What should I do now that I have been injured?
The stress and anxiety that follows a serious injury can make it difficult to make appropriate decisions. Here is a guide of 11 things you should know:
- Seek immediate medical attention from a qualified medical physician and go to a hospital if necessary.
Share with your physician all of your complaints of injury and physical symptoms. Be aware that almost everything you say will be written down in your medical record. The staff at a hospital, ER, or at doctor’s office (doctors, nurses, medical assistants, therapists, etc.) are trained to record everything you say relating to your condition, your symptoms, and the facts relating to your injuries.
- Be specific in describing your physical symptoms to your health care providers.
Patients tend to and like to tell doctors that they are “feeling a little better” or that they “feel pretty good today.” Doctors like to hear such reports, as their job is to help you feel better. However, generalized encouraging comments don’t explain the nature or severity of your ongoing physical symptoms.
If you say something like “there’s pain when I walk, but I can manage” or “the pain keeps me up at night, but I don’t need that much sleep” the doctor’s office staff will note that. Those notes could eventually be used to your disadvantage because they can misrepresent your actual level of pain or the severity of your injuries.
Be descriptive of your symptoms. For example: “the pain keeps you awake and you can’t sleep,” or “bending causes an electric pain,” or “the shooting pain is gone, but my knee is still feeling stiff.” Whatever you do say to the health care provider, report the truth and be specific.
- Understand the role of Insurance Companies.
The insurance company or companies involved in your case will ultimately see your doctor’s records. Whatever the medical records say is what a jury will likely believe. If the doctor has to testify, they will solely rely on those medical notes. If the notes are accurate and consistent with your testimony, the doctor can be one of your most powerful witnesses. This is why you have to properly and truthfully report your physical problems during your treatment.
If there is any inconsistency between your testimony and your medical records, the insurance companies and defense lawyers will challenge the veracity of your injuries. They will also raise the question of your credibility for telling the truth about anything and everything concerning your injury claim.
- Be a good patient: Follow your doctor’s advice and show up for your medical appointments.
While physicians prefer to avoid the courtroom and really just want to treat their patients, your treating doctor will often be one of the most important witnesses on your behalf. If the doctor likes you and believes you followed his or her directions, they will be more willing to help you present your claim. On the other hand, if the doctor found you non compliant with his or her advice or you missed numerous medical or therapy appointments, the willingness to help, and ultimately provide supportive sworn testimony, will likely be nothing more than the reading of their office notes, which may not be fully supportive to your claim.
Your doctor will indicate in the medical records exactly what you described your injuries to be, your medical treatment, your physical limitations, and instructions you were given. If the records show evidence that you did not do as your doctor said, then the records are used to reduce the value of the claim against the at-fault party.
For example, if the doctor told you to not work for a week and you returned in three days, then the insurance company will use that to argue you are responsible for your slow recovery. Similarly, if the provider prescribed an exercise regimen that you ignored, or referred you to see a specialist or for therapy and you didn’t go then you will be blamed for lingering problems.
It is your responsibility to try and get better after an injury, which means goingto see doctors and therapists. Doctors and therapists establish medical appointments in an effort to help you get better. Missed appointments are always documented and can ruin your character as well as cast doubt on the
authenticity of your need for medical treatment. Do everything you can to keep your appointments and if you absolutely cannot make it, call before the set appointment and have it rescheduled promptly.
- Don’t exaggerate your injuries.
Be genuine and completely honest about your symptoms. Nothing will destroy you or your loved ones injury case and your credibility faster than overreaching or exaggerating your injuries or symptoms. If a patient is found to having exaggerated their injuries or symptoms, everything that patient says thereafter becomes questionable. Stay honest and credible with your doctors and therapists.
An injured person is held to a very high standard of honesty, integrity and personal accountability. For example, suppose the injured individual tells the insurance company and/or the other attorney that he/she can no longer take long automobile or airplane trips. The reason given is because it’s too painful to sit in a car or plane for long periods of time. As a result, he/she has not taken a trip or vacation since the accident. Yet the doctor’s notes reflect that the patient drove or flew to New England over Thanksgiving to spend time with his/her sisters. The fact that the trip was very painful and caused physical problems won’t matter. The defense attorney, insurance companies and/or jury will only read/hear conflicting information and see it as a loss of the patient's credibility for truthfulness.
Overreaching or exaggerating will ruin your case. You have a right to fair compensation. However, if your credibility is lost or damaged because of contrary statements in the medical records, or on your social media sites, your compensation will be reduced accordingly.
- Take lots of pictures!
Take pictures at the scene of any car collision if possible. Pictures of your car and the offending driver's car will be important to capture along with photos of any skid marks or other important features of the collision scene such as visual obstructions or poor lighting etc. You can also use your cell camera to take pictures of the offending driver’s insurance information or accident cards that are filled out by investigating law enforcement officers. These photos can then be easily emailed to your attorney.
Take pictures of any injuries you or your loved ones have suffered such as cuts, scratches or bruising. For example, bruising left on your chest from your seat belt if you are rear ended. If you or your loved ones require surgery or stitches, take a number of different pictures from multiple angles to capture all wounds. Pictures of left over scaring are equally important to capture. If possible, make sure to download the photos onto your computer for safe keeping. Also make sure you keep track of the dates that all photographs were taken.
- Be careful with social media.
In our digital age, people post pictures and other very personal information on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and other similar web sites. Insurance companies and their attorneys are also aware of this fact and they may seek to have you and your attorney disclose all of your social medial communications and pictures following your accident in hopes of discovering that what you have told your doctors about your injuries and limitations are not consistent with what you have shared with your friends and family. Accordingly, it is not advisable to share any information about your injuries or claim on your social media services.
- Educate yourself on applicable Statues of Limitation (SOL)
You will need to immediately educate yourself about the applicable statutes of limitations (SOL) applying to your type of injury claim. If you claim is not timely filed, within the applicable SOL, your claim could be forever barred for legal reasons. Be aware that in certain cases, the applicable SOL can be very short. For this reason it is very important you seek legal advice soon after you are injured.
- Be patient. Your claim likely will not be ready for evaluation until you have been released from your doctor's care.
Next, while there are exceptions including shortened SOLs, generally your injury claim will not be ready to be fully evaluated for settlement purposes until you have been released from your doctor’s care. After you are discharged or have reached maximum medical improvement, your doctor will have opinions about the effectiveness of your past care and what additional medical care you may need down the road. Your doctor's opinions will strongly influence the outcome of your case. For example, if your doctor finds that your injuries are permanent, the cost of future medical care will be factored into your award for damages.
- Carefully document facts surrounding your case in a typed journal.
People lose track of facts over time. For that reason, it is important to clearly record your recollection of events shortly after the injury. Your journal should include a very detailed description of what happened to you. For example, if you were in a car collision, you should write down everything that the other driver said to you, police officers or witnesses after the crash. Also anything that you said to anyone. Statements made by the offending driver can be very helpful to proving liability against the other driver.
Your injury journal should start with what you felt at the moments during and following your injury causing event. For example, if you were hurt in a car crash, you should write about what happened to your body at the moment of impact. Did your air bag deploy? Did your knees hit the dashboard? Did your glasses fly off? Did you feel a snap or tearing in your neck or back? Did any of your belongings fly forward of the seat? Details of the moment of injury are very important.
Next, your injury journal should track your week by week medical treatment and recovery. Describe the daily activities that you used to do but no longer can. This should include simple household chores as well as leisure activities such as hiking, bike riding, walking etc.
Describe whether your injuries are causing you or your partner or spouse to experience sleep disturbances. If physical relations with your partner or spouse have diminished or stopped, make note of this. Periodically share these journals with your attorney.
- Don’t be fooled by insurance adjusters.
Insurance companies’ claim adjusters will make every effort to persuade you or your loved one to settle you injury claim as soon as possible before contacting an attorney. The fact is that often times an injured person will not know the full extent or the permanence of their injuries for weeks or months. If you settle your case too early, you may not receive adequate compensation for your injuries and damages. Insurance companies call these early resolutions “nuisance settlements”.
Generally, insurance carriers would rather you not hire an attorney. While some claimants are capable of fairly resolving their personal injury claims themselves, statistics confirm that carriers pay more (almost double) on claims when an injured person has legal counsel to fully represent their legal interests.
The bottom line: Seek the advice of a qualified attorney early on in your personal injury claims process.
*** Please note that this web site is governed by the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct. Reading information on this site DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY/CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. Sending us information does not create an attorney/client relationship and the information may not be kept confidential. Only a SIGNED FEE AGREEMENT creates an attorney/client relationship. Please note that the above is for general information only. It is not meant to provide legal service but rather, overall reminders of things to consider if you have been injured.
You should absolutely contact appropriate legal counsel of your choosing as soon as possible. Your retained attorney will be able to provide specific legal advice on how you need to proceed and the applicable statutes of limitations (SOL) that apply to your claim.
Scott A. McKay Attorney
7601 North 22nd Place
Phoenix, Arizona 85020
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