As a personal injury attorney in Florida, it is always sad to me when I hear that someone has settled a personal injury claim only to find out they have been cheated out of what was rightfully theirs. The monetary losses can be severe enough, but people often find themselves with a chronic injury or condition that will forever reduce their quality of life and earning potential with no recourse open to them.
Knowledge being the best armor, I would like to offer you this list of five common mistakes I have seen people repeatedly make when they have a personal injury claim.
1. Believing the Insurance Company
Whether you are talking to your agent, an insurance adjuster or a lawyer employed by the insurance company, you must be aware they do not have your best interests at heart. Their concern is one thing and one thing only: getting rid of your claim as cheaply as possible. Even if you are dealing with your own insurance company, as in an uninsured motorist claim, the company’s focus will always be on its own bottom line, not your condition or rights.
Never forget, insurance companies are in business to make money, not take care of people. They will make you as low an offer as they believe you will accept and use every device they legally can to make you accept it. They may not actually lie, but that doesn’t mean they won’t misrepresent the truth. Always seek the advice of a qualified personal injury attorney before accepting anything someone from the insurance company tells you.
2. Accepting a Denial of Claim/Dropping a Case
One of an insurance company’s favorite ploys is to try to convince you that you don’t really have a claim. They may tell you that your medical insurance will cover you so they don’t have to or that their client isn’t responsible. Don’t believe them.
Even in cases where you have a preexisting medical condition, they are still liable for any damages or injuries you incur. Again, consult a lawyer before you accept any claims from the insurance company or sign any paperwork.
3. Not Looking for Additional Insurance Coverage
Many times, there is much more money available to pay a claim than people realize. Some companies offer supplemental insurance to their employees, your own insurance may have special riders attached to it and, depending on the specific case, there may be bonding issues that come into play. The point is, if you don’t look or know where to look, you could leave money on the table that you will need down the road.
4. Filing Too Small an Insurance Claim
There are several factors that come into play when determining what a personal injury case may be worth. Many of them a person not well versed in law probably isn’t aware of, such as future income potential and loss of quality of life and affection issues.
Once you file a claim, the amount you demand essentially becomes the maximum your case is ever going to be worth. Even if you end up having to take your case to court, it is very difficult to ever receive more than the amount you initially asked for.
Be sure all possible avenues of recovery have been evaluated before filing any claims.
5. Not Finding Expert Witnesses Early Enough
People would be extremely surprised how often a personal injury case can turn on an expert’s testimony. Take a simple case like a slip and fall on a staircase. Were they built with a proper rise and tread measurement? Did they have a nonslip coating on them, or were they painted with a coating known to be too slick for that application? These are questions only an expert can answer, and trust me, the insurance company will be trying to correct any issues their experts see before yours can find them.
The short version of all of this is that the biggest mistake people make is trying to handle a personal injury claim on their own. If you have suffered an injury and believe it was due to someone else’s negligence, seek professional advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer as early in the process as possible.