Tips to Handle a Sacramento Personal Injury Car Accident Claim on Your Own
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Sacramento California, the first question you may ask is “can I handle the personal injury claim on my own, without involving an attorney”? The short answer is, of course! However, there are many reasons why it would be in your best financial interest to hire an experienced personal injury attorney in the vast majority of cases. That being said, some victims of an auto accident will decide to go it alone anyway thinking they will achieve a greater settlement, so here is some advice on how to proceed if you do choose to tackle your case by yourself. The following should not be construed as legal advice, but some tips if you are trying to handle your own personal injury car accident case.
Just about everyone has a phone with a camera- use it! Get photos of your vehicle, the other driver’s vehicle, close ups of damage and wide angles of the car and of the accident scene. Take photos of any visible injuries to yourself or of the other driver.
GET THE MEDICAL HELP THAT YOU NEED:
There is a myth that getting a great deal of medical attention and racking up the bills will bolster a personal injury claim resulting from a car accident. This is typically not the case and could leave you saddled with a lot of medical bills you won’t be reimbursed for. At the end of the day you will be compensated only for necessary medical expenses, so only get the medical attention you need. This is an issue between you and your health care provider.
AVOID GIVING STATEMENTS:
Giving a statement or agreeing to an “independent medical exam” has one purpose; that is to benefit the insurance company, not to benefit you. The insurance company will use your statements or medical exams to cross examine you in settlement negotiations or to use against you if your case goes to trial. Recorded statements and insurance company medical exams have one purpose, and it is NOT TO BENEFIT YOU! Do not give the insurance company more ammunition against you – you are already at a disadvantage representing yourself.
How to proceed is less clear in an uninsured motorist case. Your insurance company may require you to do a medical examination or give a recorded statement in order to provide coverage, although some areas have laws that override this contract language. Without a Sacramento personal injury lawyer, you are left with deciding if you want to void your coverage or harm your case. This is one of those cases where you need to do extensive research into your own insurance benefits and ask questions before making a statement.
UNDERSTAND THE TIME FRAMES AND RESTRAINTS:
There are very strict rules which determine when you can file your personal injury claim and dictate all the deadlines in the case, known as the statue of limitations. The statute of limitations will vary based on your jurisdiction and are firm, meaning if you missed the deadline, you will be unable to file your claim at all. You need to be aware of the deadlines and plan accordingly. Waiting until the last minute to file your personal injury claim means you won’t have time to make changes if you’ve made a mistake or done something wrong.
DON’T TELL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER YOUR LIFE’S STORY:
Remember that everything you say to your healthcare provider ends up in your medical records. You need be upfront and honest about your injuries and past medical history, but if there a less than savory explanation regarding how you strained your neck a few years ago, you may want to leave out that part. Your health care provider will need to know that you have a past neck injury, they do not need to know, for example, that it happened because of a parking lot bar fight.
BE HONEST. DON’T LIE:
You should not tell anyone anything or put it in writing unless it is 100% accurate. Remember your medical records may be viewed, so shading the truth or leaving out a 12 year old back injury will be discovered. One of the biggest mistakes clients make is thinking that “no one will know” and “the truth will hurt my case”, but let us assure you, lying or making false statements will be even more detrimental.
DON’T SIGN MEDICAL AUTHORIZATION RELEASE FOR RECORDS:
Insurance claims adjusters will tell you that you can just get medical treatment and they will collect your medical bills and records for you. Collect your own bills and records and forward them to the insurance company yourself. This way you are not giving the insurance company the ability to rifle through your entire medical history and use it against you when negotiating your settlement.
SEND A DEMAND LETTER TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY:
Once you’ve collected all of your medical bills and records, you’ve documented your lost wages, and you have anything else that might be relevant, send it to the insurance company along with a demand letter. The problem of proceeding without a personal injury lawyer is that you probably don’t know how to value your auto accident case nor will you know what to include in your demand package. In that case, you may want to consider just sending in the bills and records without making a demand and let them make you an offer and then argue for more once you know what they are prepared to offer you. The demand is the trickiest part of any Personal Injury case.
While the VAST majority of personal injury cases would benefit from the experience and knowledge of a Personal Injury attorneys, we understand that some people will try to handle their own. In fact, many of the cases we’ve handled for our Sacramento Personal Injury clients are after the client has been unsuccessful on their own. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident- at least give us a call and we will offer you a quick, no pressure consultation and if you still decide to go it alone, we hope these tips help and good luck!