure consultation.