How Do I Protect My Legal Rights After a Car Crash?
If you are about to pursue a bodily-injury claim against an insurance company, you are about to go to war. You have to understand that the insurance company is a for-profit corporation whose sole mission is to pay you as little money as possible.
Do not assume the insurance company will be fair and reasonable. You have to understand that the insurance company will treat you like you are basically committing fraud simply by asserting your legal right to compensation.
Insurance companies have built-in systems to detect fraud. Therefore, if you are going to be making a claim for monetary damages, behave like a person who is actually injured would behave. There are some basic do's and don'ts to consider here.
Do get prompt medical attention. It helps your injuries and it helps your case. People who are really injured don't wait a month after the crash to see a doctor for the first time. Nothing kills a good case like delayed medical treatment.
Do follow your doctor's orders. If your doctor recommends an MRI, get an MRI. If your doctor refers you to a spine surgeon, go see a spine surgeon. People who are really injured follow doctor's orders.
Don't miss medical appointments. Missing medical appointment shows a lack of commitment to your healing.
The insurance company will naturally argue that you are not injured and they will accuse you of fraud. Behave like a person committed to their healing would behave by making sure you make all of your medical appointments.
Do not give a recorded statement to the insurance company. Often in these crashes, insurance companies call the people involved in the crash immediately and ask for a recorded statement.
That is when you are most vulnerable, right after the crash. You haven't had enough time to gather your thoughts and the next thing you know you are being put on the record by the insurance company and giving them evidence. The whole point of asking the crash victim to give a recorded statement is to trick the person into saying something stupid that may hurt their claim.
For example, often insurance adjusters ask people involved in crashes if they are "injured" and many people answer: "Well, I wasn't injured." They were thinking that by "injured" the insurance company means "did you have a broken leg or are you bleeding profusely," or something like that, when in actuality your injury may be more subtle or latent and it may take a couple of days before you realize that your neck is seizing up and in spasm.
Even though you were actually injured, you have answered: “No I was not injured,” on the recorded statement. So later the insurance company will throw that in your face and say: "We asked you immediately after the accident if you were injured and you said 'no,' but now you're trying to assert this bodily injury claim." The insinuation is that you are committing fraud.
It’s always smart to decline the recorded statement until you have spoken with an attorney. And never give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster who calls immediately after an accident.
Don't talk about the crash on social media if you are intending to pursue a bodily-injury claim. This is very important. In the old days insurance companies used to use private investigators who would hide behind trees and take video recordings of people playing golf or tennis who claimed that they were injured or disabled. Nowadays social media has become the new battleground for this particular war.
The insurance company will hire an investigation firm to perform a social media audit on you. So if you have a Facebook profile, a Twitter profile, an Instagram profile, or any other social media profiles, after you've been in a crash assume the insurance company is monitoring all of these social media profiles.
Don’t think that you are safe simply because you have privacy settings set on your social media profiles. The insurance companies are pursuing any means necessary to snoop on your social media without your knowledge or permission.
It's critical to think like an insurance company before posting on social media. Don't post about athletic accomplishments. For example, if you claim you have neck and back injuries, then don't post about recently running a 10K marathon or breaking your gym's record for pull-ups. It looks suspicious. It looks bad.
Don't post about engaging in high-risk activity such as riding roller coasters, bungee jumping, parachuting out of an airplane, or skateboarding.
Don't post party pictures on your social media profiles. This has to do with your credibility as a trial witness. Assume that the insurance company is snooping on your social media. If they see pictures of you and your buddies taking tequila shots in a bar or attending a bachelor or bachelorette party in Las Vegas or whatever the case may be, it looks bad.
The insurance company may later reduce the value of your claim by sending you screenshots of those pictures and insinuating that a jury would think that you were an immoral person, and it actually does hurt the value of your claim.
Keep your social media profiles rated G the entire time that you have an open insurance claim. If you can, take a social media hiatus altogether and simply refrain from posting.
If you just can't resist engaging in social media, post about other people, not about yourself. For instance, put pictures on your social media profiles of your spouse or loved one or children and their accomplishments and athletic achievements. Like or comment on other people's posts, but refrain from affirmatively or proactively posting about yourself.
Should you call a lawyer? Absolutely! Don't think you can handle it by yourself.
Insurance industry survey results have shown that claims settle for far more money when asserted by attorneys then non-attorneys.
This should not come as a surprise. It takes four years of college, three years of law school, and successfully taking the state bar exam to practice law. Why would you think you can do it without all of that training? Insurance claims are essentially precursors to lawsuits. Hire a professional and make sure your case is handled correctly.
Don't speak with or encounter the other parties involved in the crash. Nothing good can come of these encounters. Resist the temptation to blame the other person, or exact revenge on them. You may be exposing yourself to criminal liability for assault, and you may get hurt. Hire an attorney and let the professionals represent the parties involved.
The one exception to this rule is that I believe it is okay to send flowers and a card saying something like: "Get well soon," or "I hope you were not critically injured in the crash." But under no circumstances should you mention fault in the greeting card—yours or theirs—or anything at all to do with the facts of the crash and how it occurred. You may inadvertently say something that will hurt your case.
But I do believe that expressing compassion is appropriate and will be well-received. One of the most common things people tell me is: "The other person never even asked if I was okay." Be the bigger person. Send flowers.
Meet the Author
Gordon Levinson is a former insurance defense and personal injury attorney. He has represented some of the largest insurance companies in North America. Over the course of his career, Mr. Levinson has successfully represented more than 3,000 unique clients. Now, he owns and operates the Levinson Law Group, a practice specializing in representing the victims and family members of life-changing tragedies. In 2015, he published an eBook on how to deal with the aftermath of a vehicle collision. Mr. Levinson enjoys spending time with his wife and children. He also spends much of his free time traveling and coaching youth basketball.