In this article, we’ll break down:
- Protecting your legal rights after a car accident or other personal injury.
- How will an insurance company react if a victim delay seeing a doctor?
- How do you overcome the insurance company’s claim that your injury isn’t related?
- What should you do?
People get hurt in all sorts of ways – car accidents, slip and falls, injuries at work, even going to the grocery store.
When these events occur, sometimes it may seem logical to just go home and take care of your injuries yourself. Lots of us do this, simply because we feel like we aren’t seriously hurt at the time of the accident and that time will heal our injuries.
No matter how you feel at the time of your accident, you should always seek immediate medical attention. This is true even if you do not have automobile or health insurance (there are plenty of doctors that will treat you even if you have no insurance, especially if you have a personal injury claim).
One reason for this recommendation is that waiting to see a doctor can negatively impact any benefits that you may be entitled to (see below) and impact the value of any injury claim you may have. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t recover compensation for your injuries, including your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.; it just makes things more difficult to get fair compensation.
Protecting Your Legal Rights After A Car Accident Or Other Personal Injury
One thing is clear: it is important at the time of your injury to immediately report the incident to the property owner, store manager or to the police, as well as filing a police report (especially in a car crash), so as to document what happened to you.
Also, if you are hurt in a car accident, in order to preserve your rights under your PIP coverage, it is equally important to notify your insurance company about your accident and to go see a doctor within two weeks (14 days) of the accident (more on this below).
What Happens When A Victim Doesn’t Make a Report Immediately After a Car Accident, Slip and Fall or Other Personal Injury?
Having a record of what happened, a record that is close in time to the date the accident or injury occurs is essential in building and proving a case. This is especially true when you may need to prove months later, or years later, that your injuries are related to your accident.
Incident reports filed with mall management or with a grocery store manager after a slip and fall on their premises or a police report after a car accident are often the key pieces of evidence to prove a case at a later date (they document the time of the incident, descriptions of conditions, locations, names of potential witnesses, your contemporaneous statements about the accident, and other important information).
However, failing to get this documentation timely does not mean that you don’t have a case; all it means is that you have made it much harder to prove your case.
Florida is one of the minority states in this country that has mandatory $10,000.00 Personal Injury Protection (PIP or No-Fault Insurance) for all cars registered in Florida. PIP is an injury benefit within every car owner’s insurance policy. It covers lost wages and medical care, among other benefits, and it provides you with up to $10,000.00 to pay for your car accident damages, regardless of fault.
However, as of 2015, if you do not go see a doctor and get medical care for your injuries within 14 days of the event, then under Florida law your car insurance policy will not provide PIP coverage and you will not receive any of the $10,000.00 PIP benefits for medical care.
That’s the law right now. If you wait, you lose your rights.
PIP/no-fault insurance is first-party insurance (meaning, you collect these benefits from your own insurance company no matter who is at fault for the car accident) that protects you to a limited extent for your medical bills and lost wages resulting from an automobile accident.
Bottom line, if you fail to get medical treatment within 14 days of your Florida car accident, then you will have waived your PIP claim; but this does not mean you cannot recover compensation from the person who caused the car accident for pain and suffering, lost wages, and other economic and non-economic losses. However, it does mean that you lose your benefits under your own insurance policy, which are limited to $10,000.00.
The Average Rear-End Car Accident Settlement Is $20,000.00 (Details)
The Average Grocery Store Slip and Fall Settlement Is $35,000.00 (Details)
Why Do Victims Delay Seeking Help?
The thought of filing a lawsuit can be overwhelming after a car accident or other personal injury. Also, a victim may be dealing with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which includes sleeplessness, fatigue, flashbacks and other issues.
How Will An Insurance Company React If A Victim Delays Seeing a Doctor?
Because the victim waited to see a doctor the insurance company will likely deny the claim or make an unreasonable offer based upon their assertion that the victim’s injuries are not related to the accident.
How Do You Overcome The Insurance Company’s Claim Your Injury Isn’t Related?
If you are hurt in some type of accident caused by another person’s negligence, the decision to seek medical attention is not always an easy one to make when you have no insurance or your insurance is subject to a large deductible.
For these reasons, many victims will not seek medical attention for days or even weeks after a trauma. When this happens, it is critical that a victim visits a doctor and provide the doctor with the following information:
- an accurate account of the car accident or slip and fall;
- an accurate history of when they felt injured; and
- an accurate account of which areas of their body are now being affected by the fall or car accident.
In those circumstances where a victim waits to seek treatment, often times you will see in a doctor’s initial entry in the victim’s medical chart something to the effect: “Patient is a XX year old man who was involved in a slip and fall at a grocery store two weeks ago. At the time, he felt that he twisted his ankle and he was also in discomfort. He decided to go home and ice his ankle. He had considerable problems ambulating. After three days, he did not feel improvement and he was still swollen. Additionally, about three days after the accident he felt pain in his low back. He then decided that he needed medical assessment and has come to this office.”
Furthermore, accident victims sometimes do not seek immediate medical help either on account of believing the injury will go away on its own or that the injuries did not produce pain symptoms until days after the incident. That is a fairly common occurrence, especially in strain and sprain soft tissue injuries and other delayed injuries (back, shoulder, or neck pain, nausea, or symptoms like a headache or dizziness from a concussion, which may never go away – oftentimes, these injuries don’t show up for weeks or even months after a car accident).
When a victim delays seeking medical treatment, it is necessary to educate the insurance adjuster or a jury that severe injuries can occur even though there were few if any, symptoms immediately after the slip and fall or car accident. Your personal injury lawyer will prepare you and your doctors to testify in a logical fashion that will make sense to an ordinary juror who might very well have done the same thing in the same situation.
What Should You Do?
Go to the doctor, tell the truth, and then file a claim. If the insurance company denies the claim or makes an unreasonable offer then a good piece of advice is to speak with a personal injury lawyer who examines accident facts fairly, applies the law, and effectively directs a jury to a favorable verdict. Most personal injury lawyers who meet these criteria, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions.
How does waiting to see a doctor impact your Florida car accident claim?
- Settling A Florida Personal Injury Claim Without A Lawyer
- Did You Delay Seeing a Doctor Because it Didn’t Hurt That Bad At First?: The Case of the 5 Month Back Surgery Delay
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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