There are 5 big mistakes that will tank your personal injury case. Don’t fall into these traps!
1) Believing that the third party adjuster (negligent driver’s insurance) is the final arbiter of whether you “have a case” is a big mistake.
We have had clients in the past get into an accident but, due to various challenges, were not able to immediately seek medical treatment or reply to their own insurance company. Whether it was due to a funeral or a new job, they didn’t respond to any adjusters. While you have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance (with some limitations), you are not required to respond to all of those “nasty grams” and phone calls that come after you blow off the third party adjuster. Before hiring us, some clients would get notices that their “claim would be closed” due to no response. That was really confusing to the client. They thought that meant they couldn’t’ have a case against the negligent driver. Practically speaking, it means nothing. The only big issue to be aware of is your statute of limitations regarding your case (this is the time limit you have to file a lawsuit after an injury). You or your attorney can always contact the 3rd party insurance when you are ready. Your attorney will be watching for the 3 year statute of limitations (in Washington) regarding your personal injury claim.
2) Believing a third party adjuster about liability is a big mistake.
Occasionally, right out of the gate, the 3rd party adjuster will tell you that they don’t believe it was 100% their insured’s fault. The adjuster will assert that you are partially at fault (even when the police report says otherwise). What the adjuster says is not gospel. They do that all the time. It is an attempt to reduce what they are on the hook for. Disputing liability is one of many ways that less than stellar insurance companies will dispute paying a claim. Sometimes, you just have to file a lawsuit to move past this. If you are handling your own case, this might be a time when you really need to consult an attorney.
3) It is a big mistake to believe a negligent driver when they tell you that they don’t have insurance.
We’ve seen more and more of this. The at fault driver will say he or she has no insurance. If you are handling the case on your own, you might assume you’re out of luck. Hopefully, you have PIP or UIM but you might be tempted to drop it. On more than half of those cases, we found out there WAS insurance and occasionally there is more than one policy at play. On several occasions, the driver was “on the job” so the employer’s policy is involved.
4) Not seeking treatment right away or a gap in treatment are both big mistakes for personal injury cases.
Think about it from the insurance company’s perspective. If you were truly injured, you’d get help. So, while life is busy, don’t neglect your care. Many months down the road, gaps in treatment will really hurt your effort to negotiate a fair settlement.
5) Failing to take pictures of your car, motorcycle or bike is a BIG mistake.
Frequently, when a car or motorcycle is totaled, it will be taken away and your chance to photograph the damage is gone. Don’t let that happen to you! When we are in dispute with an adjuster regarding injuries and we can offer pictures of a car that is smashed beyond recognition, it’s a big help! It also makes it clear that, if those pictures are presented to a jury, denying a victim’s injuries looks like a bad faith move. So, as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words or, in a personal injury case, a much better settlement!
Witt Law Group PS is a personal injury and criminal defense law firm with locations in Gig Harbor and Bremerton Washington. Thanks for reading.