Anyone who has been injured due to no fault of their own knows filing a lawsuit isn’t about collecting a windfall. It’s about putting the pieces of your life back together. Nobody can say how your injuries will affect you long after the at-fault party and their insurance company have forgotten you, that’s why it’s important to ensure you obtain everything you are legally entitled to recover.
Insurance industry studies have shown that a personal injury attorney can help accident victims recover up to three-and-a-half times more money than those who don’t get an attorney. Think of it this way: that’s $52,500 for the accident victim who hired a lawyer, and $15,000 for the one who didn’t.
We answer some of the most common questions about how you can get the most from a personal injury settlement, including up to 3.5 times more money.
Insurance companies have a profit motive. Therefore, they never pay out more than they have to, and will not exceed the amount capped by your coverage tier. Most people can’t afford higher monthly premiums, so they purchase standard protection at a standard rate, then cross their fingers and hope they won’t have to rely too much on their insurance. Unfortunately, crossing your fingers doesn’t keep personal injury disasters away.
Also, even the best insurance coverage is capped at a certain amount, and it might not be enough to compensate you for all your hardships.
You may be able to make up the difference, however, depending on who’s responsible for what happened to you. You can also seek recovery from:
- the party at fault, and their insurance company;
- the at-fault party’s employers if they’re liable for their employees’ carelessness;
- anyone whose poor workmanship led to, or contributed to your injuries, including bad construction workers, shoddy automobile mechanics, or any person failing to post a warning where danger was possible;
- automobile manufacturers in the case of defective parts and recalls;
- government entities that failed to fix known hazards or maintain roads or bridges;
- your own policy’s underinsured insurance coverage. Be aware that your own insurance may be “stacked” which means that if you are insuring multiple vehicles under the same policy, you may be entitled to double, triple or even quadruple your coverage.
- A family member’s automobile insurance coverage
If the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance, or enough of it, you can use your own Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UM/UIM). Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required for any automobile insurance policy issued in Colorado unless you specifically reject the coverage in writing.Because this situation arises far more often than most people expect, the cost savings by rejecting are often not worth the benefit if you are unfortunately in an automobile wreck.
Also, consider all the other insurance policies that might be available to you. For instance, if you were a passenger during an accident, you can expect compensation from either the driver you were riding with or the driver of the other vehicle if they were at fault. If you were injured in a slip-and-fall somewhere like a hospital, their insurance comes into play as well.
There’s no such thing as having too much evidence in a personal injury lawsuit, but it’s possible to not have enough. The more documentation you can collect, preserve, and present on your own behalf, the better.
Recovering from injuries sustained in an accident can hinder your ability to gather timely and accurate evidence. That’s where a personal injury attorney comes into play. They’ll be able to collect the evidence you need to increase your chances of getting the maximum settlement.
Your personal injury attorney has experience obtaining camera footage, recordings, reports, documents, records, and other evidence that can often make the difference between a favorable outcome and an unfavorable one. The process of obtaining this information is often complex and the rules for obtaining the information can be difficult to follow, especially if you’re in the hospital or immobilized at home.
You will want to collect all the evidence you can that’s related to your accident and what caused it. You’ll also want to gather information about the injuries you’ve suffered and hardships you’ve endured, and will continue to face, as you recover.
How to Gather Really Good Evidence:
- Obtain the full police report of the accident, or incident report if the accident that injured you wasn’t investigated by police.
- Take multiple photos of the accident scene if you aren’t injured too badly
- Snap photos showing the vehicles and scene of the collision.
- Snap photos of your injuries, in particular any cuts, abrasions or bruises, after the accident.
- Get eyewitness testimony if you can, or see if your lawyer can get it.
- Get contact information from all parties involved, including police officers, property managers (if your injury occurred in or near a building and not in a car), anyone who assisted you, and all eye witnesses
- Collect employment records documenting days you’ve had to miss work, and wages lost as a result
- Get medical treatment even if you don’t feel injured immediately after the accident. Some injuries are not immediately obvious or painful, especially if you’re in shock
- If you are hurt, report all of your injuries. Don’t ignore that twinge of muscle pain in your neck just because you also suffered a broken arm and a shattered ankle. It’s important to document all injuries if you want them included in your settlement.
- Don’t skip medical treatments. Go to every scheduled doctor’s appointment and physical therapy session. Once you feel better, wait a full 30 days before deciding if you have fully recovered. If any pain comes back, or gets worse, see a doctor immediately.
You won’t know, especially right away. You shouldn’t even try to guess. Also, don’t accept the first offer an insurance company brings you.
Don’t take fast money. Hold out for fair money. Even if the first offer you get from an insurance company or at-fault party is more than you’ve ever had in the bank, keep in mind, it’s the first offer. It’s probably a fraction of what you’re entitled to.
For example, a first offer might cover all your immediate medical and lost wage expenses with a nice stack of money left over. It is supposed to be a tempting offer, but only if you haven’t taken the time to consider all your needs.
It is important to document all the damage and hardship you’ve suffered. It is more than medical bills and lost paychecks. There are non-economic costs, such as pain and emotional trauma, especially if you are left with permanent scarring, disfigurement, or shattered bones that never properly heal.
Your injuries can impair your movement, your eyesight, your hearing, your sex drive, and/or even your ability to sleep. There’s also the matter of your future needs.
Doctors can determine whether you’ll require treatment and other medical attention in the future. These upcoming expenses will be real, and must be calculated ahead so you can seek recovery now.
For example, you could need future surgery to remove scar tissue, or to reset bones that didn’t heal right. You could require a regimen of effective, but safe pain medication for years to come. You must also consider the cost of replacing medical devices and other helpful equipment that can wear out over time and frequent use.
Last, but not least, your attorney will fight to help you obtain the settlement you deserve.
Many factors in a personal injury case can work against you, even if you’re being honest and trusting the system. If your case is serious enough that an insurance company would really rather not pay out, they’ll look for anything they can find that might negatively impact your claim, such as:
- pre-existing injuries or medical conditions
- a poor driving record, especially if there’s a DUI charge
- any statements you have made to involved parties, especially insurance adjusters
- any evidence that you’re not as injured as your medical records show
There isn’t much you can do about pre-existing injuries or medical conditions, except to argue that the accident made them even worse. The best defense against evidence of a poor driving record (after a car accident) is having ample testimony from witnesses and responding police officers that you were not impaired at the time of the accident.
You have total control over your words, however. So use it.
When speaking with insurance adjusters, whether they be from your insurance or representing the at-fault party, make only factual statements that can help you. Do not speculate. Do not assign even a small portion of blame to yourself. Do not give or offer opinions about the incident or your case. Many personal injury attorneys will tell you not to speak to an insurance adjuster at all; let them handle that.
Also, since this is the smartphone age, never talk about the incident or personal injury case over social media. Of course you want to keep your friends updated. Yes, sharing details about the incident with friends and family is one way to process the trauma of it. However, when you’re trying to maximize a personal injury settlement, you don’t want to undermine the effort with your own careless words.
Representatives for the at-fault party can access anything you post on social media, including Twitter rants, Instagram photos, Facebook updates, and very ill-advised dance videos on TikTok. It’s important to lay low while recovering from serious injuries, even if you want to show the world how brave and optimistic you are.
Get an injury attorney. Injury victims who hire a personal injury attorney get around three-and-a-half times more money in compensation and damages (hyperlink 1) than those who go it alone.
All of the above advice is important. But, again, much of it would be moot without a compassionate, experienced personal injury attorney to back you up.
An attorney will take the reins for you and investigate, negotiate, and litigate on your behalf while you recover. A good attorney knows the law and the games insurance companies can play. Your attorney will fight to get you the settlement you deserve.