Here are four ways to avoid damaging your personal injury case brought to you by the attorneys at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm.
1. Don’t Provide a Recorded Statement Without Counsel
We previously discussed the importance of minimizing gaps in treatment to avoid damaging your case. A lengthy delay in seeking medical care and/or sporadic treatment can lead to a significant decline in case value.
Often clients retain us after they have already provided a recorded statement of the accident to the insurance company and that’s okay. We should still be able to assist with the case. Sometimes accidents are straight forward – as in a rear-end collision. Sometimes an independent witness is available to provide an unbiased account. Sometimes you get a fair adjuster who asks fair questions. Here’s the thing – sometimes you don’t.
So here’s some straight talk: Insurance adjusters often try to deny as many claims as they can. After all, it saves their company money. They get a promotion and a raise. If you agree to a recorded statement, the odds are the adjuster will ask questions where they know your answer can be used against you later no matter what your response is. They will ask you questions in a suggestive manner and try to lead you somewhere you probably shouldn’t go. They might ask confusing questions and hope you slip-up trying to decipher and answer them. They’ll act like your friend – while simultaneously probing to find a way to suggest the wreck was your fault or that you were comparatively negligent. For all of these reasons you should make sure to have an attorney available to assist you.
How Can Mullen & Mullen’s Personal Injury Attorneys Assist You?
2. The Initial Medical Questions
In the immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle collision you are unlikely to know the full extent of your injuries. Your pain may wax and wane. What hurts the most on a particular day might change. Symptoms may worsen over time. You risk serious damage to your case if you attempt to discuss your injuries before you even understand what they are.
Our attorneys rarely allow adjusters to ask any questions whatsoever regarding the nature of injuries at the onset of a case. From time-to-time we allow adjusters to ask follow-up injury questions after a settlement demand has been submitted since – at that time – the client has usually concluded therapy and a has much better understanding of the nature of his or her injuries.
Why Does This Matter?
Say an adjuster asks you what parts of your body are hurting two days after an accident. You mention the giant bruise on your arm and some intense low back pain. You have some neck pain but it pales in comparison to the pain in your back – so you don’t bring it up. You also don’t mention the headaches you had been experiencing. Months later you’ve been diagnosed with a moderate concussion – explaining the headaches – and you’ve had to undergo a cervical epidural steroid injection because your pain level increased and therapy alone failed to provide adequate relief. Now the adjuster gets to suggest you’re exaggerating your injuries because – when he or she talked to you right after the accident – you didn’t mention anything about your neck or anything about headaches.
3. Discussing the Accident
It is important to keep things simple and to be prepared for the “trap” or “gotcha” questions. An attorney can prepare you to discuss the wreck in a straightforward manner and give you a heads-up on the questions that are likely to be asked.
The biggest “trap” questions often arise when the adjuster is looking for an angle to suggest you bear some responsibility for the loss. The adjuster can be staring at a police report that puts 100% fault on their insured and still be probing for a way to suggest your actions – or the lack thereof – caused the wreck.
This is often seen in intersection collision cases where a driver runs a red light. The adjuster might ask precisely how far you were into the intersection at the time of the impact. The adjuster is going to try and get you to agree that you had a clear line of sight. They’re likely to ask if you were required to make sure the intersection was clear before you entered it. See where this is going? You could have scanned the intersection. You could have waited two seconds to get moving. Maybe the other car was speeding, and you didn’t have enough time to react. Maybe your view was obstructed by a large SUV. An attorney can help prepare you for the tricks the adjuster is likely to use based on the specific facts of your case.
4. Do You Have Anything You Want to Add?”
This is a hidden “gotcha” question in that – if you aren’t careful – you can sink your case with loose words and stream of thought rants and raves. This is a question where they essentially hand you a rope in the hopes that you will hang yourself.
Getting in a car wreck is a traumatic experience. It can completely turn your life upside down. Emotion is certainly involved. An adjuster knows all of this. They ask that final question in hopes that you’ll just start volunteering information – “data” if you will – that they can later use against you. They want you to talk and talk. They want you to keep explaining. They’ll ask follow-up questions to follow-up questions based on what you * keep * saying. Sometimes less is more. A good attorney will help prepare you to address any critical issues during initial questioning. If properly prepared for a recorded statement you should be comfortable saying “No” to the question above.