Most of our articles detail attorney quality and how that can effect the outcome of an injury case. Little has been written anywhere about the quality of the client and the client's own effect on maximizing recovery.
In a nutshell, the outcome of case often turns on the quality of the person you are. Insurance companies and the lawyers they hire size you up through a mental checklist. After all, these cases are either going to be settled or they will be decided by a jury of folks who will decide what they think the injuries are worth. If you look like a straight-shooter and you fit the profile of a straight-shooter, you are much more likely to be perceived in that light--both by the insurance company and a possible jury. In that vein, the insurance company will have to settle with you for more, because they know they have little choice.
There are certain things that if you as a client can do, you stand to greatly improve your image as a client. Good clients get good recoveries. The following is a guide to helping you achieve that status.
1) Go To Your Primary Doctor For Treatment
This seems simple enough. And yet, it gets screwed up all the time. It probably is screwed up more often by lawyers who have no clue what they are doing. Sending you to some doctor that they feel they can control is a huge mistake. But, more importantly, the insurance company knows this little trick, and it looks bad.
Go to the same doctors for your neck pain following the crash that you would go to see for anything else. If you need a referral to a specialist, let your primary doctor send you there. It looks suspicious when a person gets a lawyer and a new doctor all in the same week following a car crash. If you are lucky enough to have a primary doctor, by all means use him!
2) Report Accurately To Doctors
...also seems simple, and yet, clients screw this up all the time. Don't tell your doctor that you were in a high speed massive crash, when the property damage was only $800. Don't tell your doctor that you were knocked unconscious when there is a paramedic report that says nothing of the sort. Don't tell your doctor that you suffered no prior neck injuries before the crash when you had a neck surgery 10 years earlier.
Understand that doctors write down what you tell them. So be honest, and know that if you aren't, you are going to be sorry.
3) Avoid Over-Treating
You might say, "well I'm not a doctor, how do I know if I'm over-treating?" But you don't have to be a doctor to know this stuff. The reality is there is still a smell test that normal people can appreciate. If you have been seeing a physical therapist/chiropractor/massage therapist weekly or more for more than 6 months, guess what? Yes, ten day old fish.
Watch out for too much alternative treatment. It generally looks bad to juries and certainly to insurance companies.
4) Pay for Your Care Through Health Insurance Not Liens
There are actually medical clinics in Colorado that put out brochures that they proudly display in their offices telling patients that they can maximize their recovery by NOT using health insurance and instead running your medical care on lien to be paid back from settlement proceeds at the end of your case. Wrong...Wrong...WRONG!!!
If you have health insurance, Kaiser HMO, Medicare, or Medicaid, by all means use it to pay for your medical treatment. Signing a lien to have your medical care paid off from your settlement is an absolutely last resort to get care. Liens looks suspicious to insurance companies and it makes the doctors interested parties in the outcome of your case, and it looks really bad to juries.
5) Be Reasonable With Your Expectations
Having a neck strain that makes you stiff and sore is not a million dollar case. Having a knee surgery because of a t-bone collision is probably not a $200,000 case. Just because it happened to you doesn't mean a jury is going to give you more. Being reasonable with your expectations is critical to being able to carefully consider settlement offers.
Believe it or not, unreasonable expectations will actually get you less money in the end. When clients start digging in their heels and won't budge from their unrealistic expectations, insurance companies react and dig in their heels too. These positional tactics ultimately mean that the insurance company will not push the boundaries of their limits as they otherwise would if there was a realistic opportunity to get a case settled.
At Anderson Hemmat we want to prepare and educate our clients about the process of recovering from injuries sustained through no fault of their own. Part of that preparation is helping our clients understand the way that insurance companies think about and evaluate their cases. This understanding helps our clients be better clients and ultimately helps them to maximize their recovery.