Mistake #7: Hiding Your Past (accidents, injuries, criminal record) From Your Attorney
When you are involved in litigation, the other side engages in the discovery. In discovery, the other side will get to find out about the injuries you have suffered, any previous accidents you have been involved in, and whether you have a criminal background.
None of us want to “air our dirty laundry” or talk about certain things in our lives, but you must be open, honest, and forthcoming with your attorney. If your attorney is aware of these facts, they can make a determination as to whether the information is relevant or whether it has nothing to do with the accident. If it is not related to the accident, then your attorney has chance to keep it out of the litigation. However, if you hide it, then you have problems.
The insurance company for the other side will find out about this information. When you are involved in an automobile accident and make a claim against an insurance company, information about the accident is entered into a database. If at a later date, you are injured again and make a claim against an insurance company, they will check different computer databases to see if you have had previous claims. They will probably be able to get copies of the information you provided the previous insurance company. The last thing you need is to do is hide that information from your attorney.
As for any crimes you may have committed in the past, tell the truth to your attorney. Yes, the other side will probably be able to find out that you were convicted of public intoxication in college some fifteen years ago. While it has nothing to do with your current case and would never get in front of a jury, it can be relevant if you lie about it ever occurring. Then you have opened the issue of whether you are a credible witness.
Simple rule: Tell your attorney about all of your background, warts and all. We all have them. I would much rather know all the facts and deal with those facts as opposed to finding out about certain facts for the first time while we are sitting in a courtroom.
Mistake #8: Failing to Say “No” When the Insurance Company Asks for a Recorded Statement
Simple advice—DON’T give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. The only reason the insurance company wants that statement is to find a way to pay you less. The purpose of the recorded statement by the insurance company is to get you to say something that will hurt your claim before you are represented by an attorney. Many people fall into this trap thinking the insurance company will help them.
Let me give you the following example. Many times when I am representing a client, the adjuster will call and ask if they can take my client’s recorded statement. My response—you can as long as I can take the recorded statement of their insured, the other person involved in the accident. I cannot remember the last time an adjuster agreed to this arrangement. Why? Because they are worried that their insured will say something in the recorded statement which will be used against the insured. So why would you give your statement to the insurance adjuster? There will be a time and place for you to give your statement, but the time and place is not when the insurance adjuster ask and you are not represented by an attorney. Again, DON’T give the other driver’s insurance company a recorded statement.
One of the main purposes of the recorded statement is to assess your medical condition. The fact is that most people do not have a full understanding of their injuries soon after the accident. Anything you say in the recorded statement will be used against you at a later point if it can be, so again— DON’T give the insurance company a recorded statement.
The other party’s insurance company may also ask you to sign a medical release. DON’T sign this release until you have consulted with an attorney. If you make a claim, you don’t give up your right to privacy. While the insurance company will be entitled at some point to see your medical records related to the accident, they don’t have a right to look through your complete medical history. If you sign a medical authorization or release for them, they will be looking through all of your medical records trying to come up with some other reason for your problems you say are related to the accident. Along this same line, DON’T sign anything from the insurance company or cash any checks from the insurance company until you have talked with an attorney. Sometimes the insurance company will try to settle your case quickly by promising quick cash if you will sign a release. Don’t do it until an attorney reviews the matter and advises you about how to proceed. While a quick settlement may seem enticing, what if you have further medical problems that have not yet shown up in your treatment. If you have settled your case, then you will be responsible for paying those medical bills. Also, until you have done a complete investigation of the case, you will not be able to properly value your claim.