Recovering damages after you’ve been in an accident or suffered another injury can make a tremendous difference to you and your family. A fair settlement or jury award after a serious personal injury can ensure access to the medical care and rehabilitation you need, help pay for services to pick up the slack while you recover or handle tasks you can no longer do yourself, and provide continuing financial security.
Unfortunately, when it comes to personal injury cases and other legal claims, what you don’t know can hurt you. Too often, people who have been injured damage their own claims before they ever speak with a Jacksonville personal injury lawyer. Or, they don’t take the advice of their injury lawyer seriously enough, and make mistakes even after they’ve retained counsel.
Protecting Your Florida Personal Injury Claim
Here’s what you need to know to avoid some of the most common–and potentially costly–personal injury errors.
1. Don’t wait too long to speak to a personal injury attorney.
You may have heard that in Florida, you have four years after an injury to file a personal injury suit. While that’s generally true, there are exceptions. For example, the statute of limitations is shorter for many claims against governmental entities. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death suit is also shorter.
That’s just one reason it’s a good idea to consult an accident attorney as soon as possible after your injury. Getting started sooner typically means receiving compensation sooner. Your injury lawyer will have a better opportunity to investigate and gather evidence on your behalf if you get started shortly after your accident. And, talking to a lawyer early in the process can help you avoid the other pitfalls discussed below.
2. Seek medical attention and follow up as instructed.
Many people like to wait and see if symptoms go away on their own before seeing a doctor. When you’ve been injured in an accident, that’s a bad idea for two reasons. First, and most important, you could unknowingly aggravate the injury in ways that will prolong your recovery, or even turn a temporary injury into a permanent one. Second, if your own choices and actions (such as not seeing a doctor) are partly responsible for your injuries and related medical expenses and limitations, the responsible party’s insurance carrier will likely argue that you aren’t entitled to compensation for those more serious injuries or limitations.
The same applies to failing to follow up with physicians and other medical professionals, ignoring their advice, skipping rehab, and similar decisions. To protect both your health and your personal injury claim, follow medical advice.
3. Be very careful what you say to insurance companies.
When an insurance company contacts you after an injury, the person on the other end of the phone is typically very friendly and seems helpful. They’ll likely ask how you’re doing, and they may tell you that they want to get compensation to you as quickly as possible to help you through this difficult time.
When you’ve just been through a traumatic experience, may be in pain or medicated, and are likely uncertain what the immediate future holds, that approach can be very soothing. Don’t be fooled. Insurance companies make their money by bringing in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims. If you’re having a good day and tell the insurance company rep that you’re feeling good, you can expect those words to come back to haunt you if you later file a claim for pain and suffering, or seek compensation for limitations caused by the accident–even if you just happened to be having an exceptionally good few hours when you spoke. And, a quick settlement generally isn’t intended to help you out, but to cut off your claims before you speak to a personal injury attorney or learn the full extent of your medical damages.
Once you hire an attorney, you can hand off these communications. An experienced personal injury attorney will know the insurance company’s tricks and tactics, and can serve as a protective buffer between you and them.
4. Don’t talk about your accident / injury in social media.
You’ve probably heard Miranda warnings on television, where the police tell a suspect “anything you say can and will be used against you.” People pursuing civil claims don’t get that type of warning, but the concept holds true. When you file a personal injury lawsuit–especially if you have significant damages–you can expect the insurance company and their lawyers to comb through everything available to find inconsistencies in your story, collect evidence that you aren’t as seriously injured as you say, and generally undermine your case.
You may think that as long as you tell the truth, your social media posts or comments you’ve made to friends or texts you’ve sent can’t hurt you. But, innocent statements or photos can be taken out of context and used against you. The less you say, the better.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer Right Away
These are just some of the most common ways personal injury victims accidentally damage their own cases. The best way to avoid these and other pitfalls that can limit the compensation you receive or even destroy your case is to get advice from an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury.
If you were injured some time ago and haven’t talked to an injury lawyer yet, the second best time to do so is now.
At Harrell & Harrell, we know how important it is for you to have accurate information about your rights and guidance on how to move forward. We also know the legal process can be intimidating. We want to make it as easy and painless as possible for you to get the guidance you need. So, we offer free consultations and no fees or costs unless we win to people who have been injured in and around Jacksonville, Florida.
Schedule yours right now by calling 904-251-1111, filling out the contact form on this site, or clicking at the bottom of the page to chat.