Sometimes, when clients first call me, I can sense they are very worried about one thing - "How am I going to fix my car?" They worry about losing their car, not getting enough money for it, not having a rental vehicle, paying their deductible, not getting answers from the responsible person's insurance company etc. Some take the loss of their car very personally - some people even personify their vehicle. In some cases, they have actually named their car! They'll say things like, "I don't know what I'm going to do without my Baby Girl!"
If this is the focus of the first phone call, my alarms go off. In some cases, the clients are SO focused on their property damage claim that they lose focus of what's really important - their bodily injury! They are SO worried about who is going to pay for their property damage, how they are going to get a rental, etc.
At face value, I certainly understand their concerns. There is nothing wrong with being concerned about these issues. However, here is the lesson of this blog post - Don't get so carried away with your property damage woes that you lose sight of the bigger concern which is any bodily injury you suffered. If you don't take care of your bodily injury claim and focus solely on property damage, you may actually be shooting yourself in the foot.
It is understandable if you are worried about your property damage claim. I understand that. Property damage claims are never fun. But if you haven't sought any medical treatment in over two weeks, you may have lost your chance at a bodily injury claim. Assume you get short-changed on your property damage claim. If you present your bodily injury claim appropriately, you might recover enough to help bridge any shortfall on the property damage issue. By only focusing on your property damage claim, you risk mismanaging your bodily injury claim. Now you've lost twice - on your property damage claim AND your bodily injury claim! Try to think "big picture" when it comes to your personal injury case.
Therefore, while handling your property damage claim, don't lose sight of the other (and sometimes more valuable) component of your claim - bodily injury.
I decided to take the top questions I get regarding personal injury and accident cases and put them all into a booklet entitled "Personal Injury Question & Answer Handbook." Topics addressed include how to take photos of the damage to your car, when to see the doctor, how to handle insurance adjusters, who will fix your car, who will pay for your medical bills and much more. You can download the PDF of the book by clicking on "Free Book" from the main menu or by clicking here. I serve Santa Clarita, Castaic, Saugus, Canyon Country, Valencia, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch and surrounding areas.
I recently handled a case where my client suffered a tremendous injury to her knee from the car accident. She was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended with such force that her seat was crushed from behind, forcing her knee into the front passenger seat. The trauma caused her tremendous pain. She started treating with a chiropractor but at some point it became clear to her and the chiropractor that there was only so much he could do. Her knee became progressively worse as the weeks passed. It started affecting her job which required lots of standing and walking. Eventually, she had to have knee surgery to correct the problem.
While the surgeon was successfully able to complete the surgery, she still doesn't feel the same. The truth is once you have major surgery to your knee or other part of your body, you might technically have had a successful surgery but many clients report feeling residual injury to some extent. My client continues to have some pain in her knee and on some days, it swells and she needs to put her feet up for a while. Residual injury can affect the value of your personal injury case. If you've suffered severe trauma to your knee in an accident, make sure you see an orthopedic surgeon for a full assessment of your condition. You want to make sure you catch the injury early before you walk too much and inflict further injury upon your knee.
When I was a defense lawyer for a major insurance company, one of the first things we looked for when defending personal injury claims was "gaps" in treatment. That means, we would look at every single date of treatment and try to find "gaps" of 10 days or more. Sometimes, we'd see gaps of 2 weeks or much more. We would use those against the person making the claim. Also, we would look to see when treatment commenced after an accident. We would sink our teeth into delays of over 10 or more days. Why do insurance companies use gaps in treatment and delay in commencement in treatment against you? Because they want to minimize your case. They will argue, "Well, if you were REALLY hurt, you wouldn't have waited 2 weeks to get treatment." Or they might say, "Well, if you were in any REAL pain, you would have treated more regularly without missing appointments etc."
The insurance companies will do anything they can to minimize your claim. My clients are often surprised by this tactic. My clients will say, "Well, I couldn't get in to see the doctor for a long time" or "I couldn't get a physical therapy appointment for a month..." The excuses are legitimate and understandable, but that doesn't mean insurance companies will be easy on you or "understanding." They simply don't care. They will use it against you because at the end of the day, they aren't really interested in compensating you. They are interested in minimizing their losses. Therefore, the lesson here is to commence treatment as soon as possible after an accident, even if you only suspect an injury. You don't want to take chances. Also, once you start treatment, be diligent about your health care and follow up visits. In all fairness, there are some insurance adjusters who do understand there are sometimes legitimate reasons for delays in treatment, but most of them won't see the big picture.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.