Interviewer: What would you say are some of the mistakes people unintentionally or intentionally make which hurts their Florida car accident claim?
Guy S. DiMartino: There's no order of this. There are probably five or so big mistakes. The client doesn't document the accident scene, the damage to their vehicle or their injuries. A picture is worth a thousand words. Car accident victims need to take pictures after the accident.
The next mistake is failing to talk to any attorney shortly after the accident. Many times, people injured in car accidents, will come in a month or so after the accident and I'll ask them for pictures of the cars and they say, “Oh, I thought the body shop took pictures”, or, “I thought the insurance company took pictures”. I will ask them if they had any cuts or bruises, and they explain that when the window broke, they had little cuts all over their arms. Again, I ask them if they took pictures and they say no – the cuts are now healed. So the benefit of consulting a lawyer shortly after the accident is the evidence that may be needed in the future to prove the claim will be captured and preserved.
A Common Insurance Company Defense Tactic Is that the Claimant Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt
One of the defenses that the insurance companies can use is that, “You weren't wearing your seatbelt and because you weren't wearing your seatbelt, your injuries were more severe”. Many times people will have bruising along the seat belt line. If photos of the bruising are not taken, you may have a difficult time overcoming the seat belt defense. On the other hand, if you have photos of the area, you can shove them down the insurance company's throat. The lesson is that it's really important to document every little piece of information because you never know when you're going to need it. It's when you don't have the information that you need it.
It is a Mistake to Believe that the Insurance Adjuster is Your Friend
The second mistake that I see is that clients think the insurance adjuster is their friend, and is looking out for them. This is especially true with the other driver's insurance adjuster. A day or two after the accident, the insurance adjuster is going to call up, they're pretty skilled, they're nice, they appear to be friendly and they will lull you into a sense of security.
Because of the friendly nature of the adjuster, people will talk without thinking. Here is an example of what happens; the insurance adjuster will say something like “We're really sorry that the accident happened. I really need to find out the facts of the accident and believe me, if we are at fault; we're going to take care of you quickly so you can get on with the rest of your life. In order for me to do this, can I record your statement?” So, the adjuster seems to be friendly and wanting to do the right thing, so what does the client say? “Sure”.
This is where the problem begins. When we tell stories with our family or friends, they are not holding us to specific facts. In normal conversation, we make statements all the time without thinking about the consequences. This doesn't work when giving a statement to the insurance adjuster. The adjuster will ask questions about time, speed, and distance.
These are the three biggest mistakes when it comes to the liability questions that insurance adjusters will ask in a statement. What happens is that somebody will get an innocuous question that says, “Well, how long do you think it was from the time that you saw the other vehicle until the time that the crash occurred?”
In the potential client's mind, they're saying, “Oh, it was a short time”, but without thinking, they'll say something like “3 seconds”, when it was really a split second. So, then later on, the insurance adjuster when they have this written down and it's on audio or it's in a transcript, they'll say, “Look, 3 seconds, the car was going in a 40 something feet a second or whatever the calculation there is based on speed, you have plenty of time to avoid the accident”, and the client say, “Well, no, I didn't mean that. It was only a split second”.
Whenever an injured person has to explain things away or backtrack when explaining the events associated with an accident, it hurts their credibility. You are under no obligation to give the other insurance adjuster a statement and there's never anything good that comes out of a statement.
Here is how a statement can hurt your car accident claim. Say you went to the hospital after the crash. In the hospital you are told that you broke your knee cap. The doctor puts you in a long leg brace and tells you to follow-up with an orthopedic surgeon. Fast forward a few days. The phone rings and it's the other driver's insurance adjuster. She is pretty nice and asks you to tell her about your injuries. Your knee injury is on the top of your mind because of the pain and leg brace.
You tell the adjuster that you broke your knee cap. You're taking plenty of pain meds and you're not really thinking about your your back pain so you don't mention your back. Your statement is transcribed.
Three or four weeks later your back pain doesn't let up so you bring it up to your doctor. Your back pain continues to get worse and a few months down the line, you end up having back surgery because of a herniated disk that is pinching a nerve. When the insurance company finds out about the back surgery, the adjuster takes the position that it isn't related to the accident because you didn't tell her that your back was hurting when you gave the statement.
The adjuster may suggest that you are exaggerating, or worse yet, lying. This fact scenario happens way too often and that is why I believe that nothing good comes from a sworn statement. It's not going to get a case settled quickly, it is not going to help you, and it's only going to hurt you.
If you have any questions about a Leesburg, Florida car accident, call (352) 267-9168.