Pursuing a personal injury claim puts you in an unfamiliar situation. You’ll have to think carefully before you speak to anyone. From the adjuster, to the defendant, to the police officer at the scene – what you say makes a difference. Never forget that the insurance company wants to save money. When processing your claim they’ll use anything you say against you in order to lower your settlement payment.
Litigation and claim processing really starts the moment an accident happens. You can make or break your case depending on how you handle yourself immediately after the accident. You must collect and pay attention to evidence, and you need to keep a clear record of what you see.
What you say during this time can sometimes come back to haunt you. Imagine that you come out of a car accident and you’re faced with a hysterical driver. You might feel the need to calm them down. It would be natural to say things like “it’s okay”, “it’s not your fault”, or even “it’s my fault.” You might also feel the need to say that you’re okay and aren’t injured. Saying such things is normal and shouldn’t totally ruin your personal injury claim. But these statements can make things more difficult, especially if you were heard by witnesses.
If you have an accident on business property, you may be interviewed by a company representative, or be asked to fill out forms on the accident. First of all, don’t sign anything. The only thing they could possibly ask you to sign is something that will clear them of responsibility. You haven’t even thought about a personal injury claim yet, so why would you let them off the hook?
As for questions they’d ask, answer like you would for a police report. Never say anything that will admit negligence on your part. Don’t even hint at it. Something as simple as saying you’re not sure what happened, or that you may have made a mistake, is bad for you.
When discussing your personal injury claim, you want to make sure you refer to your injuries in medical terms. Usually you’ll just be repeating things from your medical file.
Sometimes, you might be tempted to use terms that are medical slang. Don’t do this. A common example of this kind of slang is the term “whiplash.” This term is widely used and serves to quickly explain a certain type of injury, but it’s a bad word to use when discussing a personal injury claim.
Whiplash has never been a medical term. It used to be an acceptable way of describing certain injuries incurred from a car accident. These days it’s become associated with exaggerated or even fraudulent claims. Using it can damage your case – it can create a negative view with the adjuster or the judge.
No doubt there will be other times when you should watch what you say. The general rule to remember throughout your personal injury claim is: you’re not an expert. Whether it’s legal or medical, don’t let anyone pressure you into saying something that isn’t your place to say – this is especially true when determining the extent of your injuries. And remember, if something is your fault, then it’s someone else’s job to prove it.
Arthur Gueli works with his brother Charles (a licensed personal injury attorney) teaching injured people how to protect their rights and obtain fair compensation for their damages.
Learn more about liability in traffic accidents (and how to make it work in your favor) at this page on their information-packed website: