11 Common Mistakes Made After an Auto Accident
1. Failure to File a Police Report
The Police Report is what insurance companies use to evaluate fault after a motor vehicle accident. ALWAYS file a Police Report. It contains the following information:
1. Names of all the people involved in the accident
2. Insurance information for all vehicles involved
3. Names and contact information for eye witnesses including independent witnesses
4. A diagram of the roadways and scene of the accident
5. Names of anyone issued a traffic citation
If your name does not appear in the police report, there is a presumption that you weren’t even involved in the car accident. Make sure your name is listed along with the occupants of your car. Take care to ensure that all witnesses have given a statement to the police. Always make sure to bring your police report with you for your initial visit to
our clinic. We need the information to verify the responsible party to whom we should send your bill.
2. Failing to See a Doctor Immediately
After an accident, you are responsible for proving any injuries that occurred, as well as seeking appropriate treatment. Your doctor will keep medical records and diagnose any injuries that resulted, satisfying the burden of proof to the insurance companies. Don’t delay seeking treatment for weeks after an accident if you were immediately injured. The insurance company will assume that you weren’t really injured and will refuse to honor your claim. Similarly, they could assume that you were injured later after the accident occurred, which would make them not responsible for payment. If you sustained non-life threatening injuries that in your opinion don’t warrant a hospital visit, then you may opt to visit our clinic. Hospitals and Urgent Care Centers are wonderful for ruling out pathology and fractures. Then again, so are their bills, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Our initial examination ranges from $250 to $500 in comparison. Either way, we’ll make sure that you have access to the best care available. In Florida, you need to see a doctor of medicine, chiropractic, osteopathy, or dentistry within 14 days of an injury to have access to your $10,000 PIP benefits from your insurance company.
3. Huge Time Gaps in Treatment
Due to the shock of being in an accident, it’s not unusual for accident victims to think that they’re not injured. Many days later, after their initial shock wears off, people begin to notice symptoms. It’s not unusual for people to think that their symptoms will go away on their own, because sometimes, they do. Unfortunately, this presents a problem when the opposite is true. They denied themselves of the care that they needed, and now the insurance company doesn’t want to recognize their injury as valid. For example, the patient received a prescription for pain-killers and muscle relaxants and felt great while taking them. When the prescription runs out, they begin to notice that their pain has worsened considerably. That’s because the body’s response to pain is to produce guarding to prevent further injury. Without that pain, we often injure ourselves more without even knowing it until the problem is magnified. Another example of this occurs when a patient undergoes treatment and begins to feel better. They often resume their normal activities of daily living before they’ve fully had a chance to heal. Sometimes, they go on vacations, or just don’t have time to come in for their regularly scheduled appointments. Whatever the reason, the insurance company takes gaps in treatment very seriously and will reduce claim values accordingly.
4. Failure to Tell the Doctor About ALL of Your Symptoms
It’s important to make sure to tell your doctor about every symptom you may be experiencing after an accident, even if it’s an aggravation of old injury. Some patients will minimize their symptoms, while others maximize. Don’t try to mention only those injuries that YOU think are related to the accident. It’s the Doctor’s job to figure out how your symptoms are related. After all, he’s the one with clinical expertise and training. Over time, you may begin to develop pain in a new area. When patients are suffering from multiple symptoms, they usually focus on the worst and temporarily forget about lesser injuries. Once these areas improve, their focus changes to the remaining areas. Make sure to tell your doctor as soon as possible if this is the case. It may become important later down the road. Always, make sure that your Doctor documented all of your injuries. Without the proper documentation, there is no proof.
5. Minimizing your Symptoms at the Doctor’s Office
It’s important to tell your Doctor about every symptom, and how much pain you are experiencing in each area. Some patients are afraid to tell their Doctor’s how bad their symptoms really are for fear that the doctor will recommend an injection or surgery. Some patients are ashamed to relay their true symptoms as they fear it may make them appear weak. Others, especially women, have a very high pain threshold which could account for the same behavior. Either way, the information gets unintentionally misrepresented to the Doctor, who relies on that information to render the best care for the patient. From an insurance perspective, it appears that you’re not hurt as badly as you really are. They adjust your insurance claim accordingly and can’t get all the care that you need and deserve. Remember, what you tell the Doctor is what finally ends up in the Medical Records, which are the proof the Insurance Company uses to reach a settlement.
6. Failure to Regularly Seek Treatment
While it’s true that most people seek treatment when they’re hurting, the converse is also true to an extent. It’s not unusual for patients to skip treatments when they’re feeling better. They just don’t understand how devastating missing a regularly scheduled appointment actually is. Firstly, it shows to the insurance that you’re not really serious about getting better. It may also show that you may already be better. Ultimately, you are prevented from getting the care you require. Secondly, your condition is recorded with each office visit. Every change in your condition is documented thoroughly each visit which is proof of your current injury status. Without that proof, the insurance company has no obligation to pay for further treatment. Thirdly, there are some patients that are just in so much pain that they only come in for treatment on their “good days”. This sets up a bias in the medical record that the patient is doing better than they actually are. Not only does the insurance think you’re doing better because you’re “skipping” appointments, but the medical records show that you no longer need treatment. How’s that for a double whammy?
7. Failure to Follow the Doctor’s Recommendations
If the Doctor recommends that the patient get an MRI, X-Ray, or CT scan, it’s probably in their best interest. Doctors generally order tests to confirm or rule-out a diagnosis. Ordering a series of negative tests does little to prove the extent of a patient’s injuries. Positive objective findings go a long way towards proving their injuries. Ultimately, a lack thereof, could prevent the patient from getting the treatment they require, and often results in a sub-standard settlement. Any recommendations made by the Doctor will always appear in the Medical Record, along with the patient’s objection to the same. The same can be said of missed appointments. Both have a detrimental affect on the credibility of a case.
8. Believing that the Insurance Adjuster is Your Friend
This belief couldn’t be further from the truth. While, Insurance companies have a legal obligation and fiduciary responsibility to act in “Good Faith”, they don’t always do so. Sometimes, insurance adjusters can be quite convincing. Often, they may try to get you to sign a settlement offer prematurely. It’s their job! Insurance companies are a business like any other. They are not charities or non-profits organizations. The insurance adjusters are trying to minimize their company’s responsibility as much as possible. The more they save, the more they earn. That said, not all insurance companies are difficult to deal with. It is possible to achieve a good outcome dealing with an insurance representative directly.
9. Hiring an Attorney Before Meeting With Your Doctor
In the eyes of the insurance company, instantly “lawyering up” can appear suspect. Generally speaking, people that are injured seek medical treatment first. If the Insurance company is operating in “good faith”, it is entirely possible to achieve a good outcome when dealing directly with an insurance representative. If you suspect that an insurance company may be dealing in “Bad Faith”, there is plenty of time to retain an attorney. The Statute of Limitations in Florida to file a suit after an auto accident is four years.
10. Retaining a Settling Attorney vs. a Trial Attorney
If your attorney hasn’t seen the inside of a court room in 30 years, you may want to find another. An experienced trial attorney with a proven track record of victories would probably be a better choice. Settlement Attorneys are vastly different than Trial Attorneys. Settling attorneys are those that will make a few phone calls with the insurance adjuster, and try to settle as many cases daily as possible without going to trial. Settling a number of cases each day for $10,000 or less without the added cost of preparing for trial is their strategy. For them, it’s a numbers game. They are not very threatening and the insurance companies know they have no intention of going to trial. On the other hand, insurance companies have a healthy respect for trial attorneys. They generally look for the more lucrative cases with the expectation that every case will go to trial. Think of it as quantity versus quality. I know which strategy I prefer.
11. Smiling for the Camera
The insurance company is relying on the patient’s medical record for information. Nothing can damage a case more than a patient that is not complying with their Doctor’s recommendations. When the patient is placed on Temporary Total Disability, the Doctor is expecting them to refrain from any duty that could cause further injury, or delay their recuperation. In this day and age of surveillance, where everyone has a cell phone with a camera, problems abound. It’s not uncommon to catch someone on camera doing household chores, yard work, or even performing leisure activities against their Doctor’s wishes. Instantly, the Doctor’s and patient’s credibility is ruined. It’s common for patients to be forced into working to feed their families, or due to fear of losing their jobs should they refuse to work. Ironic how nobody ever seems to capture an image of the fistful of pain-killers and muscle relaxants taken before snapping a shot of the patient performing activities of daily living? Big Brother is watching!