Myth 1: All you have to do is write the insurance company a letter, and it will pay you three times (or five times or ten times) your medical bills.
Myth 2: You must sign a medical authorization, or the insurance company won’t be able to pay your claim.
Myth 3: You must give the insurance company a recorded statement, or it will “close” the claim.
Myth 4: The insurance company will pay your medical bills as they come due.
Myth 5: If your case goes to trial, a jury will know the insurance company is paying for all costs and any judgment.
Myth 6: You can trust your insurance company; it will treat you better than the other guy’s insurance company will.
Myth 7: You have plenty of coverage to pay for all your claims.
Myth 8: You can expect the same settlement your neighbor (relative, friend, coworker) received in his or her case.
Myth 9: The insurance company will give you enough money to pay your medical bills because your doctor said you were injured.
Myth 10: If your case goes to trial, the jury will know the other guy has car insurance coverage.
The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make with Your Tennessee Injury Case
Mistake 1: Not taking photos of the accident
You’ve just been in a wreck. You’re hurting, and your adrenaline is pumping. You may have injured family members. You’re dazed and confused. You may have lost consciousness.
What do you do?
Always follow common-sense safety rules. Get away from the danger to the best of your ability. If you are on the interstate with high-speed traffic, get to a safe place; protect yourself and your family.
If you aren’t disabled, do whatever you can to document the accident. Use your smartphone to take as many pictures as you can of the scene, the damage, everything.
I’m involved in more and more cases in which the insurance company conveniently “loses” pictures or says, “I’m sorry, the pictures were mistakenly deleted.” Call me cynical, but protect yourself. I offer here a checklist I urge you to put in your glove compartment along with your insurance card and vehicle registration information. It’s a good way to protect yourself at a time when you’ll be shaken up, and it’s good information to give to anyone you know who is a wreck.
- First, call 911 and get help. Unless you’re a hundred percent sure you’re not hurt, call the police and wait. If you leave the scene, you can count on a claims adjuster to say the damage was obviously minor so any injuries must have been minor (or fabricated) as well.
- Take pictures of all cars involved in the accident. Photos of the car that hit you are often the ones that end up “missing.” There may be little damage to your car’s rear end, but the other car could be disabled, leaking fluid, and have a bashed-in front and hood sticking up. The insurance company trick would be to show only the slight damage to your car’s rear section but not show the damage to their insured’s car.
Take wide-angle pictures from every angle. Take photos at waist height; that makes them more true to life. I’m no photo expert and can’t tell you why, but photos taken from that perspective work much better. (I learned that when I was a claims adjuster.)
- Note how far your car was pushed on impact. You might have been hit at fifteen or twenty miles per hour; your neck was relaxed, and you weren’t expecting it at all. In an instant, your 2,000-pound car was hit and pushed perhaps ten feet. You suffered whiplash, and it could end up being life-altering permanent damage. The insurance company’s trick here will be to show only the rear of your car and infer it was just a minor “tap.” Protect thyself; don’t let them get away with this false image.
- Photograph any skid marks; if there are no skid marks, take pictures of the road to show that. Here’s why. Defendants might say they slammed on their brakes and left skid marks to try to establish they did everything they could to avoid hitting you or to infer they slowed down so much that they were going very slowly at the time of impact. A lack of skid marks is evidence that they weren’t paying any attention and hit you at a higher rate of speed than they now claim.
Point out the skid marks to the police, but don’t rely on the police to document them. They will most likely not remember anything about your wreck later on because they handle so many wrecks.
- If you can, carefully observe the person who hit you. Note any erratic behavior. If he or she throws anything out of their car, find it and document it. Tell the police. If you spot any alcohol or drugs in his or her car, tell the police and take pictures or a video of it.
- Tell the police and emergency personnel about all your injuries and pains, head to toe. Don’t be Mr. Tough Guy. If you’re hurting, don’t try to be a hero; heroes get zeros. If you say you’re totally fine at the scene but you begin hurting later, your claim of injury will be diminished by the cynical adjuster who thinks you went home, sat on the couch, saw a sleazy lawyer ad, and were trying to get money for no reason. You don’t necessarily have to go to the ER, but at least make a note of any hurts or pains at the scene with the officer.
- If you go to the hospital, have someone take pictures of your bruises, cuts, whatever. You’re not trying to fabricate a claim; you’re merely documenting your harms and losses, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you end up in rehabilitation for your injuries, get that on video. One of the most powerful videos I’ve seen was that of a client learning to walk again after a severe brain injury.
The insurance company made up the rules. We are just going to beat them at their own game. You can’t go back six months later and recreate the scene. Take down the pictures and evidence now.
- Document what the other driver says to you. He or she should say “Sorry” and mean it. If not, document all he or she does. If the driver blamed you when you weren’t at fault, count that as a blessing; juries aren’t kind to people clearly at fault who refuse to accept personal responsibility.
- Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses. What appears to be a straightforward, clear wreck often gets twisted once insurance adjusters get involved. They’re trained to ask you trick questions to get you to say you were at fault or somewhat at fault. Presume nothing and cover your behind. Get all witness information.
- Options: Best Companies for Structured Settlement 2016. You don’t have to keep your structured settlement for the entire duration of your settlement agreement. Most people think you do. However, legislation was passed so you can sell your structured settlement from your accident for cash right now. Make sure to sell your structured settlement to one of the best companies for structured settlement in 2016.
Takeaway: When you’re involved in a wreck, document everything. If you aren’t sure about whether to document something, do so. You may not need it later, but you can’t always go back and recreate it.