You will have no shortage of people offering you advice if you ever have the misfortune of being injured in a crash. Whether it’s a friend, family member or co-worker, most people seem eager to give advice about how to handle an injury claim.
The problem is, there’s so much misinformation out there, some of that advice is very bad advice. And following the bad advice can have serious impacts on your claim. Instead of helping your case, you could end up hurting it, or possibly destroying it altogether. By the time a lawyer gets involved, perhaps a year or so after the crash, it may be too late to repair the damage.
One piece of bad advice is to treat your claim like a poker game and keep your cards very close to your chest. Many people have heard about how an insurance company can unfairly twist or spin a piece information. Those people want to protect you from the same fate. They will tell you to keep any information that might be unfairly spun to yourself.
What do I mean by an unfair spin? Let’s say you went tobogganing with your kids and landed hard. You had some pain in your lower back. You saw a chiropractor for a handful of treatments and the pain went away over the course of two to three weeks. Ten months later, you suffer a lower back injury in a car crash. This time, the pain doesn’t go away. This time, you are left with lower back pain for the rest of your life.
If the insurance adjuster finds out about this previous lower back incident, he or she might try to unfairly blame your chronic lower back pain on the tobogganing incident. In order to protect yourself from unfairness, you deny any previous lower back injuries in the paperwork you give to the insurance adjuster. The adjuster sends you to a specialist paid for by the insurance company for an assessment, and you do the same thing again. You do again with your physiotherapist and massage therapist.
You have no intention of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. You are not trying to cheat. Obviously, an injury you completely recovered from months before a crash has nothing to do with the low back injury you sustained in the crash. You are reasonably fearful, though, about the tricks the insurance company might use against you. Instead of protecting yourself, though, you have engineered a disaster.
When the insurance adjuster gets your medical records, the previous chiropractic treatments will show up. They will find out about the tobogganing incident. They will then rub their hands together with glee at the fact that you have destroyed your own case. If you lied about that, so the argument will go, what else are you lying about? Why should anything you say be believed? Perhaps you’re making the whole thing up.
A common public perception is that car crash claimants are liars and cheats. You are already, unfairly, treated with suspicion. You struggle to prove that you have pain from injuries that don’t show up on x-rays and MRIs. Any hint of dishonesty on your part will throw your credibility into a tail spin that you may never be able to recover from. I give very consistent advice to those who consult with me about car crash injuries, and to anyone who becomes my client—be honest and forthright with everyone.
Rather than hold your cards close to your chest, lay your cards out on the table. Take the cards that you think are bad and stick them to your forehead. As it turns out, that previous tobogganing incident might actually be an ace. For example, the chiropractor who assessed you back then will be able to reassess you post-crash and give a convincing comparison to the court that may be the key to proving your case.
If the bad card is really bad, well, we’ll deal with it because we’re going to have to deal with it anyway. Don’t make matters worse by destroying your credibility.
Published November 15, 2009 in the Kelowna Capital News