Being in an accident or experiencing an injury is a challenging enough situation on its own. Just dealing with healing and rehabilitation would be enough on your plate. But then there’s the bills. Medical bills are the single most common reason for otherwise responsible people to experience financial hardship, which is why it’s so important to seek a personal injury settlement if the conditions of your injury are caused by someone else.
Whether you have been in a car accident or have been injured in a public facility, most accidents could and should have been prevented according to the law. Also according to the law, those who are legally responsible for preventing your accident are also financially responsible for the aftermath. A personal injury settlement is designed to ensure that all your medical needs and income lost to recovery are paid for by the responsible party, so that victims are not put into financial hardship.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets a fair settlement. Insurance companies and opposing lawyers have methods of undermining a personal injury claim and reducing the settlement you will get to cover related expenses. The good news is that you can “fight back” just by taking a few smart steps between the injury and the courtroom. Here’s how to maximize your personal injury settlement:
Document the Injury Scene (or Ask a Friend)
Insurance companies tend to twist and diminish the truth of a scene, and unless it was a car accident, there may not be police-taken photos of where and how you were injured. So take your own photos, or ask a friend or your lawyer to take care of it while you recover. Document the scene, where the injury occurred and how it occurred. Get several angles with good camera focus and clear lighting. These pictures and any additional info may seem general now, but it could be a life-saver later when proving your case.
Photograph Your Injuries for the First Week
Another common settlement-reducing trick is to downplay the severity of your injuries. This is often done by pretending that your injury is equal to however much you have healed, not how bad it was immediately after or how that severity might turn into long-term medical care. So document your injuries.
Not all injuries are visible, but if any of yours are, take photographs as soon as they are visible. Cuts, bruises, dislocations, and any other visible damage should be photographed to prove that you were significantly injured and those injuries showed right after the accident.
Your doctor may be willing to help with this task.
These images are proof that you are not exaggerating your injuries or the aftermath of them.
See a Private Doctor – Get a Private Medical Report
It is vital that you visit a doctor right away after your accident, and that you come back with a detailed medical report documenting your injuries.
However: Do not — this is worth repeating in caps — DO NOT — go see an insurance-provided doctor. Don’t let them “give you a routine medical examination” and do not accept diagnoses from anyone paid or commissioned by the insurance company. Your personal injury attorney can tell you that an insurance-reccomended doctor’s job is to downplay both your injury now and your future medical needs. And a medical opinion — even bought and biased — will hold up in court.
See your own doctor, your personal doctor or a new doctor, and get a detailed injury report from them. Bring this to your lawyer and Discovery.
Consult With a Personal Injury Attorney & Keep in Touch
If you have not already contacted a personal injury lawyer, right after your first doctor’s checkup is about the right time to call. You want your attorney to be part of your process from as early as possible. They will give you advice on how to collect your evidence and start building a strong liability case that you will then complete together.
Go over the accident, both what you remember and what you can prove happened. Talk about the location and who it belongs to. Talk about reckless vs reasonable actions, and talk about what you can do to make your case stronger between now and court day.
And if your lawyer calls, answer. Just as you need them in-touch, they need you in-touch to build your case and clarify any details along the way.
Ask Your Doctor to Help Predict Future Medical Needs
One of the things that a personal injury settlement is supposed to cover is your future medical needs, as well as those today. If you will need rehabilitation treatment, medical gear, or future care over now-tender joints, keep these potentials in mind. Talk to your doctor and together build a prospectus of your medical costs for the next 2 years, 5 years, and lifetime based on the injury you sustained.
Attend Follow-Up Medical Appointments
Keep your health status up-to-date. Do everything you can to encourage your healing, including any follow-up medical appointment. Missing medical appointments can cause an insurance company to “assume” that you’re not that badly hurt and downgrade the magnitude of your potential settlement. Be attentive to your health and make it clear that you are making every effort to recovery.
Respond to Discovery Promptly
In a personal injury case, discovery is everything. Discovery is when the the court asks that you make certain documents or information available for shared review. You may be asked for personal paperwork, your medical records, your documentation of the scene, and more. Your opponent may be asked for things like security video tapes or records that they have tried to avoid your type of injury.
Discovery may be asked several times during the process, or just once. When it happens, your lawyer will help you to find all the information asked for, organize it, and they will submit it to the court. Responding to Discovery promptly allows the case to move forward and shows that you are eager for a fair settlement based on your facts.
Practice Your Depositions with Your Lawyer
Go over your depositions with your lawyer. Deposition is when you tell your story under oath. It might be in a court room, an office, or a conference room. It might be live or video taped. But when you give your account, you should be calm and precise. Most people aren’t calm and precise naturally, especially when speaking of something difficult or traumatic.
So it helps to practice. Your lawyer will act as a coach, helping you state your story with calm and confidence. They may also ask practice-questions to help you prepare for any curve-balls that might be asked in the upcoming deposition. Be prepared for questions designed to make you look uncertain, less injured, or that might upset you. Your lawyer can help you know how to handle them on the day.
Be Ready to Negotiate Settlement Offers
Finally, be ready to talk about negotiations with your lawyer. In a settlement case, sometimes you will get several offers and may have the opportunity to negotiate for a better settlement based on making a strong case. If the liable party offers a settlement early, your lawyer may advise that you decline and wait for a better offer when you’ve had a chance to make a stronger case.
Some cases may be more complicated than others, and there may also be more points on the table than just a final settlement amount. If negotiations become a part of the case, don’t worry. Your attorney will help you make the best decision to maximize the benefit to you and your long-term wellbeing.
How can you maximize your personal injury settlement? Let us help. Contact us today to consult with a personal injury attorney ready to consult on your situation.