Clients often do not realize that they are one of the most important factors in their case, along with their selected Orlando personal injury lawyer. Recently a colleague and I were discussing that a client’s credibility is probably the single most important factor in the outcome of any injury case. The reason is that insurance companies (who choose to offer or not offer settlements, and in what amounts) and juries (who render dollar value verdicts in the unlikely event that your case ever goes to trial) may never believe you again if they catch you in one single lie. That conversation made me think about numerous other ways that clients can hurt their case, so I decided to share. The good news is that a good Orlando accident attorney will alert you to these and many other minefields throughout your case, which will give you an opportunity to avoid or correct these potential problems.
1. Not Calling An Orlando Personal Injury Lawyer Immediately After An Accident
Many things need to happen quickly in the immediate aftermath of an accident for you to get the most from your claim. Among them, you need to report the accident to your and the at-fault party’s insurance company. If that does not happen within a certain time-frame, your claim may be lost entirely depending on the applicable insurance policy language and requirements.
2. Not Treating All Of Their Injuries With Care From The Best Doctors
You also need to get medical care from the best sources (and a good attorney can guide you in making numerous critical decisions regarding proper medical care). And you need an attorney watching over the doctor to make sure they do not ignore important injuries. For example, let’s say you go to a Chiropractor or even Orthopedic surgeon for back pain, but you both ignore that your head hit the windshield, and you are experiencing but ignoring brain injury symptoms because your back hurts more. You might think that you could just deal with one pain at a time, but from a legal perspective, timing of treatment is often critical to a proper diagnosis and linking of injury to accident, among many other factors related to timing of your treatment (nevermind that if you are not treated for all injuries right away, you might suffer needlessly and/or even prevent later treatment of what becomes a long-standing medical problem because my non-medical impression is that medical problems are more difficult to treat the longer they last).
3. Not Understanding That They Have Critically Important Work To Do In Their Own Case
Even the best attorney can only tell you what you need to do to gather critical evidence in your own case. Attorneys can guide you regarding what evidence will be needed, and where and how you can get that evidence. But in many cases they cannot actually get the evidence (and cannot prove your case) without your active and timely involvement. For example, let’s imagine that you are self-employed, and your attorney tells you that they need various receipts and invoices to prove your potential wage loss claim. They also tell you that they need this information quickly because they need to provide evidence to an insurance company regarding all injuries and claims related to a proposed settlement letter with a time limit. If an insurance company does not settle a case in good faith when they should have done so, then they can be exposed to an excess verdict, which means that the insurance company can, in some cases, be forced to pay the full jury award, regardless of the amount of insurance coverage. This can be critically important in some cases, particularly given that Florida drivers are only required to maintain 10K in coverage, but serious injury or death cases can result in damages in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. But that rule requires that the insurance company be able to fairly evaluate all claims at the time that any demand for settlement is made. So, sometimes, gathering all available evidence in a timely manner can make a huge difference in the ultimate outcome of your claim.
4. Not Following Their Attorney’s Advice
An attorney cannot create or change the facts. But they can tell you what evidence they need to best prove your case. And that often involves innumerable strategy decisions that require your following your attorney’s advice. Sometimes clients do not follow their attorney’s advice partly because they do not understand the critical importance of each suggestion. I spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince clients that they need to follow my advice to the letter. Usually this involves explaining complicated legal requirements that they probably finish the conversation not truly understanding. But I do my best to spend whatever time is necessary explaining how my suggestions can positively impact their lawsuit. Most leave the conversation convinced but you definitely need an attorney who will spend that amount of time convincing you that you should follow their advice, if you are the reluctant or skeptical type.
5. Destroying or Selling Evidence
There are many penalties in the law for intentionally destroying evidence, so you should always retain anything that might be relevant in lawsuits. Even absent intentional destruction, and the rules that punish the litigant who destroyed evidence, plaintiffs attorneys often need things like photographs and, in car accident cases, the vehicle itself. Plaintiffs’ attorneys often use accident reconstruction experts to help prove exactly what happened during an accident. For example, let’s say there is an issue in the case regarding whether your headlights were turned on, but they were damaged or destroyed during a car accident. An accident reconstruction expert may be able to determine whether the headlights were “hot” when they broke. But if you sell the car or fix the headlights, that evidence may be gone forever. Since you have the burden of proof in your own case, your inability to prove what happened can sink you.
6. Being Dishonest Or Trying To Game The System
Orlando personal injury lawyers, and their defense counterparts, have countless ways to determine whether an injury claimant is telling the truth. They can review all sorts of relevant documents, talk to witnesses, examine physical evidence, have experts examine physical evidence, and talk to expert medical witnesses. If you hire an Orlando accident attorney who is carefully watching your case, and providing highly personalized service, they will tell you truthfully if something that you have said does not add up (and these can be delicate but are still critical conversations to have–you should an appreciate an attorney who tells you the truth even when it is not easy to say–because only those attorneys truly have your best interests at heart). Sometimes a simple mistake in your memory can lead to the appearance that you are being deceptive, when that is not your intent at all. Other times, clients have a natural tendency to think that they will benefit from exaggerating certain claims, when actually the exaggeration alone costs them many thousands of dollars due to their lost credibility. Jurors and insurance companies tend to pay more to those who have proven, substantiated, and real injuries. If they have any reason to doubt your honesty, then you can lose everything. And, if you are seriously injured, there is no reason to lie about things that you might think will increase your reward (for example, fudging loss wage claims), but in reality hurts your credibility, and for a relatively small potential increase in the value of your claim.