Don’t make a $10,000 mistake! By doing the right things (and not doing the wrong things), you can protect your rights and maximize the value of your car crash claim.
Car Crash Do’s:
1. Take Pictures. Take lots of pictures. Take pictures of all cars involved in the crash. Take the pictures from multiple angles and multiple distances. Take pictures of the roadway, skid marks, and debris on the roadway. Take pictures of applicable street signs such as stop signs, no-turn signs, etc. If you have bruising, cuts, scrapes, or abrasions, take pictures of them every day until they go away.
2. Get the Names of Witnesses. Independent witnesses could be your only way of proving who was at fault for the car crash. The insurance company will almost always claim that you were at fault, or at least partially at fault. Get the witnesses’ name, address, and telephone number.
3. File a Police Report. Sometimes the at-fault driver will ask you not to call the police. Don’t listen to them; call the police! Insurance companies look at car crashes without a police report as being very minor, and thus not worthy of a reasonable settlement. Besides, Florida law requires a crash report on all car crashes that involve injuries.
4. Take Notes. If the person who caused the car crash apologizes or admits his wrongdoing, write it down. It’s best if you can take down his exact words. A person’s apology or admission of fault can be used against him or her in the future.
5. Go to the Right Doctor, Right Away. Don’t delay. Timely documentation of your injuries is critical. If you don’t go to the doctor within 14 days after a crash, you may lose $10,000 in PIP benefits. Not all doctors are created equal. Most doctors are excellent clinicians and do wonderful work for their patients. However, not all doctors know how to properly handle and document treatment arising from a car crash. Many primary care physicians who routinely handle colds, checkups, cholesterol monitoring, and other general medical treatment are ill-equipped to handle car crash injuries. There are many doctors who specialize in treating people who have been injured in car crashes. Those doctors include chiropractors, orthopedists, neurologists, and pain management specialists. We prefer doctors whose practices are a blend of car crash victims and managed care patients. We do not recommend treating with doctors who only handle car crash claims. Also, be cautious about going to the emergency room. Hospital emergency rooms are extraordinarily expensive and can use up most or all of your available personal injury protection insurance benefits in a single visit. Obviously, if you have a life threatening injury you should go to the emergency room. For a list of some quality doctors we have worked with, click here.
6. Use Your Health Insurance. Although your PIP coverage is the primary insurance used to pay for your medical bills arising from a car crash, if you have health insurance you should use it as well. PIP insurance only covers 80% of your doctors’ bills up to $10,000 (and maybe only $2,500). You can use your health insurance to pay medical bills that are not covered by PIP. Make sure you provide your health insurance card to each doctor, MRI facility, and other medical provider you treat with. In most cases, your medical providers will have a contracted rate with your health insurance company, which means that your medical bills will be lower. Your health insurance company will be entitled to be paid back from your settlement, but it’s still better than having to pay outstanding medical bills that would otherwise be much higher. Additionally, if you have health insurance and you fail to use it, the car insurance company will claim that you failed to mitigate your damages.
7. Hire the Right Lawyer, Right Away. “Choosing the right lawyer is no accident.” Virtually all personal injury lawyers will handle your claim on a contingency fee basis. Just because a law firm has lots of billboards and television commercials, does not mean they are the right lawyer for your claim. You have the right to know your lawyer’s education, training, and experience. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer if he or she will go to court to protect your rights if necessary. The lawyers at Swope Law, P.L. have successfully handled more than 1,000 auto crash claims over the last 15 years. To find out why you should hire Swope Law, P.L., click here.
8. Keep Logs. Insurance companies are very effective at dragging out and delaying the resolution of your crash claim. Claims that can’t be settled oftentimes need to be litigated. The litigation process can take a year or more. Keeping the following logs will help you prove your damages:
a. Pain Log. Keep a log of the pain you experience. Your pain log should include: 1) intensity (how bad is your pain on a scale from 1 to 10); 2) frequency (how often do you experience the pain); 3) location (what part of your body hurts); and 4) type (is the pain stabbing, dull ache, burning, etc.). Over time, your pain symptoms will likely change. Documenting those changes is crucial to your claim. Here’s a sample pain log you can use.
b. Lost Wage Log. Keep a log of your lost wages. Your lost wage log should include: 1) the dates you missed work; 2) the number of hours you missed on each date; 3) your hourly rate of pay; and 4) the reason you missed work, i.e. doctor’s visit, pain, etc. Missed work due to appearances at depositions or court are not compensable and need not be logged. If your employer keeps records of time you miss at work, you should obtain copies of those documents to support your log entries. You are entitled to compensation for lost wages even if your employer paid you sick pay. Here’s a sample lost wage log you can use.
c. Out of Pocket Expenses. Keep a log of any expenses you pay with your own funds. Common out of pocket expenses include physician co-pays, prescription medications, and over-the-counter medications, i.e. Advil. Here’s a sample out-of-pocket expense log you can use.
Car Crash Don’ts:
1. Don’t Give a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company. Many insurance companies will try to get you to give them a recorded statement about the car crash. Don’t do it! They will use your own words against you in the future. Insurance adjusters are trained to ask questions that will benefit them, not you. Obviously, you should never admit wrongdoing. Call us at (727) 725-0200 any time of the day or night if an insurance company is trying to force you to give a recorded statement.
2. Don’t Settle without Consulting a Lawyer. Many insurance companies will offer you a few hundred dollars for the “inconvenience” you were caused by their insured. Don’t take it! The insurance company will require you to sign a release that will prevent you from recovering money for your injuries. Many people who are seriously injured in car crashes do not realize how badly they are hurt for many days or weeks after the crash. Only after you have consulted with a qualified doctor who has performed all appropriate tests on you – and you know the full extent of your injuries – should you consider settling your claim. You should consult with a qualified lawyer who is experienced in handling car crash claims before you settle your claim. The lawyers at Swope Law, P.L. can advise you about your rights and help you maximize your financial recovery.
3. Don’t Stop Going to the Doctor. You should continue going to the doctor as long as your doctor recommends that you continue treating. Significant gaps in treatment, missing doctor’s appointments, failing to undergo recommended procedures, and failing to take prescribed medications can reduce the value of your claim. A negligent defendant is not obligated to pay damages if the damages were caused or made worse by the injured person’s failure to follow the doctor’s recommendations.
4. Social Media Posts. Don’t post things about your car crash on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. Also, don’t post pictures of yourself until you have consulted with a lawyer. We’ve seen relatively innocent pictures come back to haunt our clients’ claims.