Heaton & Associates’ Top 10 Tips to Settle Your Injury Claim for What it is Worth

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April 8, 2014

10. Document the at-fault party’s information.

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A seemingly “black and white” case can quickly go south if you lack the information to make a claim with the appropriate entity. Document names, addresses, insurance information, license plates and all other information you believe may help identify the at-fault party and/or the relevant policy of liability insurance.

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9. Hire an attorney.

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Faced with the prospect of hiring a lawyer for the first time, some choose to have a go at the claims handling process themselves. Most quickly repent of that decision, though often after their claim has already been significantly weakened. Trust the well-documented fact that most injury claimants who retain legal counsel receive more in their pockets than their unrepresented counterparts. Not to mention the enormous benefit of letting someone else do all the work.

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8. Say nothing to insurance adjusters.

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Shortly after being notified of an injury that may be covered by one of their policies, most insurers will scurry to collect as much information as possible before attorneys get involved. While these efforts are done under the guise of properly evaluating the claim, insurance carriers are simply looking for leverage to minimize the claim’s value. Do not respond to telephone calls, emails or letters soliciting information about how you got hurt, your medical treatment, or your physical condition before or after the accident.

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7. Receive consistent medical care.

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Given the opportunity to do so, every insurance adjuster will ask the following question: “If you were in as much pain as you claim, why did you go two months without seeing a doctor?” Such gaps in treatment undermine your credibility. If your injuries are not obvious (i.e. broken bones, positive MRI findings, etc.), the only way to link your symptoms to the event that you allege caused the injury is to see a doctor soon after, and treat consistently until your doctors release you from care. Expect any inconsistencies during treatment to be used against you.

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6. Stay off of social media.

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For some, this is the most difficult. From the moment you make a claim, view everything you do online in the context of your case. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are valuable sources of free information about your life, and are frequently used by insurance adjusters. If you are claiming a back injury, your claim will suffer from a Facebook post that boasts of you helping a friend move a refrigerator.

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5. Follow your doctors’ advice.

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Ultimately, the viability of your claim rests upon the opinions of your doctors. However, those final opinions are only credible to the extent that you have followed their instructions along the way. As a patient with an open claim, you are the beneficiary of a doctor’s statement that is taken at face value by an adjuster.

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4. Be honest.

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An adjuster’s evaluation of a claim is multi-faceted, but generally speaking, it just has to pass the smell test. If you exaggerate, minimize, intentionally omit facts or choose to lie, it will likely surface at some point. When it does, even valid allegations will be discredited. Simply put, when certain information must be disclosed (at the direction of your attorney), be concise, but accurate.

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3. Recognize how your injuries have affected you.

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Some conditions will never be detected unless you describe your symptoms to your doctors. PTSD and other emotional or psychological disorders are common, but often go untreated because patients are embarrassed or minimize their feelings. Further, not all losses are characterized in terms of pain and suffering and medical bills. Lost wages, lost employment opportunities, limitations on recreational activities, negative effects on family relationships, spoiled vacations and many other consequences are also compensable.

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2. Speak frequently with your attorney.

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Initial consultations can be emotionally charged. Months or even years later, those emotions, as well as desires and even facts may have changed. Your attorney should represent today’s interests, so make sure he/she knows what you hope your case will accomplish. Only then can you be confident that your interests are truly represented.

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1. Be patient.

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Injury claims can drag on because the various stages must be done consecutively.  Do not try to cheat the process by accelerating your medical care. This often has the reverse effect and creates additional challenges to settling your claim. Take it slow. Focus on your return to good health. Make sure your attorney is moving your case as fast as is appropriate, but understand that an adequate resolution may take time.

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