I did not write this article to suggest that getting injured leads to a road laced with riches. Most of my clients tell me that they would give back every dime that we recovered for them if they could go back in time and avoid their injuries and the ordeal of their claims. Nevertheless, the practical reality is that when a person is injured due to the negligence of another, those injuries result in economic hardship and other negative long-term effects. In such cases, my law firm focuses our efforts to bring those victims fair compensation from insurance companies who represent the negligent folks who caused the injuries.
When injury claims are submitted to insurance companies, there comes a time when the quality of the claim and the person making the claim (often called the claimant) is scrutinized by the insurance company. Over the course of many years, I have found that there are three things that claimants do, or over-do, that are detrimental to their case during the insurance evaluation process or when the case is presented at a jury trial. Despite the repeated warning of attorneys, these detrimental actions, or "overs," by claimants ruin cases and manage to be the drumbeat most played by insurance companies to justify slashing settlement offers and the most worn-out pathway used by insurance attorney to achieve bad jury verdicts for claimants. Oftentimes, these big three "overs" destroy what often starts out as nearly indefensible great cases for crash victims and take on a life of their own like a flesh eating disease.
So, as a cautionary tale, if you ever find yourself holding nearly all of the cards in a claim against a negligent driver and an insurance company, please refrain from indulging in the three "overs."
1) OVER SHARING:
In the short time Facebook has existed, it has already been more responsible for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory for claimants than all of the combined efforts of nasty insurance adjusters, biased medical experts, and insurance video surveillance. Some self-destructive victims just cannot seem to say enough stupid and harmful things on their public Facebook page. Some people just cannot seem to comprehend that it is not just your friends reading your Facebook page—your enemies do too.
Once, one of our clients took photos outside our office and posted these photos on her social media page with a tagline saying "I love compensation." Frankly, who doesn't love compensation? However, bragging about the compensation you will or have received from an insurance company is something that should never be posted on your Facebook page. True, many people use Facebook and social media sites to document their lives. However, insurance company adjusters and insurance attorneys love to catch your over sharing, because it is often something they can use against you in your personal injury case.
Facebook is not the only avenue for modern over sharing as online blogging can also prove to be quite detrimental to your case. We once had a client who sold vitamin supplements and used an online blog to praise the health benefits of those vitamins. During his deposition, this client testified that the injuries he sustained in the car crash prevented him from working out at the gym. Unfortunately, the insurance attorney had recent blog posts from this client where he was discussed the tremendous strides he was making in his weightlifting goals thanks to his vitamin supplements. Fortunately, this client was able to explain away what on its face seemed contradictory. But, with a little forethought, he could have avoid the situation altogether.
Anything you put on the internet is public and the comments that you write and the photos that you post are there forever. Accordingly, you need to be careful because I find that these days more insurance companies find and pour over all of my clients' internet drama.
Stop over sharing! This is not just advice when you have a case against the insurance company. I think we share far too much information about ourselves on the internet. But this advice is particularly important when you have a case against an insurance company.
2) OVER TREATING:
In a personal injury case, the best way to substantiate and prove injuries is through consistent medical treatment with doctors and therapists. If a case goes all the way to trial, it is rare not to bring one or more medical professional into court to testify about a client's injuries. Often, the amount of medical expenses directly impacts the level of injury compensation a claimant is offered by the insurance company. For example, a person with one hundred thousand dollars of medical bills will generally see a much higher settlement than someone with seven or eight thousand dollars in medical bills.
Oftentimes, unscrupulous healthcare providers (and sometimes lawyers) will promote excessive care to claimants with the suggestion that the added care will help maximize the settlement or verdict. Wrong!
I once heard of a chiropractor who insisted that his patients treat five days a week. When a patient went out of town for a week to get married, the chiropractor suggested that on his return, he should undertake two-a-day treatment sessions (like high school football practice) until he made up the days he missed. Crazy!
A few years ago, I had a client who told me that his chiropractor was making him feel guilty for improving faster than the chiropractor anticipated. He asked me if he should further injure himself by falling down some stairs to make his chiropractor happy. I told him that would not be necessary and transferred this client's care to a therapist with a more acceptable and mainstream attitude towards healing.
During a claimant's deposition, insurance attorneys love to ask, "With all the care you have received, has any injury you suffered in the accident improved?" Over-treaters tend to answer by saying, "no, nothing has improved—in fact, all of my injuries have only worsened." Yikes! Not a good answer! An orthopedic surgeon once told me that 70% of all injured people heal completely DESPITE the care they receive. It stands to reason that the patient who has not improved whatsoever is extraordinarily rare. Insurance company adjusters and attorneys know this fact as well.
Likewise, claimants sometimes wrongly believe that they will get more money if they assert that the injuries that they sustained in the crash continue to hurt 10/10 on a pain scale, even years after the crash. Let me be the first one to tell you that no one will believe you if that is what you are claiming.
And believe it or not, we as your attorneys do not want you to treat endlessly for your injuries. Extensive prolonged treatment rarely looks like anything other than over-treating and there is usually a backlash from the insurance attorney or jury. In fact, in settlement demands and depositions, I encourage my clients to focus on the injuries from the crash that have healed entirely. It makes my clients look honest and reasonable. Of course, if you're my client, there is no doubt that you are honest and reasonable, so why not make sure that the insurance adjuster knows this about you too?
By all means, treat until you no longer need treatment. Once you are healed, do not treat for one additional and unnecessary appointment, no matter what your acupuncturist tells you.
3) OVER REACHING:
I once had a client in a deposition who spent hours lamenting about her inability to go ice fishing, country dancing, bowling, sailing, or horseback riding as a result of her injuries from a car collision. She claimed that she had participated in all of the activities before the crash. Unfortunately, after being grilled by the insurance attorney, it was apparent that she knew nothing about any of these activities and that she had never done any of these activities before the crash. At that point, her story changed and she explained that she felt that the crash jeopardized her chances of ever participating in these thrilling activities that she had planned on doing in the future. I left that deposition in a bewildered state because I wondered why this woman felt like she had to lie about participating in thrill seeking activities when there are plenty of normal and daily activities that crash victims are limited from doing.
Recently, I had a client who had been unemployed for years before he was injured in a car accident. Nevertheless, the client wanted to blame years of post-crash unemployment solely on the collision. This man had truly been injured and he had dozens of medical conditions that could genuinely be blamed on the collision. However, he wanted to focus on the thing that was largely status quo, his unemployment, as being related to the collision. A good man with serious injuries suddenly looked like he was outrageously over-reaching in his claim for damages.
Nothing causes insurance companies to devalue your injuries more than when they sense that you are over-reaching and being disingenuous. If the adjuster or defense lawyer thinks you are a faker, they often begin to feel strongly that they can convince a jury of the same thing. Unfortunately, they are usually correct in that assumption.
While it is important for you to exhaustively articulate how the crash has affected your life, if you have spent your adult life working "under the table" to avoid paying taxes, just how eager do you think an insurance adjuster or a jury of your peers will want to award you money on your wage loss claim? Unfortunately, no one will be eager in that case to give you money for your lost wages. In making claims, I always tell my clients to "keep it real." If you used to do work for under the table payments, I'm afraid for the purposes of your lawsuit for injury compensation, that type of claim needs to stay under the table and cannot be a part of your case.
Don't over-reach. It never works, and it makes you look like a liar.
At Anderson, Hemmat, & McQuinn, we truly believe that honesty is not only the best policy—it also results in higher settlement offers and jury verdicts. If you have been genuinely injured due to the fault of someone else, call us. You will speak to one of our attorneys who can help navigate you through this stressful time in your life.