Personal injury law, in particular, requires a certain level of trust and cooperation
In as much as you need to trust your injury lawyer, he or she needs to trust you. If your lawyer feels like you are hiding things from them, they won’t be able to work to get you the best possible settlement that you deserve.
It just won’t help your case if you aren’t disclosing everything and when I say everything, I mean even things that you don’t think are relevant.
Let your lawyer make that decision, because they’re the ones with the experience in handling injury settlements.
Honesty Is Always The Best Policy
There is no upside to omitting information or, worse, outright lying to your lawyer, even if you think you’re doing it for good reason. Yet, people do it time and time again, thinking that they will get a better outcome if they hide their progress. It makes me shake my head when it happens, because I know that, had a client been upfront about the good progress they were making in their lives from the beginning, we could have come out a lot better.
Instead, they tried to hide the fact that they were doing the lambada at a wedding in Waterloo over the weekend. The insurance company, however, rarely misses these facts when they review a client’s unsecured Facebook page.
Your lawyer isn’t there to pass judgment or make accusations. We totally understand that you are simply trying to live your life as you did before the accident, and that you don’t mean to impact your case; but if I go into a negotiation claiming you can barely walk and the defense lawyer whips out the wedding snap, our credibility (notice I don’t say ‘your’, we are in this together) is shot. As lawyers, we are here to help you. So let us!
As an aside, keep in mind that it can take upwards of two years to settle a case, so your health and work status will change, and you need to stay in touch with your lawyer to keep them apprised of these things.
Some things that you might omit, thinking they aren’t relevant:
- Changes in your injury status
- Changes in your doctor’s statements about your injury status
- Pre-existing medical conditions that could impact the resulting settlement
- Changes in your work status. Example: You’ve gone back to work part time, but you haven’t told your lawyer
- Any life activities that that might give the impression that your injuries / ability to function is not impaired (remember my lambada at a wedding example, above?)
A Healthy Case Comes From Caring For Your Health
I’m sure you’ve heard that when you get a course of antibiotics, your doctor will tell you to take it right to the end of the prescription, even if you’re feeling better?
The same is true for injury management. Ignoring what your doctor has prescribed in terms of treatment or therapy can play against you with the insurance company.
If you aren’t actively participating in your own recovery, attending appointments and going to therapy, you might give the impression of being someone who is malingering. That is, someone who is ‘milking’ the situation, trying to get more than what they deserve.
Sure, these appointments take time and you’ve got a lot on your plate, particularly after an injury. But it’s vital that you participate in your case and do what’s asked of you by your doctors.
(Even as I write this, I realize how common it is for us adults ignore our own health needs even though supporting our health should be more motivating than supporting our lawsuit. But heed my advice: Resist the urge to do this during a suit; it will work against you.)
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
Part of being an active participant is staying in touch with your lawyer, sharing updates or changes to your case/health/wellbeing and asking questions. It’s this last point that is the hardest to get people to understand.
A lawyer worth their salt won’t mind your doing some research and asking questions. If anything, it shows us that you are interested in your case and are not just leaving it up to chance. That’s good! We work for you and while it’s true that we have the experience and the knowledge, it’s your case and your life, so don’t sit on the sidelines.
When you’re working with a personal injury lawyer, keep these things in mind, and you’ll find that the cooperative relationship will work better for your settlement, in the long run.
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