5 Mistakes That Could Threaten Your Arizona Personal Injury Claim
Arizona is a tough state for personal injury claims. People in this state, on the whole, are suspicious of personal injury claimants. So if you are going to pursue a personal injury case, it’s vital that you avoid making certain mistakes which could hinder your attorney as they try to bring your case to a successful conclusion.
Some mistakes can even stop your claim in its tracks, either making it impossible to recover funds or vastly reducing the amount of money you’ll be able to obtain from your case.
Here are five mistakes that can be especially problematic.
1) Failing to Watch Your Words at the Accident Site
Anyone who has watched a cop show on television is familiar with the concept of words being used against you in a court of law. Unfortunately, people think what you say can only be used against you in criminal court.
In reality, what you say, especially at the accident site, can come back to bite you in civil court, too.
Phrases like, “I’m sorry,” are very human, for example, but they can also be taken as a statement of fault or responsibility. Remember, under Arizona’s comparative negligence laws even a single percentage point of “fault” can cost thousands of dollars.
“I’m okay” is another one. We’re taught to downplay our pain and injuries, so saying you’re fine may seem like a knee jerk response. Yet you can expect those words to lead to the defendant claiming you “weren’t that hurt” at the scene and that the injuries you’re trying to claim for now are either pre-existing conditions or come from some other source.
Of course, it’s important to keep your temper too. Yelling and screaming at the person who injured you might also work against you later. You might say more than you think you’re saying, or turn a jury against you should the case go to court later.
2) Failing to Get Medical Treatment
Not all injuries are obvious, especially after a car accident. If you refuse medical treatment only to find out you’ve developed a soft tissue injury or neck injury later then you’ll muddy the lines of causality. The defendant will have an easy time claiming the injury came from some other source.
Get treatment, even if you think you feel fine. If you are fine, a doctor will tell you so.
On the same note, you should always obey all of your medical provider’s instructions. If a doctor tells you to avoid lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds, and you go lift a 50 pound box, you’ll again muddy the source of your pain. The defendant will point out they shouldn’t be responsible for paying for damage you exacerbated, and your lawyer will struggle to refute them.
By the same token you should tell your medical providers if you have previous conditions which could interact with your injury. The defendant will find out anyway, and if you tell your medical provider you’ll have what is and isn’t the pre-existing condition well-documented.
3) Talking to Insurance Adjusters Before Consulting With a Lawyer
Insurance adjusters may try to approach you before you’re ready. They might encourage you to make a statement, or to sign a medical authorization release. They may even offer you an initial settlement.
Recorded statements will be used against you. They use medical release forms to get all your records, bills, and charts…all of them. Every last medical record they can find over the course of your life, in the hopes that they can find something to use against you.
As for that initial settlement, it will never cover the sum total of your economic losses, and it will never cover your pain and suffering at all. They often make the offer before you’ve even finished getting medical treatment, which means neither you nor they know exactly how much your case is going to be worth. They don’t particularly care, of course. They just don’t want to pay it. They’re hoping you take the money now so you can’t ask for more later.
4) Jumping on Social Media
Anything you post on social media can provide evidence to the defense. Even things you think are harmless.
For example, six months after the accident you post a picture of yourself at your relative’s wedding. Harmless, right? Maybe, except you’re trying to claim that the injury has severely curtailed your social activities and quality of life. Perhaps all you did was eat a little food and share some nice conversation, but you can count on the defense to spend it into a night of dancing and cavorting.
The defense will take things out of context, blow things out of proportion, and generally do anything they can to create the appearance that you’re “faking” or “exaggerating” your injuries. This is an especially effective tactic in Arizona. It’s best to go social media silent until you have your check in the bank.
5) Waiting Too Long to File
You have two years from the date of your injury to file a personal injury claim if you’re filing against a private party. If the defendant is a public entity, such as the city of Phoenix or the State of Arizona, or employees or departments thereof, you have just 180 days. There’s little strategic value in waiting that long. Key witnesses will move and change phone numbers. Physical evidence could disappear.
Every day you wait is also a day you can make a mistake that an attorney might have prevented you from making.
We recommend accident victims seek out an attorney they trust as soon as they’re medically capable of evaluating options and picking up the phone. You don’t have to wait until you’ve filed your claim, and you don’t have to wait until treatment is complete.
In fact we can file your claim for you, and deal both with your insurance company and with the defendant’s, which means you can focus on getting better while we take the fight to the responsible party.
Personal injury cases are tough, but we’re tougher. Think you might have a case? Reach out to Tony Merchant and Associates for an initial consultation today.