Home » The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Your Claim in a Personal Injury Case
Traffic accidents, nasty falls, and other accidents occur with frightening frequency worldwide.
In fact, in 2020-21 there were 68,308 transport accidents and 243,469 falls resulting in hospitalisation in Australia alone, according to the country’s Institute of Health and Welfare.
If you decide to pursue your situation in a legal claim, you should follow best practices to make sure you get the optimal outcome.
Your personal injury lawyer will advise you more specifically, but here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind.
Proper incident records
Do document the scene right away. If you are able, make a detailed visual account of the location and the physical damage to property, infrastructure, and the environment. Take as many photographs as you can (your attorney can help you choose the most relevant ones later).
Get statements from any witnesses present. Record their full names, contact information (phone numbers are best), and addresses. Also make notes of any personal observations. At this point, everything is important.
Don’t share the incident on social media. While sharing news of a traumatising event can make it easier to bear, it can also bury your legal case.
The same holds true for any information regarding your treatment plans. At most, you can vent in person to a trusted friend or family member who has no input on the situation.
Otherwise, keep your thoughts and any developments between yourself and your lawyer until the matter is settled.
Social media posts especially are easy to take out of context and twist. Insurers and defending parties can leverage even a minor improper nuance to reduce or dismiss your claims.
Getting legal help
Do seek a personal injury lawyer right away. Even if your actual representative is not immediately available, most lawyers offer free initial consultations, and you want to get a workable legal perspective of your situation immediately.
The expert advisers at Australian Superannuation & Insurance Lawyers agree that the sooner you get a consultation, the better.
It enables you to take proper post-injury steps to get maximum compensation and recovery. Follow their advice to a T and mind your conduct throughout the following proceedings. You want to eliminate or minimise anything the defending parties can use.
Don’t talk to insurance companies alone. Insurance companies will want your statement on the incident in order to resolve any claims, but you shouldn’t give one without the advice (and, if possible, presence) of your attorney.
Unrepresented claimants are easy to turn around with confusing vocabulary and improper questions. Take the time to prepare well and don’t let insurers access any records they aren’t explicitly legally entitled to.
Getting medical help
Do seek a qualified doctor immediately. Any delay in medical treatment can reduce the significance of your injuries in the eyes of a jury. For the same purpose, get transported by emergency personnel. It doesn’t matter if your injuries seem minor; that’s for a doctor to ascertain.
Be accurate, thorough, and clear with all involved health care providers. There should be no discrepancies in your medical records about the nature and severity of the incident, the extent of your injuries, and their effect on your quality of life post-incident.
Don’t go to a chiropractor on your own. Chiropractors can certainly help your recovery, but you should think of them as auxiliary, rather than primary, treatment. Do see one if your doctor prescribes or recommends chiropractic treatment; otherwise stay away.
In a personal injury case you want your recovery process to carry as much weight and authority as possible, and going to a “mere” chiropractor without the explicit instruction of your doctor could trigger prejudice against your claim.
Managing ongoing proceedings
Do keep a “journal to your attorney”. Personal injury cases take time. Your claim might be brought up months or even years after the actual incident. Keep a confidential document of all relevant facts, testimonials, and personal experience.
It’s especially important if your injury leaves you with chronic pain that impacts your ability to work or otherwise function day-to-day. Include things like health care expenses and photographs of your injuries over time.
If your “journal” is digital you can also attach video content. No one but yourself and your lawyer should ever have access to it.
Don’t settle before you recover. Agreeing on any settlement ends your case permanently. That means ending any and all injury claims that may yet arise from the incident in the long run.
Only resolve your claim after you’re certain that your medical condition has reached maximum improvement. Rely on your doctor’s assessment and feel free to seek second opinions if you’d like. Settling prematurely can deprive you of significant payments that you would otherwise be entitled to.
Let’s sum up. If you want to win your personal injury case, you need to immediately seek a doctor and keep an ongoing detailed record of everything related to the incident. You should avoid any treatment not explicitly recommended by your doctor, sharing your situation on social media, and settling early.
Above all, hire a competent, vetted lawyer who communicates in a way you relate to and has your best interest in sight. Avoid talking to any insurance entities without your attorney in the room.