8 mistakes that tend to hurt personal injury claims
What kind of mistakes end up costing people their personal injury cases? A number of errors get made — from exaggerating injuries to minimizing them, and misstating lost income. This article looks at common mistakes, and how to avoid them.
Winning with a personal injury claim involves more than telling the court what happened, describing your injuries, and standing by to be awarded fair compensation. It is an intricate process that needs to be steered ably. Mistakes are often made, and they end up costing victims the compensation they deserve. If you’ve been injured and hope for damages, it’s important to keep in mind what kind of mistakes others in your situation make, and to be careful to avoid them.
Handling the process yourself
Making a success of a claim requires both technical experience and a sense of how the process works that borders on the artistic. Experience helps make sure that your documents are filed in court the right way and important deadlines are met. The artistic side to it comes from the need to negotiate terms persuasively, and to apply judgment to see when an offer by the defendant is or isn’t likely to get better with sustained effort.
When you go into a personal injury lawsuit without the counsel of a qualified attorney, you lack a guide who can help you in these areas. In general, plaintiffs who represent themselves manage to recover far less than they are due.
Making missteps with charges of contributory negligence
Accidents aren’t always the fault of just one party. Sometimes, the victim’s actions play a role, as well. The defendant’s lawyer may make the plaintiff out to be partly responsible for the accident, and may attempt to deny them compensation as a result. It can be a mistake to not have a plan to counter such efforts by the other side. It’s important to know how to come back in the face of accusations of contributory negligence, something that an experienced lawyer can bring to your case.
Not being entirely truthful
People who are unfamiliar with the way the law works are often tempted to subtly embellish their accounts in court to help make their case appear more appealing than it may be. Exaggerations, if found out in court, however, can have serious consequences. Your case may be dismissed, or evidence important to your case may end up suppressed. These circumstances can cost you your case.
Being vocal on Facebook
In the middle of a challenging personal injury lawsuit, you may at some point feel like unburdening to your friends on Facebook. What you may overlook, however, is that your statements on social networks are probably admissible evidence. If anything you say on the social networks is inconsistent with your statements in court, the defendants may be able to challenge your claims. It’s important to avoid social media, altogether.
From a detailed personal pain journal to incident write-ups, police reports, images, medical reports, and receipts, documentation helps you build a case in court. Whatever your legal strategy may be, you need documentation to build it on. Being careless with documentary evidence or losing it, can cost you your case.
Guessing, when you don’t know
When you have no good answer to a question that you’re asked about your case, you may be tempted to guess at the appropriate answer, rather than to simply say you don’t know. Your speculation, however, may have implications that aren’t obvious to you. The defendant’s lawyer may be able to use a poorly thought-out answer to pick your case apart. Guessing can be a mistake.
Making some issues out to be less significant than they are
Exaggerating your injuries isn’t the only mistake you can make. Many people make the mistake of minimizing some of their injuries, simply because they want to not sound like crybabies. They want to appear strong and resilient. An experienced lawyer, however, should be able to notice these tendencies, and steer you away from them, because underplaying your injuries can result in lower levels of compensation.
You don’t go in prepared for the questions you will face
Not only do you need to prepare with the right documentation for your case, you need to know ahead of time what kind of questions the other side will pose, as well. If you aren’t prepared, you may offer incorrect or misleading answers that hurt your case. For instance, the opposing counsel may ask you questions about past accidents and job losses. While these may have nothing to do with your injuries, not being prepared for them can catch you off-guard. They may even ask you about your income as stated on your tax returns, and how you don’t appear to lose much income as a result of your accident. A lawyer on your side is able to prepare you for all the questions you’re likely to face.
Finally, many victims in personal injury incidents make the mistake of waiting too long to begin seeking justice. Delays, however, come with the risk of allowing evidence to disappear. The idea to keep in mind is that personal injury lawsuits are highly technical matters. Mistakes can end up being very costly. Going in with a qualified attorney is your best insurance policy against these mistakes.