A Common Mistake That Can Negatively Impact Your Car Accident Injury Claim
This blog is the first of a three-part series that will discuss some of the mistakes injury victims make following an automobile collision. Often, such mistakes have a significant negative impact on the injured victim achieving full and fair compensation for injuries and damages resulting from a collision that was not their fault. In separate blogs that will follow, I will address those mistakes that occur during the initial contact with the insurance company and mistakes that are made during a lawsuit should the claim require litigation.
My perspective is derived from thirty-eight years of experience handling personal injury claims and lawsuits, during which I was fortunate to work on both sides of claims and litigated cases. During the first fifteen years of my career, I primarily represented defendants on behalf of their insurance companies; while the past twenty-three years I have represented injury victims, or plaintiffs as they are called in a lawsuit.
Mistake: Remaining Silent About an Injury at the Collision Scene – Even if the Injury is “Minor”
If law enforcement officers investigate a collision it is standard practice for them to take statements from parties involved in the collision and eyewitnesses who have information of value. What is not said can be as important as what is included in a statement given to the investigating officer. The failure of an injured party to mention to the officer investigating the collision that they have pain or any other symptoms attributable to the collision can greatly dictate how an insurance company views the claim and can potentially determine whether a judge or jury awards the injured plaintiff monetary damages.
Typically, statements provided to police officers are not recorded verbatim but rather summarized in the officer’s own words. It is extremely important for any person experiencing pain or any symptoms they believe resulted from a collision to mention all the areas of their body where symptoms are present. A general description such as “neck pain” will suffice. However, failing to mention a specific injured body part can prove harmful to a person’s claim because such silence provides an insurance company the opportunity to challenge that aspect of the claim, and in doing so bring into question the injured party’s credibility.
Reasons vary as to why parties injured in a collision fail to mention their complaints to investigating officers. A simple reason could be that the pain was only minor and not thought to be severe enough to warrant reporting or require medical attention at the scene. However, frequently symptoms originally thought to be minor persist and can become significantly more severe as time progresses, later requiring medical attention.
I recall a case involving an injured party who suffered a moderately severe neck strain in a motor vehicle collision. When the investigating officer asked if she were injured, she said “no,” based on her interpretation of the term “injured,” and her life experience. She interpreted the term “injured” to refer to permanent injuries. Additionally, her life experience of living with a relative who was rendered a paraplegic as a result of a motor vehicle accident influenced her belief that she was not “injured” because she did not believe her pain was severe or permanent. As a result of the injured party’s reluctance to tell the officer about her “minor” injuries, the insurance company to which she submitted an injury claim denied the claim. Thus, BE SAFE! IF YOU HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS, REGARDLESS HOW MINOR, THAT YOU BELIEVE WERE CAUSED BY A COLLISION; SPEAK UP AND TELL THE INVESTIGATING OFFICER.
A Final Piece of Advice
If you were injured in a collision and the police investigated it, obtain a copy of the traffic collision report as soon as possible. Most traffic collision reports are prepared and available for parties involved in the collision to pick up at the department or request by mail approximately ten days after a collision date. If you mentioned to the investigating officer that you were hurt in the collision, but your complaints are not mentioned in the report, go to the police department and request to make a counter supplemental report and include information in that report regarding where you had pain or other symptoms while at the collision scene. A visit to the police department to clarify or correct an oversight or error regarding your post collision symptoms could go a long way to soften the potential negative sting of an original traffic collision report that is silent on that issue.
In the next blog, the topic of discussion will be mistakes that are commonly made when you first communicate with the culpable driver’s insurance company.
We’re Here to Help You
Menicucci Law Group, APC is dedicated to the principle of vigorously representing clients during their injury claims or cases and along the way regularly keeping them informed during the journey. Michael J. Menicucci is available to take your call 24/7 at (714) 742-6848, or you may email him at [email protected]. Please do not hesitate to call. It’s better to speak with an experienced attorney before you make a mistake that could prove to have a significant negative impact on your injury claim. Should you have any questions about Menicucci Law Group, APC, please review the firm’s website mlginjuryattorney.com.
"I consulted Mr. Menicucci after my husband was badly hurt when he fell down a dangerous stairway. The premises owner's insurance company ignored me when all my husband and I were asking them to do was reimburse us for the cost of my hotel room where I had to stay for a few days while my husband was in the hospital. Mr. Menicucci represented my husband in his case against the premises owner who at first denied responsibility forcing us to file a lawsuit. Mr. Menicucci always kept us informed of the developments in the case and gave us sound legal advice. He worked very hard on my husband's behalf and it showed. The same insurance company, which ignored our request for a few hundred dollars, had to pay a substantial six-figure amount." - Carrie.
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