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Top 7 mistakes that can hurt a car accident lawsuit

June 13, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

Advice to avoid common traps that can stop adjusters and defense lawyers from hurting your case – or even getting your car accident lawsuit thrown out of court!

Mistakes that can hurt a car accident lawsuit

Sadly, insurance company adjusters and defense lawyers are constantly searching for — and ready to pounce on — certain common mistakes that many unsuspecting and well-intentioned car crash victims make.

Call it the defense playbook. Call it the three Ds (Delay, Deny, Defend) that insurance companies use. Call it a cynical part of the civil justice system so that the defense can claim a “discount” and pay less to settle a car crash claim.

Whatever you call it, it’s become a part of the process of how these claims are investigated and defended in Michigan and the rest of the country.

Why? Because it is saving the insurance industry a huge amount of money in claims. These insurance-company saboteurs are looking for any opportunity to torpedo a car accident lawsuit so they don’t have to pay a full and fair settlement as they otherwise would.

It’s crucial that motor vehicle accident victims and the personal injury lawyers who handle these cases do everything they can to protect the client.

Inspired by my compilation of the “18 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Lawsuit,” I’ve decided to dig a little deeper today. Here are my Top 7 mistakes that can hurt — and, quite possibly, wreck — a car accident lawsuit:

Signing your legal rights away – including your future right to file a car accident lawsuit!

Do NOT sign anything until you check with the injury lawyer who’s helping you with your car accident lawsuit. I am seeing insurance companies putting “full and final” release language of “any and all claims, known and unknown” in completely separate releases. For example, I’ve seen insurance companies try to put this language in a Mini-Tort release. Signing anything that potentially results in a car crash victim waiving — or losing — future injury claims is potentially game over for any right to future pain and suffering compensation from a car crash.

I also would not allow the insurance company of the wrongdoer driver — or the third-party adjusting service that is contacting you after your car wreck — to have access to your medical records and cellphone records (they ran into you, after all).

Talking about your case

Insurance adjusters, defense lawyers, and third-party so-called “risk managers” may try one day to contact you. My advice — do NOT talk about your case with ANYONE hired by the at-fault driver or insurance company. In fact, generally good advice is DO NOT talk about your case with anyone but your own auto accident attorney. If an adjuster wants to ask you questions about your case, instruct her to call your lawyer.

You have to tell your doctors about all of your pre-existing injuries and medical conditions — whether you think they’re related or not

When you’re treating with your doctors and specialists and they inquire about your past medical history, you really have to share your whole story, including all of your pre-existing injuries and medical conditions — whether you think they’re a big deal or not.

This is what I tell my own clients: Pre-existing medical conditions will not kill your car accident lawsuit. Everyone has them. But failing to tell your doctors about the pre-existing medical conditions — and/or lying about not having them — will.

Look, I’ve been litigating and taking to trial car accident lawsuits for 23 years. I’ll share with you something I’ve learned: jurors tend to help people they like, and they tend to hurt people they don’t like. I can guarantee you that with computers and Social Security numbers and insurance company databases and investigators, if you have had a prior injury or lawsuit, the defense will find it. Admitting it upfront, so your car accident lawyer and treating doctors can distinguish and differentiate between your old injury and your new one, is the difference between getting a great injury settlement or trial verdict and getting nothing — because the defense will accuse you of lying and hiding anything that is not disclosed.

Jurors need to trust you to like you and want to help you through their verdict.

Insurance adjusters are people, too. You’re far more likely to get an insurance company claims adjuster to sign off on a big settlement for your car accident lawsuit if they think you’re a nice person — or that a jury one day will think you’re a nice and likeable plaintiff.

Digging for things that can hurt your car accident lawsuit on Facebook, Twitter, and social media

This is now part of the playbook. Defense attorneys and insurance adjusters will investigate your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and related social media accounts — even when they’re set as “private.” They will look for things that can help them. I had one client who lost a husband in a truck accident lawsuit who was posting pictures of her going out at night with friends and drinking in bars. The purpose of all of this is to attempt to show that you are more active, or not as injured as you claim. I’ve seen innocent postings — such as old photos from before a car wreck — being used by defense lawyers as “proof” that they occurred after the wreck.

At one legal seminar I attended, I heard a defense attorney refer to social media and Facebook as “24-hour surveillance of the plaintiff.” It’s true.

Be very careful about postings and photos of your activities. Avoid posting new items. You cannot delete your account — both you and your injury attorney can be severely sanctioned for doing this by a court — but you can choose not to use it during your lawsuit.

Missing medical appointments

Do not miss your doctor’s appointments. First, you need this for your care, recovery or rehabilitation. Second, by not going to the doctor and by missing appointments, you are giving adjusters and defense a “reason” to argue this is a sign that you are not as hurt as you claim you are. If you don’t take your own case and medical recovery seriously, why should a jury one day care?

Listen to your doctors, and follow their advice. It’s very important for you to show that you’re working hard to recover and get better. Keeping your doctor appointments is an important part of that.

Forgetting to document your injuries with pictures

Anytime you have a surgery or a visible injury, take pictures or have someone take pictures for you. Videos are also great tools to show a jury or an insurance company adjuster just how difficult things have been for you in the days and weeks following your car accident. Your car accident attorney can hire a videographer to come to your house and do a “day in the life” video to show what you were going through.

There are many injuries that are devastating and disabling, but after some months go by the injured person goes on to make a full recovery. Vertebral fractures are a good example of this. So is bruising on the spinal cord. Both can leave a person incapacitated for months, but by the time the case comes to court or is set for deposition, the injured person looks great.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A video can be priceless. Don’t let a defense lawyer or claims adjuster minimize an injury and what you went through for months so they can receive a big discount on car accident injury settlement amounts because months down the road you went on to make a great medical recovery.

Failing to maintain good, consistent communication with your auto accident attorney

A good lawyer can handle nearly anything. That is, as long as he know about it.

The best way to avoid mistakes that can cost you in a car accident lawsuit is to maintain excellent communication with your injury lawyer. There are so many things that can wreak havoc on a car accident lawsuit, and even when people are trying to be truthful, honest and do the right thing mistakes can be made. Often, just talking on the phone with your attorney can identify these potential red flags and potential pitfalls so they can be nipped in the bud.

The best advice remains the simplest: Call your lawyer if you have a question. Communicate on a regular basis. Every time you talk, it is an opportunity to find red flags and holes before they can harm the true value of your case.

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