During a recent consultation with a personal injury client, I offered tons of tips as to how the client should conduct himself and things he should do with respect to his case. The prospective client said, "Gee, this is kind of like a game?" I agree but explained that we weren't trying to "trick" anyone. However, there is a strategy to presenting your case in the best possible light. You see, your opponent (the insurance company) is going to do everything it can to minimize your claim. That means you have to do everything you can to counter that - and that requires a strategy. If you know you're essentially playing a game, then you know you have to employ a strategy. Some people wait too long and never realize they were in a "game" until they lose the game.
Here are 5 common mistakes I have seen lately in my personal injury practice:
1) Clients waiting far too long before seeking medical attention.
If you are injured, make sure you get medical care. The absence of medical attention will be used against you. Calling a lawyer 6 months after an accident while you've had minimal to no medical care is not helpful. I'm only a lawyer - not a magician.
2) Clients who post stuff on social media.
The first thing the insurance company will do is look you up on social media. They will "Google" your name, look for you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They will look for any evidence of you acting inconsistently with your claim of injury. In fact, we now routinely look up our own clients to see what they are posting online. I encourage them to do the same. You need to know what the insurance company is looking for.
I once had a client who was claiming a shoulder tear for which he needed surgery (the MRI actually showed a tear). However, a few weeks later, there he was playing drums on Facebook with his rock band. The insurance adjuster was jumping for joy when he came across that! Of course, my client had a perfectly good explanation, but now we had something we needed to explain.
I've had clients post photos of themselves working out at the gym, mud running, hiking, on vacation, dancing at parties, and much more - all on social media while claiming to be injured. Here's some advice, if you've been injured in a car accident, don't post ANYTHING on social media until your case is concluded. If that means you are "off the grid" for a year or two, so be it. Social media is NOT your friend when it comes to injury claims. There's nothing technically "wrong" about posting stuff on social media. However, if you are claiming you're in pain, and then they find photos of you enjoying your European vacation, that's basically like sending the insurance adjuster a huge gift wrapped up in a big red bow.
3) Clients don't tell their medical providers about their accident.
I can't tell you how many clients tell me of all their medical care post accident, and then when I research those records, there is little to no mention of the car accident. If you don't mention your accident, most insurance adjusters will argue that you were getting medical care for reasons unrelated to the car accident.
4) Clients who don't realize that insurance adjusters will be reading their medical records.
I can't emphasize this enough. Don't tell your doctors you are "fine" if you are NOT fine. Remember, the adjuster is going to be reading those records and holding a magnifying glass to them. Anything in your medical records that can be used against you WILL be used against you. I always tell my clients to imagine the insurance adjuster is actually present for every medical appointment and every physical therapy session. Imagine they are standing there, recording every encounter. You want them to fully understand your injuries and the effects of the injuries. You want your medical records to be complete and well documented. If you imagine the adjuster standing next to you, I promise you will be much more vocal with your health care professionals. You are actually "speaking" to the insurance adjuster through those medical records.
5) Clients who ignore their past medical history or think it will never be an issue.
I'm convinced that many clients think their past medical history is irrelevant to their current case. If you are claiming neck and back pain from an accident, or any injury, you can bet any prior complaints of similar pain will be used against you. I often obtain my clients' past medical records to make sure I have a good handle on their medical history. I would say about 50% of the time, we find similar complaints, sometimes dating only a few days or weeks before the accident To complicate matters, my clients will actually deny any previous problems to their current providers. As such, the client looks like they are lying or hiding something when their past medical records are found to be inconsistent with their present medical records. Again, even if there was a perfectly good explanation, it just makes our hill much steeper to climb.
During every phase of a case, I try to be honest with my clients. That often means I have to give them bad news or something they don't necessarily want to hear. I don't do it to upset them. I do it because I'm trying to protect them. We have to be aware this is a "game" of sorts, and their opponent is the insurance company. My best clients understand that all I'm trying to do is be candid and offer them the best advice I'm capable of providing.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,