COMMON MISTAKES MADE AFTER VIRGINIA CAR ACCIDENTS
If you have been involved in a car accident, and been hurt, many people recognize that they can file a claim for their injuries. However, this can be a very complicated process, with a lot of pitfalls. It is important to talk to an attorney who will guide you around the mistakes that many clients have made.
Some of these mistakes are innocent, and some are actually encouraged by insurance companies. But you have to remember that insurance companies have a vested interest in paying you as little money as possible!
Talking to Car Insurance Companies
The most common mistake that we find with clients who come into our office is that they have already spoken to an insurance company. Worse than that, they will have submitted documents and even signed authorizations for the insurance company to use!
Just like in a criminal trial, anything you say can and will be used against you. Though in this case, it is the insurance company who will use your statements against you. Anything that you say which they can use to argue that you were in any way at fault for the accident, they will. Virginia, just like Maryland and DC, is a contributory negligence jurisdiction. The insurance company only needs enough information to be able to suggest that you were 1% responsible for the accident. If they can make that argument, then it is a bar to being successful on your claim.
Secondary to this, a lot of clients will begin to sign documents that the insurance companies send them. The most common document is a release of information for medical records, called a HIPAA waiver. The insurance companies will very happily obtain your medical records for your treatment, and also for parts of your medical history (from the before the accident). They will utilize this to muddy up the waters, and to suggest that injuries that you sustained in the accident, were actually caused before the accident, or are otherwise unrelated to the crash.
You should never ever ever speak to an insurance company without speaking to an attorney first. The insurance companies are banking on the fact that over 70% of people who are hurt in car accidents will never speak to an attorney.
Not Getting a Police Report or Calling the Police
A lot of police departments in the DC Metropolitan Area will not come out to fender benders, or accidents that they classify as "minor." This does not mean that you have not been hurt, and you do not have a claim. This is simply their way of reducing demand on their finite resources. This reality has led many people to forget about calling the police at an accident. This is a mistake!
If you are involved in a car crash, even in a jurisdiction where the police say they won't come out, you should still call them! You are doing this to create a record. Your telephone call is a record that the crash happened, and it happened at a specific time, and at a specific location. This removes any ambiguity or questions that might be had later on.
Every time you document something, you are creating evidence. Evidence is what a good car accident lawyer needs to prove your case either to an insurance company, or in a court of law.
Not Going to the Doctor
We see with alarming frequency that clients will be hurt, but they will not seek medical treatment. If you have been involved in a car accident, then you need to go see a doctor! Getting evaluated by a competent medical doctor is not merely for your case, it is to ensure that you do not have any injuries that you don't know about! Going to an attorney is not enough. We, as legal professionals, cannot take a look at you in our office, and tell you what is medically wrong with you, That is outside our license! But a medical doctor can give you a comprehensive evaluation and help get you to the treatment that you need so that you can get better.
Whenever you wait to go to the doctor, you are creating a gap in care. These words are very important, as it is a phrase that all of the insurance companies will use to try to minimize your case. For example, if you do not go to an urgent care clinic for 2 weeks after having been in a car accident, you give the insurance company the ability to argue that whatever pain that you're having was not caused by the accident, but was caused by some intervening incident.
Not Complying With the Doctor's Treatment Plan
Some clients who do go to see a physician, and then get referred to say, a chiropractor or for physical therapy, will sometimes fail to adequately participate in their own treatment. Almost all physical therapists and chiropractors will prescribe a home exercise regimen, for example. Some clients will ignore this, and not stretch or do whatever exercises the doctors recommend. Here again, the insurance companies can use this documented non-compliance against you, to argue that you are not really hurt!
This is also true with medication. Some clients will be prescribed painkillers, or muscle relaxers, or other medications. It is important to get these prescriptions filled. Failing to get the prescription filled gives the insurance company the ability to argue that if you were really hurt, you would have gotten the medication!
Waiting to Talk to a Lawyer
We understand that many people do not want to speak to an attorney, because they think that they will walk away with more money in their pocket if they try to handle the case themselves. The insurance companies know this logic too, and they are hoping that you continue to think this way. Insurance companies know that over 70% of people who are involved in car accidents will not speak to an attorney. However, the insurance companies also know that when someone is represented by an attorney, the value of that case increases by 300% to 400%, on average. The reason for this is because a dedicated and experienced car accident lawyer knows what to claim, and knows what information the insurance companies are not entitled to.
If you have been involved in a car accident that is not your fault, you need to speak to an attorney right away. Put our team to work for you, to fight against all of the tricks that the insurance companies will use against you. Call Blaszkow Legal, PLLC at 703-879-5910