The Downside of Delaying Treatment and/or Providing Insurance Company Information Too Soon
Although each case is different, there are two almost universal mistakes that unrepresented injury victims often make in handling their own personal injury claims. The first mistake is to “tough it out” and see if aches, sprains and strains “go away” before being seen by EMS, the ER or their own treating physician. Aside from that fact that this delay may endanger your health, most insurance companies will intractably conclude that “No Treatment Means No Injury” regardless of later presented facts or diagnosis to the contrary. Stoically denying or minimizing any aches and pains is another sure way to play into an insurance company’s desire to deny or minimize your injury.
Even if you are not sure if you were injured or it turns out that, in fact, you were not injured, no legitimate insurance company will question your right to be transported, seen in the ER and follow up with your own doctor. Even without an injury claim, “Med-Pay” is usually available to cover such initial treatment or evaluation.
A slightly different angle on the same theme is the danger of giving the insurance company a statement denying or minimizing any injury and/or signing authorizations for the release of your medical records too soon. While you may be fortunate enough to have sustained no injury or merely a short term “soft tissue injury”, it is equally possible that these sort of symptoms may have a “delayed onset”, become “chronic” (fail to go away), get worse, or even develop into more serious neurological injuries requiring, in some instances, increasingly invasive procedures, surgery and disability.
Providing insurance companies with access to your medical records too soon, and while the ER and your own doctor are initially hopeful that your injury, if any, is short term, often results in the insurance company leaping, prematurely, to the assumption that they also hoped for, i.e., “not injured” or “short term soft tissue injury with good prognosis to be fully resolved”. One would like to believe that if the situation legitimately changes for the worse as time and treatment progress, that the insurance company will, accordingly, adjust their initial assessment of your claim. The problem, however, is that insurance companies often have a hierarchical, institutional or bureaucratic process that requires the claims adjuster to “set a reserve”, an initial likely value of the claim, as soon as possible. This “reserve” can later become almost “set in stone” regardless of how the facts develop. Insurance company managing supervisors can become quite aggressive with their own claims adjusters in resisting any later upward adjustment of the initial “reserve”.
While it can be quite difficult for the injured party to keep these things from happening, most competent attorneys who been retained early enough to represent you in such claims can get the insurance company “off your back” and prevent such tactics that are often institutionally meant to deny or minimize your injury claim.