A. Not Following Up With Timely Medical Care
Not going to the hospital, not following up with a primary care physician ,and not following up with recommended doctor referrals are huge mistakes that too many people make after an automobile collision.
Failing to timely seek medical care is one of the major excuses I hear insurance companies make for low-balling their settlement offers. So if you are injured, go to the hospital and follow up with care. Assuming that minimal medical care is enough to prove your injuries to the insurance company is simply a mistake.
B. Not Telling Doctors the Full Story
Doctors often end up writing false statements that patients tell them in their records. Many times, patients deny any previous history of injury or they overstate the accident, telling a physician that they are feeling good, when in fact, they really do not. This is a huge mistake. If the doctor never learns the truth, it makes the opinions of the doctor virtually useless. Garbage in - garbage out. Be open, honest, complete, and frank with your health care provider. It truly is the only way that they can help you.
For example, if your accident was a fender-bender, don't tell the doctor that you were hit hard in a high speed collision. Insurance adjusters read these records. If you have had similar back injury 10 years ago, you must make sure the doctor knows it. If the doctor writes that you have had no prior injuries and yet the insurance adjuster knows differently, that completely discredits that physician's opinion. Why? It is because he did not have full information when he gave his opinion that your injuries were caused by the auto accident. Exaggerating injuries or hiding prior injuries is a huge mistake.
C. Not Following Doctor Recommendations
In the course of their treatment, patients are often given home exercises to assist them with their physical therapy. On many occasions, medical records reveal, or the patient admits later in a deposition, that they never did these exercises or only infrequently followed the doctor's recommendations. Not following through with these home exercises is a costly mistake.
Doctors often make surgical or neurological referrals for their patients. On other occasions, doctors release patients from active care but give the patient a list of future care that will be necessary. Not following up with these referrals or future care will often take thousands of dollars or more off an eventual injury recovery.
Trusting the Insurance Company
Do not assume that the insurance adjuster is your friend. Generally, they are going to do their job which is to work in the best interest of the insurance company. Nearly always, the insurance company's best interest is your worst interest.
Your first contact with the insurance adjuster will often involve him insisting on taking your recorded statement. While this may seem fairly routine, usually this request is made in violation of Colorado state law. Within the first 15 days following an injury accident, the insurance company is NOT allowed to take your recorded statement. C.R.S. §13-21-301.
This state law is regularly and intentionally violated by insurance adjusters in the hopes that you will say something stupid while you are still on pain killers. Do not trust these insurance companies. Trusting these companies is a big mistake.
Talking Settlement without Knowing the Coverage Limits
Every time a car is insured by an insurance company, the premium is based on the amount of insurance coverage purchased. The least amount of coverage allowed under Colorado law is 25K/50K. This means that if this car or its driver causes injury and is at fault for the accident, this insurance will pay up to $25,000 per person injured but no more than $50,000 per occurrence. A common higher coverage amount is 100K/300K. Again, this means that the insurance company will pay up to $100,000 per injured person, with an overall cap of $300,000 per occurrence.
Insurance companies love to negotiate with people injured by their customers without telling what that customer's insurance limits are. They want to hear what you want without telling you what they have as far as contractual limits obligation. The adjusters want you to share your medical records, wage information, and often private tax records; yet they will not tell you vital information that you need - the limits of their exposure.
Do not negotiate without asking the insurance company to reveal in writing what their bodily injury limits are. Playing "show and tell" where you show the insurance company everything, yet they show you nothing, is a mistake.
Overdoing Litigation Financing
There are two types of litigation financing. One type involves cash that companies loan accident victims. The other type of financing assists people without health insurance in getting medical care. Both types of litigation financing will require you to pay back the money with hefty interest out of your settlement. In terms of cash financing, a $5000 cash advance can require $10,000 payback six months later. In terms of medical financing, $5,000 worth of medical care can be up-charged to $20,000 or more.
Any dealings with litigation financing should be carefully considered. If your situation requires litigation financing, always remember that less is better. Just because these companies will lend you more does not mean you should do it. Borrowing more money than you need can result in making your case impossible to settle and will invariably result in you paying huge interest. You will also receive far less when your case eventually settles. Overdoing litigation financing is a huge mistake.
Mistakes are often considered teaching moments. But when you or your family is injured by a negligent driver, you want to keep your mistakes to a minimum.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we are always willing to speak with you in person to discuss ways to avoid many of these mistakes. If you have already made some of these mistakes we've discussed above, please call us today so we can help you minimize the damage. Hope is not lost. We are here to help.