1. Don’t post anything to social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc). Be mindful of what you post since the insurance companies WILL definitely be researching you online. It is best to stay off social media entirely while your matter is ongoing. It's amazing to me how many people post photos online after their car accident. They will post photos of the accident and say, "Big accident today, but I'm fine...LOL" - and then the insurance adjuster finds that posting and uses it against the client in the future. I had a client one time who was a drummer in a band. He hurt his shoulder in the accident but later posted videos of himself drumming on YouTube and Twitter. He explained his band was trying to get attention and I had to explain to him that the insurance company found those videos are are accusing him of lying about his injuries. Even photos of you having a nice time on a family vacation can be used against you. The insurance company will argue that you are not very hurt if you can go on vacation with your family!
2. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAR at a storage/tow lot. Storage/tow lots charge ridiculous storage fees. Don't assume the insurance companies are “handling” this. You need to get your vehicle out of the storage lot as quickly as you can. Basically, if you want your company to fix your car (and you have the applicable insurance coverage for that), then you need to call your company and they will go get the car out of storage and to their own storage facility or their own storage lot. If you want the responsible party's company to do so, you should call them and make a property damage claim. However, if the responsible party's company is going to drag their feet or they haven't yet determined fault, you don't have time to wait around. You should see if your company can handle the property damage. If you're worried about incurring a deductible, weigh that against incurring daily storage fees at the tow yard. In many cases, your company will seek reimbursement from the responsible company and ultimately reimburse your deductible. In some cases, your company might even waive the deductible.
3. Don’t speak with ANY adjusters about your injuries without consulting with a lawyer. In all my years as a lawyer, for both the defense and for the plaintiffs, I've never seen this work out well for a client. Insurance adjusters are trained at minimizing your claim (even if it's an adjuster from your own company). They sound friendly and concerned but they are not. That's not to say all adjusters are unfair, but I would err on the side of caution every day of the week.
4. Avoid renting a car on your own! Discuss with us first! Many folks will rent a car thinking they will get paid back by the insurance company. Even with rental coverage on your own auto policy, that doesn’t mean you can rent a car for $60 per day. You need to be aware of limitations your policy. Whenever possible, rent a car through the company. In other words, you simply provide a claim number at the car rental agency counter. Whenever possible, you want to avoid paying out of pocket then hoping for reimbursement.
5. Don’t skip health care appointments. Simply put, insurance adjusters will argue you weren’t really hurt because you canceled and/or missed your health care appointments. You might have a very good reason for missing the appointment, but as far as the insurance company is concerned, you must be fine and don't need health care if you missed the appointment. Try to reschedule any missed appointments and document with the health care provider why you missed the appointment. Call them and explain so it can end up in your records. Don't just skip the appointment without any explaination.
6. Don’t ignore bills from a hospital, ambulance, ER, or other providers. You are responsible for these bills. You can't just throw these bills in the trash and assume the responsible party is going to pay for them. These bills are for services rendered to you and they are your responsibility.
7. Take photos of car damage and physical injuries right away. The insurance company's job is to make your claim and injuries looks small. Photos of injuries and vehicle damage can help fight that. Take photos every few days of any visible injuries to demonstrate to the insurance company that your injuries didn't simply go away the day after the accident. That impresses upon them the severity of your injuries. Remember, documentation (especially photos) is the key in these types of cases.
8. Get medical care if you are injured. If you don’t get medical care, or if you wait too long, the insurance adjuster will simply maintain that you were not injured. You could be at home in excruciating pain, but without treatment or other medical care, they will simply assume you are doing just fine.
9. Your medical history is important. Inform your doctors and other health care providers of any aggravation or exacerbation of a similar previous injury. You cannot ignore or hide your medical history. If you had similar prior injuries but you deny them, that prior history may surface one day and it might look like you are lying. That will sink your entire case. Don’t ignore your medical history. It may become important – even if you had pain years ago. I had a client recently who alleged severe neck pain after an accident. She denied ever having neck pain before the accident. In reviewing her prior medical records, I found that she had CHRONIC neck pain 2 weeks before the accident. When I confronted her, she said she forgot about that. Well, needless to say, her case imploded because she sought to hide her prior pain. People don't like it when you lie (or selective memory). In fact, doing so can destroy an otherwise excellent case.
10. If you can't work, get a note putting you off work. You need a doctor's note for each period you are unable to work. Insurance companies generally ignore claims for lost earnings unless you were following doctor’s orders. If your claim is smaller, say $500 or so, that might not be a problem. However, if you are going to ask for significant lost earnings, then a doctor's note is much more important to have.
11. If you use your own health insurance for any accident care/treatment, your health insurance company will probably be entitled to reimbursement if you recover money from the responsible party. They will typically hire a third party recovery company to pursue reimbursement. Companies often used are “Meridian”, “Rawlings”, “Optum” etc. The right to recovery extends automatically to Medi-Cal and Medicare.
12. You MUST tell your doctors about ALL injuries. Be extremely specific. If something isn’t documented, it probably won’t be considered by the adjuster. The most important thing when it comes to your medical care is proper documentation! Each body part that is injured has a diagnostic code related to it. Insurance adjusters often use computer software when evaluating your claim. Each body part is assigned a value by the software. I had a client once who didn't want to bother the doctor by complaining about his shoulder. He explained his neck was his primary concern. A few months later, he needed shoulder surgery but the insurance company dismissed his contention because he never mentioned shoulder pain to the doctor. It's not time to be stoic. I encourage clients to mention ALL injuries to their health care providers, not matter how trivial the complain may seem.
13. How an accident affects your daily life activities affects the evaluation of your case. You must inform your doctors of any daily life activities affected by your accident. This includes work, home, school, etc. Remember, your records should document all the effects of the accident. Keep a journal regarding how your daily life is affected. Give your notes to your attorney. You might even consider showing the doctor your notes. If something isn’t in your medical records, it likely won't even be considered by a claims adjuster.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,