Most insurance companies try to pay as little money as possible to settle a claim to the injured person. Insurance companies are notorious for their “low ball” offers, which often fall far short of what a survivor needs to cover current and future losses. Many people are intimidated by insurance companies and don’t realize that they don’t have to settle for the initial offer.
In our continuing series on What Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know, we bring you 5 Steps to a Stronger Injury Case.
- Insurance companies share information on every claim. Insurance companies track all claims against any insurance company. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, no matter what insurance company dealt with it, how old it is, or even if it was paid, the condition will be revealed. To help your case, let your attorneys know about any injuries, addictions, or medical problems before and after your accident. Good cases are lost because the insurance company argues that the problems were caused by an earlier or later injury or medical condition.
- Keep your own records for all medical, out-of-pocket expenses and lost income.Medical and other expenses are an important part of a personal injury case, so good records of these expenses must be kept.Many people won’t ask for their medical records. They are your records about your condition—not the doctors’. Get copies of all medical records including all prescriptions and medicines taken and the bills or receipts for them. It is sometimes helpful to save bottles or containers of medicine.
Retain all bills which relate to your claim, including medical expenses, hospital expenses, drugs and medicines, therapy, appliances, home health care or aides, and anything else needed in your recovery. If possible, pay bills by check or credit card, so that a complete record may be kept. If this is not possible, be certain to obtain a complete receipt with the bill heading on it, to indicate where the receipt came from and the party issuing it.
Keep a complete record of all lost wages. It is often helpful to obtain a statement from the employer outlining the time lost, the rate of pay, the hours worked per week, the average weekly income and any losses suffered as a result of the incident. Where possible, also obtain other types of evidence such as ledger sheets, copies of time cards, canceled checks, check stubs, vouchers, or pay slips.
- Take notes. Lots of them. Subject to your attorney’s approval, keep a daily record of experiences—both physical and emotional—after the incident, even if they seem mundane and ordinary. Describe what you do when you get up in the morning, what type of work and effort do you put into your job and what non-work activities you do during any part of the day–exercise, reading, movies, etc. Then describe the changes in work life, your play life, and life as a family member. This will help to show how life has changed as a result of the incident.Include notes on medical treatments, therapy, appliances, hospitalization, change of doctors, change of medications, symptoms, recurrence, setbacks, disabilities, and inconveniences.
- Don’t talk. Don’t sign. You should not discuss your case with anyone—and that includes employers, coworkers, distant relatives, neighbors, the individual or company at fault, and even friends. And definitely not the other party’s attorneys or insurance company. Conversations may be recorded and used against you. It’s best to talk only with your attorney.Do not sign any documents without your attorney’s consent. If you get any letters from anyone in connection with your case, mail or fax them to your attorney immediately. Keep a copy.
Before making a report to your own insurance company, consult with your attorney to familiarize yourself with what type of coverage is found in your policy. This can be coverage concerning liability, medical payments, property damage, uninsured or underinsured drivers, or any other claims under your policy.
Remember at all times that you may be under surveillance and subject to being photographed or filmed by the adverse party.
- Don’t throw any evidence away. It might be important.Be certain to keep anything that might be used as evidence in your case, such as shoes, clothing, glasses, photographs, defective machinery, defective parts, or foreign substances which may have been a factor in the incident that caused your injury.Take photographs of all motor vehicles, machinery, appliances, etc., that may be connected—directly or indirectly—with your accident.
For more tips, download What Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know.