According to the CDC, about 40.5% of Americans visit the ER to treat non-fatal injuries annually. Many of these injuries are a result of car accidents and negligent drivers, making compensation to victims of these accidents attainable.
Opening a personal injury (PI) case is a critical first step in recovering compensation, but this innocently goes overlooked, ultimately having a negative impact on the case. It’s critical that you file a claim correctly to reach the highest possible settlement. Read on to learn about some common personal injury claim errors and how to avoid them.
1. Posting on Social Media
There are not many experiences (if any) to prepare victims for undergoing life-changing injuries or trauma. Sometimes, this is why many feel the need to document such experiences on social media. Unfortunately, these posts can be damaging to a lawsuit.
Many people qualify for “pain and suffering damages,” post-injury. However, this is heavily subjective, and insurance companies can make the argument that you are mentally well enough to post on a social platform and engage with followers. If successful, they can deny the serious nature of your suffering.
Or, what may appear as a harmless comment about feeling okay after the crash can indicate that you were not severely harmed. Anything that is shared or said will be used against victims to reduce the worth of a claim.
2. Not Understanding Liability
California is an at-fault state. This means that the at-fault party’s liability coverage pays the injured party’s compensation. California also follows comparative negligence laws. This means that an injured party can gain compensation after an accident even if they were partially at fault.
A victim may be partially at fault if they did not take reasonable precautions to prevent the injury. For example, a pedestrian may be partially at fault for an auto accident if they were jaywalking.
Victims that have a lower percentage of fault will get more compensation. For instance, if a court rules that the victim is 5% at fault while the defendant is 95% at fault, the victim can still receive 95% of the reward.
3. Failing to Explore Multiple Financial Legal Options
Many accident victims fear that they cannot afford to hire a lawyer. They think that they need to pay out-of-pocket fees upfront. This sounds especially daunting after paying thousands of dollars in medical bills and losing wages due to injuries.
However, some lawyers work on contingency. This means that you pay nothing upfront. You give lawyers a pre-determined percentage of your winnings only if your case is won and when you collect compensation.
If your lawyer does not win your case, you pay nothing. This makes hiring a lawyer affordable and provides them with financial motivation to get you the best possible settlement.
However, there are also other billing methods some law firms may operate on. For instance, you may be asked to pay a set flat fee for their assistance, regardless of case outcome. In these situations, you will likely pay some money upfront and the rest at the end of the case.
Some attorneys also charge hourly fees. This means you do not pay them a flat fee but rather a set amount for each hour spent on your case.
4. Missing Deadlines
In California, the personal injury statute of limitations is 2 years from the injury date. If the victim did not discover the injury right away because it was internal or developed with time, the statute of limitations is 1 year, post-discovery.
If the statute expires, a lawsuit can no longer be filed. This means that you will be unable to receive compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance. Once the opportunity is missed, you typically will not be able to file a claim in the future.
Note that the statute may work differently in various circumstances. For example, if a government vehicle is involved, the statute of limitations decreases to 6 months post-injury.
You also want to file long before the deadline because there are other risks even if you meet it months after the incident. You will have trouble gathering sound evidence. You will especially struggle to gather eyewitness reports from people who may have moved or changed phone numbers or who do not remember details as clearly.
5. Neglecting to Collect Evidence
Take photos of the accident scene, gather eyewitness reports, and immediately write down everything you remember about the incident. In addition to the evidence provided, an attorney will look at security tapes, personally talk to witnesses, visit and assess the accident site, and request police reports.
If you were treated for car accident injuries, keep a record of all medical reports and bills. An experienced attorney will calculate the full amount of damages based on this type of evidence.
Note that evidence does not only determine the worth of your case. It also can help you prove fault for both parties. A clear understanding of evidence and fault helps attorneys figure out partial liability and what damages you’re owed.
6. Not Asking Tough Questions
Open communication with your attorney is a critical part of avoiding personal injury claim errors. Ask your lawyer questions such as:
- What is your strategy for winning my case?
- How much compensation is reasonable to expect?
- How will this compensation vary in partial liability cases?
- How they will prove that I am entitled to financial damages?
These questions are important because you will better understand the litigation process. This is critical because you will be able to effectively negotiate for maximum compensation. Also, it will alleviate anxiety and help you understand what to expect during the case proceedings.
7. Accepting Early Settlements
The defendant’s insurance company will want to give you as little compensation as possible so they don’t lose money. Your lawyer’s job is to get you the highest possible settlement through negotiations. Because of this, victims often receive early offers to settle the case before an attorney gets involved.
Don’t accept these early settlements. The sum offered is likely to increase over time as your lawyer establishes the full extent of losses. Early settlements do not cover the full scope of damages, such as non-economic damages. These are areas that do not have a monetary value but still qualify for compensation.
This is why an offer should not be made until an investigation has been completed. You also should wait until all medical treatment has concluded so you can get a settlement that covers as many bills as possible.
Avoid Common Personal Injury Claim Errors With an Attorney
Central Valley Accident Lawyers is committed to helping you understand your case and file a personal injury claim. Avoid making these common claim errors, and allow our expert legal team to assist you with your case. Our extensive experience will help you reach a desirable settlement, and we do not charge any upfront legal costs. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more.