An accident—anything from falling off a ladder, tripping on a staircase, being burned by a defective product or being hit by a car—can change your life. If you’ve suffered a serious personal injury, you know this all too well. If the accident wasn’t your fault, you need to determine who was responsible.
Even if you were partly to blame, you’re entitled to financial compensation from any person whose share of fault was greater than yours. That person’s car, homeowner’s, or business liability insurance company should pay you. If you have un- or underinsured motorist coverage, you may be entitled to compensation for vehicle-related injuries from your own insurer.
Certain mistakes in handling your personal injury claim or lawsuit may limit what you can recover. Other errors may induce an insurance company to deny your claim, or lead a judge to dismiss your lawsuit. Mistakes that seem minor at first can have a major impact later.
At Slater & Zurz, we’ve been successfully handling personal injury cases for over 30 years. We know the most frequent mistakes that both clients and attorneys make in handling personal injury claims—and knowing what to look out for is half the battle. We’re here to protect your interests, from start to finish. If you’ve been injured, call or email us to schedule a free consultation. We’ll review your case, answer your questions, and recommend the best way forward for you.
1. Don’t delay or neglect to seek medical treatment.
A common mistake personal injury victims make is neglecting to see a doctor as soon as possible. Any injury that may impact your life should be promptly treated so that you can recover from that injury as fully and quickly as possible. In addition, if you intend to seek compensation for your injuries, you need proof. An insurance company may challenge your claim if there’s no evidence of injury or any effort on your part to get it checked out and treated by a doctor.
2. Don’t fail to gather available information if possible, or to identify the sources who can provide additional details.
If your personal injuries were the result of a car crash, try to collect as much evidence at the scene as you can. Use your phone to take photos of all vehicles involved from every angle—including the license plate numbers as well as dents, scrapes, and other physical damage. If possible, take pictures of the road, including signs; any vegetation, posts, or structures blocking the view of any signs; barriers; ditches; potholes; uneven pavement; and skid marks.
The name, address, phone number, and insurance information of the at-fault driver are essential, as is the location of the accident. If law enforcement officers are called, they will include that information in their report. If possible, get names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses.
If your injuries were caused by slipping and falling on someone else’s property, try to identify the owner of the property and any witnesses who saw you fall or were familiar with the property. Take photos of the area where you fell. If you were hurt by a defective product, identify the manufacturer, the owner, and any witnesses to the incident. Again, take photos of the product, particularly if the defect is visible.
Assuming that you see a doctor, make a note of the doctor’s name, address, and phone number. If you are treated at an urgent care facility or an emergency room, the name and location of the facility (which will have records of your visit) are important.
Your attorney can contact any witnesses, as well as the at-fault driver, the property owner, or the product’s manufacturer. Your attorney can obtain all relevant records and reports that doctors, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies may have.
3. Don’t delay: hire an attorney early in the process!
Another mistake many people make is not hiring a personal injury attorney as soon as they realize that they have a personal injury claim—i.e., that they have sustained significant injuries, caused largely if not entirely by someone else, for which they should be compensated. These injuries include those that will impact their lives, for which they need financial assistance to cover present and future medical treatment and rehabilitation; compensation for lost wages; reimbursement for other costs such as personal care and child care; and compensation for the pain and suffering they endured during and after the accident.
A personal injury lawyer can ensure that all necessary evidence is gathered and evaluated, negotiate with insurance companies and attorneys representing those responsible for your injuries, and establish a solid foundation upon which to build a successful lawsuit if those responsible refuse to pay. Without a strong foundation, a claim for justly deserved financial compensation can falter or even fail.
- If hired early on, a personal injury lawyer can arrange to have your vehicle and/or the other driver’s vehicle inspected before any evidence in or on the vehicle is destroyed.
There’s a chance that one vehicle—even yours—had a defect for which the manufacturer may be responsible.
- An attorney can hire an expert to inspect and analyze the defective product, and can discover any history of similar incidents involving the same or similar products marketed by the same company.
- An attorney can arrange for an expert to examine any defects in or near the property or roadway that may have contributed to your fall or car accident—before those conditions are repaired and the evidence of those defects is destroyed.
- An attorney can arrange for an independent expert to assess your medical condition while the evidence is fresh and untainted by any subsequent mishaps that you may experience.
- An attorney can hire an expert to project your probable lost earnings if your injuries will impair your ability to work in the future.
An attorney who has gathered all the essential evidence when it was fresh can negotiate from a position of strength with insurance adjusters who are skilled at lowballing unsuspecting victims, and who have a standard litany of “defenses” to rely on. However, if critical evidence is lost, even the most skilled attorney may have difficulty building a winnable claim.
At Slater & Zurz, we’re dedicated to helping our personal injury clients obtain the compensation they need and deserve. We start at square one and fight to the finish, conducting the necessary investigations, engaging the services of experts who can make or break a personal injury case, negotiating with insurance companies for appropriate compensation, and when necessary, taking the case we’ve built to trial. Call or email us to set up a free consultation. We’ll listen to you, assess your claim, and recommend a course of action to maximize your recovery. If we take your case, you won’t owe us anything unless we obtain a favorable settlement for you or win your case at trial.
4. Don’t sabotage your own claim: watch what you sign and whom you speak to.
Aside from exchanging information with the other driver and providing your license and insurance information to law enforcement officers, don’t talk to anyone but your attorney about your personal injury case. Even if you believe that you may be partly responsible for an accident, don’t admit any degree of fault to anyone, at the accident scene or afterward. Your personal injury lawyer can share that information at the proper time, if and when necessary.
At Slater & Zurz, we cannot emphasize this enough. Speaking at an accident scene, other than providing the required information to law enforcement and other drivers is ill-advised. Don’t agree with the other driver that he or she couldn’t have done anything to avoid the accident. Be polite, don’t fight, but don’t concede that the other driver is right.
The same is true if your injuries arose from a fall or a defective product that malfunctioned. Don’t admit that you may not have been looking down when you tripped, or that you might not have used the defective product precisely as indicated in a 30-page user manual. See an attorney first!
Don’t give a statement to an insurance company or sign any release or authorization to obtain medical records or other information about you without first obtaining advice from an attorney. If you are offered any type of settlement, don’t accept it without first consulting an attorney.
5. Don’t conceal any facts concerning the incident or any past injuries from your attorney.
Some people have a tendency to exaggerate a story. If you are one of them, don’t embellish the facts of the event that caused your injuries. At the same time, don’t withhold pertinent information from your attorney.
Your attorney needs to know the truth. It is the attorney’s job to present the facts as strongly as possible in your favor—not to misrepresent what happened or how it affected you. Your attorney is on your side, and you need to be honest so that he or she can present your case in the best possible light without damaging your or your attorney’s credibility.
6. Don’t undermine your case or yourself on social media.
Most people love to talk even if the subject matter is not positive. If you’re considering filing a personal injury claim, it’s essential that you resist talking with anyone other than your attorney about your case. Posts and photos about the incident published on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are not a good idea. Ask friends and relatives not to post any information about your accident, your injuries, or any questionable social behavior suggesting that you’re untrustworthy or irresponsible.
Social media can be a gold mine for insurance adjusters, anyone responsible for your injuries, and others looking for information that can be used against you. Don’t compromise your personal injury case by misusing social media.
7. Don’t accept the first settlement offer.
If you have a good case, you may get a settlement offer from the person responsible for your injuries, from his or her attorney, or most likely from his or her insurance company. If the person who caused your injuries is an un- or underinsured driver, you may also receive an offer from your own insurance company.
Although you may want to “get things over with,” resist the urge to accept the first offer and go home. The insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little as possible—not what will fairly compensate you for your losses. Before accepting any offer, consult an attorney who can evaluate the merits of your claim and the likely costs over your lifetime of the injuries you sustained. If the insurance agent needs an answer “right away,” before you can speak with an attorney, the answer should be a decisive “no.”
8. Don’t be afraid to go to court.
Another way to limit the amount of compensation that you receive in a personal injury case is to shy away from going to court. Share your concerns with your attorney. Simply filing a lawsuit alerts the person responsible for your injuries—and his or her insurance company—that you are serious. Filing a lawsuit opens the door to information that may not be publicly available, but which must be disclosed by the target of your lawsuit once a case has been filed in court. Filing a lawsuit need not result in a trial—most personal injury cases are settled before trial.
A good personal injury lawyer should have handled cases that were resolved by settlement, and cases that went to trial. Ask your attorney to explain why he or she believes the case should be tried rather than settled, or vice versa. Listen to your attorney’s advice. However, whether to go to trial will be your decision.
9. Don’t allow the filing deadline to pass before your personal injury claim is filed.
If you have an attorney, it’s his or her job to see that your case is filed on time. There is a two-year statute of limitations in Ohio, during which time most personal injury claims must be filed or forfeited. With some exceptions, the clock begins to run on the date of the injury. If you don’t have an attorney, it’s up to you to determine when your case must be filed, and make sure that it is filed by that date.
Trust an experienced, full-service law firm to handle your personal injury claim from start to finish.
Personal injury accidents can be minor, with quick recoveries after only days or weeks. However, personal injury accidents can be catastrophic, upending victims’ lives and disrupting long-term plans premised on the good health and success of every family member. At Slater & Zurz, we know how devastating it can be when a loved one suffers severe or permanent injuries. Whether the injured victim is the family breadwinner or a child whose potential has been cut short, the tragedy may affect the entire family for decades.
When the victim’s injuries are life-altering, it’s important to reach out as soon as possible to a full-service law firm with a proven track record of success in handling personal injury cases. For every day that goes by, critical evidence can be lost without the steady guidance of an attorney who knows what needs to be done and can “hit the ground running.”
If you’ve suffered personal injuries, contact our team to schedule a free consultation. We’ll evaluate your claim, answer all your questions, and let you know what we believe is your best path forward. If we take your case, we’ll handle everything free of charge unless and until we win for you.