Waiting too long to contact an attorney after your accident is not a good idea. In most cases, it's a good idea to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer at the outset of your case, long before you talk to any insurance company/adjuster. The insurance companies are out to protect themselves, not you. Even your own insurance company may not have your best interests in mind. How you handle things during the first few weeks after your accident is critical. Lawyers are not magicians. Don't visit a lawyer after you've done too much damage to your case, hoping he/she is going to make everything better. That's not how it works. Lawyers don't have any magical powers. We do our best to present your case in the best light, but if too much damage has been done, there isn't much we can do. We're kind of stuck with what we have.
In recent years, I have taken on a handful of cases where clients called me about a year or two after the accident. Sometimes, they indeed have a good case but they mismanaged the entire thing. They didn’t go to the doctor to seek care - even though they were hurt. Even if they did go to the doctor, they did not provide details during their visits. Their medical records leave a lot to be desired. It’s kind of like watching a horrible movie. By the time the movie is over, there’s really nothing you can do about it. You can’t rewind the film and re-watch it - hoping for a different result.
In some cases, clients waited months before seeking medical care. Of course the insurance company will argue that they weren’t really hurt and the provided care was unrelated to the accident. Then we have clients who bring up injuries months after a car accident. If your shoulder hurts after an accident, bring it up to the doctor. Don't keep your injuries a secret! Don't wait till a year after the accident to mention the shoulder issues. As you can imagine, the insurance adjuster will also argue that such injuries are likely unrelated as they were not raised until months (or longer) after the accident.
It is important to seek an attorney’s advice early on in your case, even if you don’t intend to hire a lawyer. Presenting an injury claim is an art to some extent. There is a strategy to it. We are not out to fake injuries or embellish anything. We are not out to commit insurance fraud. However, you want to present your matter in the best light possible. Knowing how to present your case properly is half the battle. Insurance adjusters are looking for ways to poke holes in your case. Don’t make it easier for them!
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by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,