Serious Personal Injury Cases: Five Guiding Principles to Remember

Author: Travis Brennan, Esq.

Suffering a serious personal injury because of another person’s negligence is a life changing event that is often overwhelming for clients.  Clients tell me that in the aftermath of suffering a serious personal injury, such as a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury, a lost limb, or a complex fracture, it is difficult to balance visits to doctors and specialists, growing medical bills, missed time from work, and property damage issues. In response to these concerns, I advise clients to think of the following five guiding principles:

1. Treatment: Obtain the Care You Need to Recover

Regaining your health is the single most important priority after you are injured.  Your health is priceless.  There is no amount of money that the civil justice system will provide that will adequately compensate you for the loss of your health.

Obtaining treatment early is important because it provides a roadmap to understand the extent of your injuries, the treatment you require, and the timeframe for recovery.  Additionally, early medical intervention may be effective in resolving issues before they become chronic.

Mainers are often reluctant to seek medical attention and, when they do, they downplay the significance of their injuries and pain.  When you treat with your medical providers, it is important to honestly and accurately answer their questions and report your injuries and limitations.

2. Capture: Preserve Key Evidence

We have all heard the expression that “one picture is worth a thousand words.”  This saying rings true in the context of personal injury cases.  After you are injured, it is important to take pictures that accurately reflect the damage that is caused to you and your personal property, such as your vehicle.  For example, pictures that show casts, swelling, bruising, lacerations, and scars are critical to describing the extent of your injuries to an insurance company or eventually a jury.  Similarly, photographs showing damage caused to your vehicle can also demonstrate the severity of your car crash.  Finally, pictures that capture what the scene of the incident looked like at the time the incident occurred are important in describing the incident to an insurance company or jury.

3. Refuse: Do Not Give Recorded Statements to Insurance Companies

Frequently, opposing insurance companies will ask you to provide a recorded statement.  Insurance adjusters are creative in cajoling injured victims into providing these statements.  You should recognize that these recorded statements are for the benefit of the insurance company, and that such statements will be used at every opportunity to undermine your potential case.

Moreover, providing a recorded statement when you are vulnerable and still in the initial stages of your treatment is unwise.  At the time you provide your recorded statement, you may not fully appreciate the extent of your injuries.  The casual language you use in describing the event or your injuries may be used against you later to suggest that you were at fault for the crash or that your injuries were insignificant.  If an insurance company asks you to give a recorded statement, a warning bell should go off in your mind and you should politely decline.

4. Patience: Resist the Temptation to Prematurely Settle Your Case

We have all heard the saying that patience is a virtue.  In the context of a personal injury case, patience is important to protecting your interests.  Clients are often pushed into settling their cases prematurely.  Insurance adjusters suggest that they simply want to wrap-up the claim and ensure the client receives money.  In reality, this can merely be a ploy to entice you to resolve your claim before the full extent of your injuries and damages are recognized.

Before you resolve your claim, it is critical that you understand the full extent of your injuries: are your injuries permanent or will they improve over time; will you require additional future treatment; what ongoing treatment will you require?  It is also important to understand whether your injuries will affect your ability to work and reduce your earning capacity/wages over time.  Ultimately, the “right” time to settle your case varies from case-to-case depending on your injuries.

5. Consult: Obtain a Free Consultation from an Attorney to Ensure Your Interests are Protected

Insurance companies are large, sophisticated entities.  Their priority is to manage risk and to pay the least amount of money possible to resolve a claim.  Insurance companies use varying tactics to achieve their goal from appearing overly friendly and supportive to being overbearing, aggressive, and mean.  Regardless of the insurance company’s tact, it is critical to remember that the insurance company does not have your best interest at heart.  To ensure your best interests are protected and that you are fully and fairly compensated for your injuries, you should consult with an attorney whose practice focuses on personal injury cases.  Typically, this consultation is free, and you only pay an attorney fee if the attorney recovers money for you.

No one wants to be injured let alone be forced into a legal process to obtain full and fair compensation for their injuries.  If, however, you are injured, it is important to remember these five guiding principles to ensure that your interests and rights are protected and preserved.