The Top Things You Can Do To Screw Up Your Colorado Car Wreck Case

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1 5 The Top Things You Can Do To Screw Up Your Colorado Car Wreck Case Gordon and Barkley Heuser Heuser & Heuser LLP

2 The Top 5 Things You Can Do To Screw Up Your Colorado Car Wreck Case As you know, auto and truck wrecks are a regular occurrence on the roadways in and around Colorado Springs, especially on main thoroughfares such as I-25 or highways 24, 94 and 85/87. To be sure, many of those wrecks are traditional fender benders in which there are no injuries or just minor injuries. Unfortunately, though, many accidents occur each year that are very serious, sometimes leaving those involved with devastating injuries that require long-term care or rehabilitation or may even cost them their lives. Just in Colorado in 2012 alone, 472 people were killed in motor vehicle wrecks, and many thousands more were injured. To make matters worse, what most people don t know is that if you are injured in a wreck even if it wasn t your fault you could be in for a rude awakening when it comes to relying on the auto insurance companies to take care of you and cover your medical bills and expenses. We re going to let you in on a dirty little secret: The insurance companies are not your friend. They are not there for you like a good neighbor. You re not in good hands. In fact, their one and only goal with any claims they are facing is to find a way to delay, deny or minimize those claims in an effort to pay out as little money as possible on them. They want to maximize their profits and they do it at your expense. Because of the unscrupulous way that insurance companies and their representatives operate, you need to be aware of what you might be facing should you file an injury claim. You need to know what mistakes you can make which will absolutely derail an injury claim. You need to understand how well trained insurance representatives will use all sorts of tricks and tactics to get you to mess up and possibly jeopardize your own claim, costing you the compensation and care you deserve for your injuries. For this reason, we ve pulled together a list of the 5 biggest mistakes that we ve seen accident victims make again and again during our career. Please read this report carefully and contact our office for a no-obligation, no-charge consultation if you have any questions about it. The safety and security of you and your family could very well depend on it.

3 MISTAKE #1 Giving a Recorded Statement to the Other Driver s Insurance Company Without question, one of the best ways to ruin your case is to give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver s insurance company. We see it happen all of the time, and it almost always creates major problems for accident victims looking to pursue an injury claim. That s the main reason we tell our clients (and prospective clients) to never give a recorded statement without having a lawyer present. What typically happens is that a representative from the at-fault insurance company will call you within a few days after an accident. They ll seem very friendly and very concerned about your well being, but don t be fooled. They want information from you that can ultimately jeopardize your claim. They want you to slip up and admit some level of fault or divulge key medical information. They ll want to know if there was any way to avoid the accident or if you were equally at fault for the accident. You may hear questions such as: How fast were you going? Did you have your blinker on when the accident occurred? Was there an open lane on either side your vehicle? Do you wear glasses? Did you come to a complete stop?

4 The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, wrong answers to any of these types of questions can cost you dearly. The insurance representative may also ask you questions about any medical treatment you may or may not have received: Did you go to the hospital or see a doctor on the same day the accident took place? How do you feel now? Do you think you ll need any additional treatment? Again, the representative is just looking for ways to minimize your injuries. One of the things we often see with auto and truck accidents is that it can take days or even weeks for the true nature of your injuries to surface. Many people will report that they feel fine immediately after an accident but then see their condition deteriorate over time. But, if the insurance company has you on record as saying you felt okay right after the accident, they ve gained tremendous leverage against you. Bottom line Do not give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver s insurance company without an attorney present.

5 MISTAKE #2 Signing any Forms or Paperwork from the At-Fault Driver s Insurance Company Much like the problems caused by giving a recorded statement to the at-fault insurance company, signing any paperwork from them can also jeopardize your case. The at-fault insurance company often will look to obtain your medical records by getting you to sign authorizations allowing them access. Don t do this. Without your written permission, no one is authorized to view your medical records. If you grant them permission, the at-fault driver s insurance company will be able to access all of your medical records from every single provider that you ve ever seen even medical records that have nothing to do with your accident. You may also be asked to sign a wage/employer information form. If you were to sign this type of a form, you would be giving the at-fault insurance company access to not only your current employment files, but also the files from all of your previous employers. In some cases, the insurance company will try to get you to sign a full release immediately after an accident by offering you a small amount of money, such as $500 or $1,000, to settle your claim. Signing a full release may preclude you from receiving fair compensation for your injuries, even in cases in which your condition worsened and you needed surgery or other special treatment.

6 MISTAKE #3 Not Sticking to the Treatment Plan Your Doctor Recommends It is imperative that you closely follow your doctor s recommended treatment plan. Failure to do so can lead to your claim being denied or significantly limited. Even if you end up needing to change doctors, you have to stick with the current treatment plan until you are told to change. At Heuser & Heuser we ve seen cases in which clients stop seeing their doctor for a couple of months and end up ruining their claim. This happens because the client gave the at-fault insurance company exactly what it needed an opening to argue against your claim. The insurance company will look at the gap in the treatment and make the argument that you must not have been that injured or hurt if you were able to skip treatment for two months. Not following your treatment plan can negatively impact you during negotiations, depositions, and of course, during a trial.

7 MISTAKE #4 Being Dishonest If you lie or choose to not disclose certain information whether it s about the circumstances of your accident, your medical history, your treatment, or about your criminal record the odds are very good that you will seriously hamper or even sink your injury claim. We often find that clients are hesitant to disclose certain aspects of their past, especially if they consider those aspects to be embarrassing (such as if they were a victim of domestic abuse or if they were treated for an STD or something along those lines) or if they have a criminal history. But, there s no doubt that your credibility will be completely destroyed if it s discovered that you lied at some point during the claims process. The key is to be honest and up front with your lawyer so that he or she can be prepared to deal with any information that could be damaging to your case. Your lawyer may be able to minimize the impact of the information or keep it out of the case entirely. You also have to be careful with the standard medical history forms that you fill out in a doctor s office. If these contain inaccuracies or you fail to disclose your full medical history to your doctor, you are going to hurt your case. This happens all of the time. Sometimes it s due to a person hurrying or just overlooking something; in other cases, the person feels that a prior injury will cause problems for their claim, so they omit the information on purpose. Bad idea. Take your time on medical forms and make sure they are accurate and complete Again, if you are up front and honest, your lawyer can develop a plan to deal with the issue. If you lie and the insurance company finds out (and they almost always do), they will make the argument that your entire claim is baseless since you lack credibility. One more thing with regard to honesty don t oversell your pain when you talk to your doctor. On a pain scale of 1-10, with 1 being a hangnail and 10 being a debilitating, life-altering pain, it s not going to help your case if you contend that a minor strain or discomfort is a 10 (or even a 12 or a 13 as we ve heard before!). Much like being dishonest or leaving out key information, overselling your pain will cast doubt on your entire claim. Fact is, we sincerely believe that when you tell the truth, you actually add value to the case.

8 MISTAKE #5 Continuing to Use Social Media Sites Like Facebook after a Serious Accident (and Not Strengthening Your Privacy Settings on Those Sites) The explosion of social media in recent years, especially Facebook, has created new hurdles and potential problems for accident victims looking to pursue an injury claim. Facebook has over 500 million active users, and is the undisputed #1 social media site. If you ve been hurt in a serious accident, though, and are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit (or have already filed one), you should immediately stop using all social media sites. Why? Because at-fault insurance companies are now using social media as just another tool to try to undermine injury claims or deny them altogether. If you have an injury claim, you can be sure that lawyers for the other driver s insurance company will be poring over everything on your social media pages. They re looking for posts and photos that can call into question the validity of your claim. Here is some food for thought: ü Even when you have fairly stringent privacy controls in place on your account, people outside your network of friends can still view photos of you posted by your friends. ü Courts have ordered lawyers for injury victims to produce the Facebook pages of their clients to insurance company lawyers. ü Evidence from Facebook has been used by police, admitted in Court, viewed by the media and investigators and has led to verdicts and settlements being significantly reduced or cases being thrown out altogether. ü Defense lawyers regularly have their law clerks check Facebook for information, posts or pictures that can be used to argue against your claim or call into question your credibility (For

9 instance, say you were in an accident and you claim you suffered a debilitating back injury that has you in excruciating pain and unable to work or even stand up for more than 15 minutes at a time. Then, at the same time you are supposedly incapacitated, one of your buddies posts a picture of you drinking a beer while playing volleyball at a friend s party. Game, set, match your case is over). So what can you do? If you ve already had an accident, we encourage our clients to stop using all social media and increase the privacy settings on pages and profiles to their highest levels. Do not delete your pages and profiles that you already have in place that can cause even more problems. Whatever you already have on your social media sites, leave there. Do not alter, amend or delete anything, or you can be punished by the court. Don t post videos or pictures of yourself. Ask your friends to refrain from posting videos or pictures of you as well. Don t accept friend requests or s from anyone you don t absolutely know and trust (defense lawyer clerks have been known to send friend requests to unsuspecting injury claimants looking to get the inside track to their information). Don t discuss your case in chat rooms or online forums

10 SUMMARY As you can see, there are many pitfalls and mistakes that can ruin an injury claim. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should consult with an experienced car and truck accident attorney in your area to make sure that your rights are protected and to give you the best chance to receive full and fair compensation for your injuries. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Gordon and Barkley Heuser are brothers who are Colorado Springs-based personal injury attorneys, and they have helped thousands of car and truck wreck injury victims receive the help and compensation they deserve. As life-long residents of The Springs, the Heusers are committed to helping protect the rights of seriously injured victims. They understand the tricks and tactics that large insurance companies employ to avoid paying money for claims, and they are passionate about leveling the playing field for their clients. If you have questions about any portion of this report or if you would like to schedule a no-obligation, no-charge consultation with Gordon or Barkley, or one of the other experienced attorneys at Heuser & Heuser, please contact us: By phone: Colorado Springs: Pueblo: Out of Area: Toll-free On the Web:

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