By Karen Piso Nadeau, Esquire
The past year presented new clients with some of the same old problems to overcome. Most of these problems could have been easily avoided, making the likelihood of a successful personal injury result much higher for our clients. Many of these issues we have successfully conquered for our clients resulting in getting them the money they need and deserve. Other issues sometimes present insurmountable obstacles to getting our clients the money they need. This blog will identify some of the most common problems that arise on our cases and what you can do now and in 2022 to place yourself and your family in the best possible position for a successful personal injury resolution. We always say that no one likes to think about being involved in an accident where they or a loved one has been harmed at the hands of someone else’s fault. However, most of our clients wished they prepared better and addressed this common list of errors before they suddenly found themselves injured in an accident and vulnerable.
- Review Your Insurance Coverage
I cannot say this enough- every family needs to review their insurance coverage with a trusted insurance agent to make sure they have adequate insurance in the event they find themselves suffering injuries in an accident. There are two main coverages that consistently are too minimal or non-existent: 1.) Underinsured Coverage and 2.) Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage.
As to underinsured coverage, this insurance covers you or a household member in the event the responsible driver does not have enough bodily injury coverage to compensate you for your loss. Also, uninsured coverage provides a layer of protection in the event the responsible driver has no coverage or can’t be identified. One of our cases this year involved a married health care worker who suffered back injuries requiring a lot of physical therapy, orthopedic care, and pain management. The driver that ran a red light and struck his vehicle only had minimal 20/40 coverage. This meant my client could only recover $20,000.00 from the at fault driver’s insurance. However, since he had his own auto insurance with 100/300 limits for underinsurance coverage, he was able to recover another $80,000.00 from his own coverage. This case shows the harsh reality if you fail to have adequate underinsured coverage. If this client did not have the 100K in underinsurance coverage, he would only be able to recover 20K versus the 100K he received. Clients are shocked to learn that they lack the underinsurance protection and how little it costs to have this additional protection for them and their family.
Another example of a real client experience involves a child struck on his bicycle by a car that fled the scene. The child suffered broken bones requiring medical attention. Since the driver and vehicle could not be identified, the child would have recovered nothing if the family did not have uninsured motorist coverage. Since there was $100,000.00 in uninsured coverage on the parent’s auto policy, we were able to settle his case for the $100,000.00. Again, without this coverage, we would have been unable to get this boy the money he deserved.
The other coverage that some clients do not realize they are deleting to save very little money in insurance premium is Personal Injury Protection known in the industry as PIP coverage. This is no fault coverage that provides typically $8,000.00 total in benefits for medical expenses and lost wages if you are injured in an accident. Some clients do not know that they have cut this important coverage to save some money on insurance and the money saved is so minimal when they realize the protection that this PIP coverage provides. Clients think that they do not need this coverage if they have health insurance. This is not accurate. Most people today have deductibles and copays. Copays for doctor’s appointments and physical therapy add up quick. This PIP coverage provides $8,000.00 in protection to pay for those high deductibles and or copays. Another real case example involves a client who is a nurse that was injured in a car accident and was unable to work for a period of time. She had the PIP coverage that provided her $6,000.00 in lost wages plus an additional $2,000.00 to cover some medical expenses. This helped her through a difficult time.
The other important area of insurance coverage that needs to be reviewed is your coverage for your own liability in the event you cause an accident that hurts someone. You want to make sure you have the liability coverage you need to protect you in the event you cause an accident that harms another person. Not having adequate insurance can place your assets at risk. The best thing you can do is to speak to a trusted insurance agent to have the coverage you need in place before you are ever in the situation.
I don’t want to see any more clients facing inadequate insurance coverage when they or a loved one find themselves seeking compensation for injuries in an accident suffered at the hands of someone else.
- Call the Police to the Scene of an Accident
This scenario is too familiar for me:
“The other driver said there was no need to call police. We can just exchange papers and let the insurance handle it.”
I have two recent examples of this going terribly bad for my clients. In one case, my client was rear ended entering a highway. She suffered neck and back injuries. The other driver seemed sincere and said they were sorry. My client just wanted to go home to the safety and comfort of her house. The other driver decided to lie to his insurance company and say my client backed into him. It seemed ridiculous to think my client backed up on a highway. Plus, the property damage was severe and more consistent with a higher speed, heavy impact rear end collision. The insurance company chose to side with their insured, the liar who rear-ended my client. If the police showed up and did a police report, in all likelihood, the other driver would have admitted he rear ended my client and the police report would reflect that as well as the police findings. Instead, it was a battle with the insurance company to get my client the money she deserved. It delayed her settlement money and increased the costs fighting the insurance company. We ultimately won, but my client should not have been left in this vulnerable position by not having the police at the scene memorializing everything.
I had another similar case with a client where the other driver ran a red light while driving a work truck. He told my client that he was looking down and the light was red when he looked up. My client was a college student all alone and agreed not to call police and to just let the insurance handle it. Her vehicle was totaled, and she had visible bruising to her neck and arm from the violent impact and her injuries required many months of medical treatment. She did not get the names of the witnesses at the scene. A family member picked her up and her car was towed away. The other driver decided that he needed to protect his job, so he lied and said that it was my client that ran the red light to his employer. Again, if police were called, the true version of how the accident occurred would have been documented and witnesses would likely have been identified. Not calling the police to the scene created unnecessary delays and obstacles for my client.
I do not want to see any more of my clients go along with the other driver’s suggestion to not call police. It is better to protect yourself to avoid the other driver’s story changing once you leave the scene of the accident.
- Take Pictures of the Cars Damaged and any Visible Injuries
If you are in a safe position to do this or if you can get someone else you trust to do this, take pictures of the vehicles in the accident and the damage as well as pictures of any and all visible injuries to your body. It may be your only opportunity to secure photographs of the cars and the damage to them. This may be important to help later with points of impact and holding the responsible person accountable. As to any visible injuries, bruises, cuts, scrapes, or other visible wounds change over time. The photographs of your body parts with visible injuries often are very important in the assessment of the nature and extent of damages suffered in the accident. Clients often don’t think to take pictures of their injuries in real time and sometimes the medical records do not adequately describe them. Having those photographs has proven very valuable in some cases. For example, a client had a shoulder tear diagnosed months after the accident and the insurance company was arguing it was not related to the car accident. My client had pictures of her shoulder bruised that had date stamps on the photos showing they were taken shortly after the accident. This helped us secure a favorable resolution of her case.
I want my clients to have pictures of the damage to the vehicles involved as well as any visible injuries to their body to allow me to place their case in the best possible position.
- Take Photographs of the Accident Scene
If it is safe to do so, secure pictures of the accident scene as close in time to the accident as possible. If you can’t do it, have a family member or friend do it for you. This is true whether it is a car accident, pedestrian accident, bike accident, motorcycle accident, construction site accident, trip and fall or slip and fall accident.
The accident scene, or what you tripped on, or weather conditions can change very quickly and be lost. Sometimes, things naturally change-ice and snow melt. Other times, those responsible are quick to remove the unsafe condition. Photographs of the accident scene are more crucial in some cases than others. For example, in one case, a client came to us more than a year after the accident where she tripped over broken cement in a parking garage and suffered facial injuries. Without the pictures she had a friend take for her shortly after the accident, we would not have been able to secure her the several hundred-thousand-dollar settlement. By the time she hired us, the accident conditions had drastically changed in the parking garage. In other cases, clients secured photographs of the snow and ice where they fell significantly increasing the likelihood of a successful result by the time that they contact us to represent them, often months after the accident. We also have cases where the property owner or business responsible removes the defective condition or hazard and pretends it never existed.
I want my clients to have photographs of the accident scene to increase the likelihood of obtaining the money they deserve from the insurance company that insures the negligent party.
- Think Twice Before Giving a Statement to the Insurance Company Without Talking to a Lawyer
Following an accident, the insurance company is in a race to get you on the phone talking before you had an opportunity to speak with a lawyer. They pretend to be so caring and want to help you. Their true goal is to pay you as little as possible on any claim to show a savings. They will use anything you say against you later. Recently I signed up a new client close in time to his accident. The insurance company was hounding him for a recorded statement. Luckily, he hired me, and I dealt with the insurance company for him. The first words to me out of the insurance company’s claims adjuster’s mouth was “he lawyered up”. “Yes”, I said, “he hired me to protect him from people like you looking to pay him nothing”. That shut him right down. He wanted everyone to think it was a bad thing that this very injured man chose to hire a lawyer to represent him. This insurance adjuster was irritated because he did not get to my client first and try to twist his words and have an innocent victim say something not knowing it could hurt him later in the claims process.
I have clients who thought they had to immediately comply with an insurance company’s request for a statement. They had no idea that the recorded statement would then be used against them when I was trying to get them the best settlement and the most money I could to compensate them for the harm caused to them.
I don’t want my clients feeling pressure to give recorded statements before they have an opportunity to speak with a lawyer.
This blog described five common problems we see when clients come to us for representation. The main goal is to educate people on some easy ways to avoid these common mistakes that ultimately lead to a better outcome and greater likelihood of success if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being involved in an accident. Knowing there are solutions that can be implemented before you are in a vulnerable place is the best way to protect you and your family and have a brighter 2022. Happy, healthy, safe New Year to All.
When someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident, trip and fall, dog bite, construction site or through any other accident, a thorough investigation of the accident events is necessary to determine the cause of the accident and secure important information. As a victim of an accident, make sure everything is done to protect your interests. The lawyers at Nadeau Harkavy LLC have over 50 years combined experience helping victims and their families recover compensation in serious injury and wrongful death cases arising from car crashes and other accidents. If you have any questions about your legal rights relating to a car accident, pedestrian accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident, wrongful death, trip and fall or other accident, feel free to contact us for a free consult today at 617-674-7640.