What Can I Do to Help Myself
In the immediate aftermath of an accident causing injury or loss of life, too much happens, too fast, to be able to fully comprehend the implications of how the accident might have occurred, grasp the consequences of a possible loss of income, and face the spector of mounting medical bills. Here are some practical guidelines which have helped others in the past:
Be careful who you talk to. You are required to speak to your own insurer’s representative to get your claim going. However, there is very little value (and, sometimes, significant detriment) in speaking with the representatives of the other insurer(s). Liability adjusters want to establish a relationship with you. They are trained to ask the right questions. That statement or that information which you gave without careful preparation and thought may very well come around to haunt you at a later date.
Be careful talking about the accident or your injury with co-workers, friends or acquaintances. Insurers get information by talking with neighbors and co-workers. Be honest, but cautious, in what you say to others. Certainly, don’t tell anyone that you are fine if you are not.
Be very careful about what you put into social media like Facebook or Twitter. Social media are some of the first sources which insurers and defense lawyers consult when they want to learn about someone. Court orders are routinely granted which may cause you to provide your user name and the social networks to which you belong, as well as your passwords. Court orders will breach any electronic wall erected by you to keep out uninvited guests. Be cautious admitting new friends on your Facebook or Twitter account.
Get pictures of the accident scene. If your accident was a motor vehicle accident, get pictures of the vehicles, especially your own. Take pictures of your injury and your progress in recuperation.
Record daily how you are feeling and any problems which you are encountering. Jot down information which you may learn about the accident, as well as when and from whom you learned that information; otherwise, you will forget. Be aware, however, that some time in the future you may be asked or required to turn the information which you record to others, so be prudent about what you write down.
Immediately get an accident report. If the accident report has errors in it, contact the investigating officer, explain the errors and ask that they be corrected.
Be wary of non-law enforcement “investigators.” An “investigation” may be simply a guise to recruit you to legal representation or medical treatment. This type of activity is considered to be highly unethical, so be skeptical of any investigator who may suggest employing a particular doctor or lawyer.
Be honest with your doctor, your lawyer and your insurance company. However, don’t tell your doctor that you are “fine” just to avoid being thought a complainer. “Fine” goes in your medical record. You don’t want to have to explain later how “fine” was not an accurate reflection of your condition.
Tell each care provider of all areas which hurt. Simply concentrating on specific areas of complaint when seeing a specialist in that area and failing to identify what may appear to be lesser or unrelated concerns can turn out to be a major mistake. Failure to medically document an injury can cast doubt upon the injury. Since injuries tend to wax and wane, pain in one area may temporarily overshadow another area of injury. What may seem a relatively minor part of your injury, in comparison with a more painful area, can develop into a much more serious matter over time. If it is not in the record, then it doesn’t exist.
Do everything to rehabilitate yourself. Failure to follow doctor’s orders for physical therapy or home exercise programs is pointed to as the reason that the claimant didn’t get better. There is no reason to victimize oneself by failing to follow doctor’s orders.
Go back to work as soon as you can. Do not listen to any suggestions that you “build your case” by not working. Go back to work as soon as possible, unless your doctor takes you off work. Simply deciding that you can’t work, without a doctor’s written recommendation, will cast significant doubt on the authenticity of your claim.