The following is a list of the 10 most common mistakes that we have seen over the years that insurance companies will take advantage of. All of them are simple to avoid, will help you have a full and speedy recovery and will protect your claim.
1. Settling your personal injury case before you’re done treating from your car accident
Too often we’ve seen people settle their claim within a week or two of being injured for $500, $1000 or $1500. It sounds like a lot of money at the time, but if it takes you 5 or 6 months, or longer to recover, you will quickly realize you should’ve waited before settling. While most people make a full and speedy recovery, you want to protect yourself in case that is not what happens — or if it takes longer than you thought to recover.
The insurance company counts on you not knowing the risks you’re taking settling too soon. There is no need to prioritize money before your health.
Until your medical provider releases you from their care, do not settle your claim- no matter how tempted you are.
2. Delaying seeing a medical provider immediately following a car accident
Putting off getting medical treatment can cause several problems. First, it will delay you from having a full recovery — or worse, it will prevent you from having a full recovery. Second, if you wait too long, the insurance company will say that if you were really hurt you would have immediately been treated, or perhaps another event happened that caused you to be injured.
Get the medical treatment you need without delay. When you take care of yourself, you are also taking care of your personal injury claim.
3. Not following your medical provider’s advice after a car accident
To ensure you have a quick and full recovery, it’s important to follow your provider’s advice — whether it be how often to see them, following through with any referrals or doing your daily stretches and exercises.
When patients fail to follow through with their provider’s advice, it will be written in your medical record — your chart notes. This creates two problems. First, it’s not helping you get better. Second, the insurance companies will say that your recovery either took too long or you didn’t have a full recovery because you didn’t follow your provider’s advice.
The last thing you want to do is to give the insurance company ammunition to say you were the cause of a prolonged recovery, or that not having a full recovery was your fault. If there is anything in the chart notes that they can use against you — they will.
4. Providing a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company without first speaking with an attorney
We’ve seen all too often that a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company is used against our clients. When the other person’s insurance company asks for a recorded statement, it is about more than setting up your claim. The adjuster is looking for any information you may give them, or forget to tell them, that they can use against you — especially about your injuries and similar prior complaints.
It may feel like you’re being unreasonable for not wanting to give a recorded statement — it’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong with protecting yourself.
You can simply say “Let’s set a time for me to give a statement the day after tomorrow.” In the meantime, talk to an attorney. They will give you advice on ground rules to follow when giving a recorded statement. An attorney who specializes in personal injury cases can also let you know if there are problem areas that need to be looked into more closely.
You’re not being uncooperative — which is what an insurance company may tell you. You’re simply making sure you’re not being taken advantage of.
If you do give a recorded statement, before talking to an attorney, limit it to how the collision happened — not your injuries.
5. Signing a medical authorization release for the other driver’s insurance company
It’s not unusual for the at-fault insurance company’s adjuster to ask you to give them permission to get your medical record soon after the accident. You do not want to sign a medical record authorization or medical release from the other person’s insurance company until you’re done treating.
When the adjuster requests your medical records before you’re done treating, they’re not using them to evaluate your claim. They use the information against you by calling your PIP adjuster and telling them that based on your medical records, they’re not going to reimburse your PIP for any medical treatment they pay. That causes your PIP carrier to stop paying your medical treatment.
When you tell the adjuster that you want to wait to sign the medical release, the will often say that they need the information to evaluate your claim. While it is true, they don’t need your medical records until you’re done treating. Simply tell them you will sign the form when your medical providers say you’re ‘medically stationary.’
You’re not being uncooperative by waiting to sign a medical record release. You are protecting yourself by waiting until you’re done treating.
6. Not telling your medical providers about any previous similar medical problems or issues prior to your car accident
It’s critical to let your medical providers know about any similar injuries, collisions or treatment you’ve had in the past — even if you made a full recovery.
An accurate medical history can become a surprisingly important factor in your personal injury claim. The more information your provider has, the better they can treat you and help you should the insurance company challenge your medical treatment.
Take the time to think over whether you treated in the past with a chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist or physical therapist. Have you had any past collisions or on-the-job injuries? Ask a close friend or family member if they remember something that you don’t. It will help your provider, and you.
7. Posting information about your car accident on social media
Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media, insurance companies will go snooping around to find anything you’ve said or pictures you’ve posted, and use them against you.
If you have a Facebook account, put your account settings to private, that way the insurance company will have a harder time seeing your information.
There is nothing wrong with making a general statement that you were in a collision and injured. You want to avoid making specific statements about how the collision happened or any information about your injuries and treatment. It is easy for the insurance company to take what you say out of context and use it against you. If you want to communicate specific information, call your friends or family members and tell them personally.
Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, and not inadvertently helping the insurance company, by limiting what you post on any social media account.
8. Losing track of the other drivers' contact information and photos from the car accident
It’s all too easy to lose the other driver’s information and photos of the scene and of the cars involved in the accident. This can often be critical information. If it’s stored on your phone, make sure you have a back up somewhere. If you lose or break your phone, you will have lost important information. We’ve seen this happen too often.
If you don’t back up your phone, put the information in a safe place in case you need it. You never know when that information will make all the difference.
9. Not having a medical provider coordinating your treatment following a car accident
Chiropractors, Naturopaths, Acupuncturist, Massage Therapist and Physical Therapist all provide tremendous help in your recovery, provided one of them is overseeing your treatment.
While $15,000 of PIP benefits to pay for your medical treatment sounds like a lot of money, it can be surprising how quickly it can be spent. You don’t want to run out of PIP money before your treatment is done. This can happen when there is not one provider coordinating your care.
If your providers are in the same office, there is nothing to worry about. If they are in different offices and don’t work together as a team, that can cause problems that you don’t want. Make sure you have one provider coordinating your care.
10. Not talking with an attorney before settling your personal injury case
Many injured people we talk to do not need an attorney to represent them. While it doesn’t always make financial sense to hire an attorney, it makes good sense to talk to an attorney before negotiating with the insurance company.
If you’re going to settle your claim on your own, make sure you have the information you need to really advocate for yourself. There are a lot of ways you can short change settling on your own. The insurance company counts on it. Remember, the adjuster is a professional negotiator, they negotiate for a living.
By talking to a personal injury attorney, before you start settling, you will understand what insurance companies do and what you can do to make sure you’re on equal footing when negotiating your own claim.
We will always give you free advice about how to negotiate with the insurance company.