5 Mistakes That Can Cost You Your Personal Injury Case



Sometimes accidents are unavoidable. You can do everything right, take all the proper precautions and still fall victim to someone else’s negligence or careless. What you can control, is how you handle the aftermath. Below are five common mistakes accident victims make before obtaining an attorney that can result in either a lower settlement or no case at all. 

  1. Failing to Report Accident or Injury: A police report or incident report is critical to any personal injury case. If you have been involved in a car accident, you should call the police as soon as practically possible. If you suffered injuries as a result of a slip and fall accident, you should make a report with the property owner. For dog bite attacks, file a report with your local Animal Control agency. Failing to make a report results in no formal investigation of the incident. The report will contain vital information such as a description of how the incident occurred, location of the incident, circumstances of the incident, the parties involved, whether any witnesses were present at the scene, etc. Over time, memories will fade and physical evidence will be lost. For car accidents, the reporting officer will provide you with the report number at the scene and information on when and how you can obtain a copy. When you are able to get a copy of the report, it is important to review it as soon as possible for errors. It is much easier to have errors corrected sooner rather than later. For slip and fall accidents, request a copy of the report and any video surveillance footage, or at least that the video be preserved. 

  2. Failing to Seek Medical Treatment: While the accident report evidences that an injury occurred, your medical records show the extent and severity of that injury. Aside from also alleviating pain and preventing further injury, seeking immediate medical attention establishes that your injuries were caused by the accident. As strange as it may sound, some people who have been injured will suffer in pain for days, weeks or even months before seeking medical attention. This opens the door for the insurance company or defense attorney to argue that something else was the actual cause your injuries, or that the injury would have been less severe had you sought medical attention sooner. Not every injury will require a trip to the emergency room. Some injuries can be treated by your family physician or an urgent care facility. The point is to listen to your body, and seek medical treatment when necessary.

  3. Failing to Disclose Prior Injuries: Many people have pre-existing injuries in some form or fashion. In fact, it would be unusual if an adult hadn’t suffered some sort of injury at one point in their life. Oftentimes, accident victims will try and hide or cover up pre-existing injuries for fear that a previous injury to the same body part that was injured in the accident will reduce the value of their claim. In reality, it is worse to try and conceal prior injuries form your doctor or attorney. When you bring forth a personal injury claim, your medical history becomes relevant and discoverable. If you try and cover up a prior injury, the insurance company or defense attorney will find it in your medical records and confront you with it during your deposition. It looks like you are hiding something if the records from the accident say you have never suffered an injury to a certain body part, but your medical history says something differently. Always be honest with your doctor and attorney. Personal injury attorneys know how to deal with past injuries. Most times, the prior injury had healed or was manageable, but was exacerbated or aggravated by the incident giving rise to your claim.  

  4. Failing to Timely Consult an Attorney: Each state has a statute of limitations, which governs the amount of time a claimant has to file a lawsuit, or the claim is barred.  The statute of limitations varies for each cause of action, and while a three-year statute of limitations applies to many personal injury cases (MCL 600.5805(10)), there are exceptions. For instance, the statute of limitations is only two years for claims alleging medical malpractice. MCL 600.5805(6). In addition, there may be notice requirements that apply and can bar your claim. For example, a claimant injured as a result of a defective city sidewalk must provide written notice within 120 days of the incident or the claim will be dismissed. Consulting an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident helps ensure that your claim will be preserved. 

  5. Failing to Preserve Physical Evidence: It is also important that any physical evidence to support your case be properly preserved. For an automobile accident, your attorney may want to have your vehicle photographed and inspected by an expert. If you have the car repaired before both your attorney and the opposing side is provided that opportunity, it could hurt your claim. Preserving physical evidence is especially important if you were injured as a result of a defective product. The defect cannot be examined or tested if you do not retain the product. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after the incident also helps ensure that the chain of custody is preserved. In slip and fall cases, it is important to try and preserve any video surveillance footage that may show how your injury occurred. Most stores do not keep surveillance video very long. If you fail to report your injury to the property owner, fail to request an incident report and fail to timely consult an attorney, the video footage that could have supported your claim will likely be lost.

By avoiding these five common mistakes, you can help maximize both your medical improvement and the value of your case. If you or your loved one has suffered injuries as result of an car accident, slip and fall accident, dog bite attack, defective product, or other personal injury claim, contact the Metro Detroit Injury Lawyers today for your free consultation and evaluation of your claim.