Here are some important tips to aid you in obtaining a favorable outcome in your case.
Insurance Claim TipsShow
- Keep Accurate Records. Gather and record all losses and damages pertaining to your claim. If you suffered property damage, get an estimate of the cost to repair the damage as soon as possible.
- Do not get rid of items damaged in an accident. Do not sign a totaled vehicle over to your insurance company, discard a damaged bicycle, helmet, or other clothing items, or throw away the shoes you were wearing during a slip and fall or trip and fall accident. These items are important evidence in your case. You should set them aside and not discard them without the permission of your attorney.
- Photograph all damaged items as soon as possible.
- Photograph all visible injuries immediately and continue to photograph your injuries during your recovery process.
- Avoid contact with all insurance companies. Its best to have an attorney handle all dealings with the insurance companies, including your own insurance company.
- Do not provide a recorded statement to the insurance company. You are not legally obligated to provide a recorded statement and should not do so unless your lawyer is present.
- Do not sign forms that your insurance company sends you without having your attorney review them first. Insurance companies often send over-broad authorizations to release your life-time medical records, without restriction. This is a violation of your right to medical privacy that your attorney can help you avoid.
- An insurance adjuster may be friendly, but he or she is not your friend. Don’t mistake an adjuster’s friendly phone manner with someone who genuinely has your interests at heart. Insurance adjusters are doing their job, which is to look after the insurance company’s bottom line.
Accident / Injury Legal TipsShow
The following are actions you should take AT THE SCENE of an accident, IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING an accident and DURING YOUR RECOVERY. Remember, under California law, you have a duty to mitigate any damages that you could be incurring on your case.
At the Scene
- Get names and numbers of any and all witnesses. Sometimes police do not get the names and numbers of all witnesses.
- Get the license plate number, name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance information.
- Accept medical treatment at the scene. If it turns out that you are injured and you refused treatment at the scene, the insurance company can use that against you.
Immediately After an Accident
- Do not talk to the other party’s insurance company or the other party involved.
Do not discuss your case with anyone without first consulting your attorney. What may appear to be an innocent remark on your part as to how the accident occurred, or how you were injured, may be distorted or changed by others – especially the other party’s insurance company. Trying to say something you think is helpful may be just as dangerous. If anyone does attempt to contact you or talk to you about your case, simply refer that party to our office or consult with us before you answer any questions.
- Do not provide a recorded statement.
Do not provide a recorded statement to your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company unless your attorney is present to represent you. You are not legally obligated to provide a statement without your attorney being present.
- Do not sign any papers without having a lawyer review them first. Do not sign any statements, forms, reports or any other document sent to you by anyone unless your attorney’s office instructs you to do so. If ever you are in doubt, please call us first. Sometimes the forms you are asked to sign seek information about you that is protected by privacy laws and you are not required to produce it. Insurance companies notoriously send out forms that go well beyond the scope of your claim and seek to have you sign it so they can get other information about you and use it against you when it comes time to settle your claim.
- Take photos right away of any visible injuries and of your vehicle’s damage. Take color photos of your vehicle before it is repaired or inform our office where the car will be available for us to take photos. These photos should be taken to show all of the damage to the vehicle. If you can, also take pictures of the scene of the accident (tire marks, broken glass, or any other such damage). If you have been injured as a result of the accident, take photos of your visible injuries and any medical equipment you must you must wear/use as you recuperate. Take photos of the other vehicle(s) involved, if you happen to have a camera at the time of the accident.
- See a healthcare provider immediately. Don’t delay treatment. Contact your automobile insurance agent to find out if you have medical payment coverage. If you have medical payment coverage, which is specifically designed for accident-related injuries, have your healthcare provider bill your auto medical payment coverage first. Keep track of all treatment-related expenses, including co-pays and prescription as well as non-prescription medications. Most medical care expenses are not reimbursed until after you are done treating for your injuries. Keep in mind, insurance companies are often times unwilling to pay claims when someone does not get medical treatment right away. If you don’t have medical insurance, ask a medical provider to bill you. A lawyer can often times get medical providers to agree to accept payment at the end of the case. Failure to get medical treatment soon after the accident can be fatal to your case.
- Get an estimate on your vehicle’s damage. Be sure to get a car damage estimate for the vehicle that was involved in the accident. That is an important piece of information that attorneys take into consideration when deciding whether to take on a case. We will ask you to send us a copy of all estimates of repair and/or paid repair bills for the vehicle. It is imperative that we have these documents in our file for the purpose of negotiating the settlement of your claim. If you have any other receipts such as for towing or automobile storage, you will also need to provide these documents. If you were on a bicycle or a motorcycle, we will still need a repair estimate.
During Your Recovery
One of the most important things you can do is to KEEP US INFORMED. When you first come to our office, we will obtain all the information and facts regarding your accident, injury, and other aspects of your case. You will also be asked to provide all documentation in your possession.
If at any time you find that there are additional parties involved, witnesses, etc., please be sure to send us this information immediately. We expect you to answer each question we ask honestly, even if you think it is not important or is embarrassing. Whatever information you provide to us will remain strictly confidential and we will not ask you anything unless we feel it may have some bearing upon your case.
Documenting your medical care and payments you make, auto repair, pain and symptoms, will be of value to you in your case, especially if your case has to go to trial. You may not be able to recollect these important details at a later date. So record them!
- Vehicle Repair Provide a copy of all estimates of repair and/or paid bills for your vehicle. It is imperative that we have these documents in our file, in order to negotiate a settlement of your claim. If you have receipts for towing, automobile storage or car rental, be sure you also provide these documents.
- Medical Expenses Be sure you inform this office of the names and addresses of all doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers that have rendered treatment to you, as a result of the accident or injury. If you spend any money for prescriptions or medical supplies, be sure to request and retain receipts. The medical expenses you incur are the most single important factor to determine and prove the extent of the injuries you have sustained and the value of your claim. We cannot negotiate a settlement on your claim until we have all of the medical bills and reports in our possession. You will be asked and expected to mail any and all bills and receipts already in your possession, and we will request any additional documentation needed directly from your providers.
- Loss of Earnings And Dates Missed From Work
Be sure to document any and all full and partial days missed from work. Insurance companies will often not pay for wage loss unless the time off of work was authorized by a medical provider. Make sure to get your medical provider to write you a disability slip for all periods of work missed following an accident. Insurance companies also will not likely pay for time off of work if the time is taken long after the accident occurred unless it is authorized by your medical provider. If you are in need of taking time off work due to your injuries, take the time off immediately following the accident and get a doctor’s note in order to ensure that you will recover those lost wages. We will also need to have the name and address of your employer at the time of the accident so we can obtain a verification of any loss of earnings. We cannot make a claim for loss of earnings without being advised of the time lost from work, your rate of pay, etc. We have forms available to assist you in obtaining this documentation from your employer.
Pain and Suffering
Make a record of your injuries and complaints. Be sure to keep track of:
- Prescribed treatment
- Any sleep issues, headaches, dizziness, bleeding or other symptoms
- Any pain, including when it occurs – when bending, sitting, etc.
- Whether or not you can work without pain
- When you first return to work, document your condition at that time and whether or not you are able to perform your regular duties.