Personal Injury Law for Dummies: 10 Things You MUST Know about Making a Personal Injury Claim
Thanks for visiting the Sally Morin Law Personal Injury attorney website. As a practicing personal injury attorney for the last 20 years, I understand just how difficult making a personal injury claim can be. I've seen many good people just like you stumble somewhere along the way and be overwhelmed by the process.
I always hated those "Dummies Guides" (mostly just because they were calling me a dummy! LOL.) but man are they useful when you are delving into something that is NOT your area of expertise! Here's our version of a Dummies Guide for making a personal injury claim. Assuming you are not a personal injury expert, this should be super helpful.
Firstly, the most important things you can do are educate yourself about the personal injury claim process. Also, if you are going it alone (without an attorney) be prepared for the snail's pace of financial recovery. Below you'll find 10 things you must know about making a personal injury claim that will help you be prepared for any surprises that may arise. I hope this information helps you make informed decisions about your financial future, lets you understand your obligations, and shows you the legal options available.
1. You Must Build Your Case
If you're making a personal injury claim without the help of a professional personal injury attorney, you will be responsible for building your entire case. That means you'll need to:
- Collect the necessary evidence
- Fill out the essential documentation
- Contact all the parties involved (doctors, lawyers, insurance adjusters, police officers, eye witnesses, etc.)
- Create your demand letter (using that evidence)
- Submit it to the insurance company
- Negotiate for a fair settlement
- Be prepared to take your case to court if the insurance company won't agree to your demands
It's a lot of work but it's necessary in order to prove that:
- You were seriously injured in an accident
- Those injuries have dramatically affected your life
- That accident was caused (at least in part) by the party from which you're trying to get compensation
2. Don’t Forget Future Damages
When you're crafting a demand letter (and gathering evidence to support a personal injury claim) never forget you can be compensated for future damages too. The financial impact of an injurious accident can be devastating right now. But calculating how much those injuries will impact future income is an essential part of the recovery process. In fact, those future damages are often much larger than the immediate damages you suffered during the crash.
These future damages can include:
- Decreased income due to decreased ability to work
- Ongoing medical expenses
- The cost of physical or emotional therapy
- And more
4. Don’t Be Too Eager
Most people just want the financial recovery process to be over and done with—and insurance companies know that. They'll throw low-ball offers out in order to get injured, stressed-out individuals to accept much less than they may be entitled to. That's why it's essential you understand how much your injuries may really be worth. That information should be the basis of your demand letter and impact the fair but adequate settlement figure you come up with.
It's your right (and your obligation) to negotiate with the insurance company in order to get a settlement that will cover all the expenses you've suffered (and those you will suffer in the future). You have to push back because it's an adjuster's job to save the company as much money as possible. If that means short changing you on your personal injury claim, they'll do it.
5. Know (and Be Prepared to Explain) Why that First Offer Is Inadequate
This is where homework comes into play. If you've researched the making a personal injury claim by yourself, you should understand what your injuries are actually worth. You should be able to judge whether or not the insurance company is trying to short change you. But knowing that and getting what you're entitled to are two different things.
You need to explain to the insurance company why their offer isn't enough (and explain in great detail). If they see that you've truly prepared an iron-clad demand letter and have the evidence you need to back up your claims, the negotiation process will go much more smoothly.
6. Your Medical History and Private Life Are NOT Off Limits
If the insurance company or at fault party gets an attorney involved on their side, that attorney will dig deep into your personal life. They will hack through your:
- Medical records
- Employment records
- Social media profiles
They will find any shred of evidence they can use to paint you in a bad light. And if they can suggest your injuries may not be affecting you as much as you claim, they will.
While past medical history and employment records really have no bearing at all on making a personal injury claim related to a recent accident, if a defense attorney can "prove" a pattern of delinquency or link previous ailments and injuries to those you're suffering at the moment it could effectively limit the amount of compensation you will be awarded.
Proving your injuries are real and specific may take an overwhelming amount of evidence including:
- Doctor's expert testimony
- Medical documentation
- Witness statements
7. It May Take Years to Successfully Make a Personal Injury Claim
Because of the amount of work involved in making a personal injury claim and the necessity for negotiation, it could take years for you to receive the compensation you rightly deserve. Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side can shorten that time frame but you should be prepared to "wait it out." It's difficult but may be the only way to get the maximum compensation you deserve.
But, that wait is not always a bad thing . . .
8. Reach the Point of Maximum Medical Improvement before Settling your Personal Injury Insurance Claim
The point of Maximum Medical Improvement is when you have reached the end of the treatment plan for your injuries.
It's important to wait for this point because a major component of any personal injury claim is the medical expenses you incur due to those injuries. It's not always easy (or even possible) to estimate just how large your hospital and therapy bills will be until the whole process has drawn to an end.
Indeed, you may be hit with large expenses later in your recovery process that you hadn't anticipated. If you've accepted a settlement prior to getting slapped with these unexpected bills, you will have no legal recourse to seek compensation for these expenses.
9. Your Financial Settlement will Make You a Target
There are predatory lending agencies out there that offer accident victims quick money in exchange for their settlements. That's a hard thing to turn down when you've been out of work for an extended period of time and your household savings are quickly vanishing. When you actually reach a settlement, these companies will come out of the woodwork, promising you cash-in-hand in as little as 24 hours.
What they don't tell you is that you get just a small percentage of your total financial award while they walk away with the lion's share.
Don't fall prey to these predatory individuals. Always keep your financial security top of mind and steer clear of these "get rich quick" offers.
10. Successfully Making a Personal Injury Claim May Require Going to Court
Even if you do all the preparation you can, gather every bit of evidence, craft a compelling demand letter, negotiate like a pro . . . your case may still need to go to court.
This often happens when:
- The insurance company insists the amount you're asking for is too high
- The evidence you have isn't strong enough to convince the insurance company their client should shoulder the blame
- The medical evidence you've provided doesn't clearly demonstrate just how devastating your injuries are
You can defend your case in court on your own but when you're up against defense attorneys and corporate lawyers it's always a good idea to have an experienced personal injury attorney by your side.
Information is Your Best Weapon
When you're making a personal injury claim, learn everything you can about the process. That information will serve you well throughout the entire ordeal.
Indeed, when you know what information and documentation you need (and where to get it) it's easier to craft a solid case that will impress insurance companies and show them that you're not a pushover.
While you'll still have to fight for every penny you deserve, being able to calmly show why you deserve every dollar the insurance company will be more likely to agree. These 10 things you must know about making a personal injury claim are just the tip of the iceberg. They're designed to help you see what you're in for and prepare you to combat the sense of overwhelm that can get in the way of a solid financial recovery.
If you have a serious traffic accident case that you'd like our 5-star rated team of personal injury lawyers to evaluate, click here for an online case evaluation. It only takes 3 minutes and is FREE.