On the back of my recent post about a man who was conned into taking an early and low settlement from the insurance company, I thought that one point in particular deserved further discussion. The claimant in that New York case was unaware of the extent and nature of his injuries until after he signed the Release. Some people may find this hard to believe, but it is, in fact, quite common to be unaware of the extent and nature of your injury.
There are two common problems with an early settlement:
You Didn't Know You Were Injured At All
When the injury is soft tissue in nature (i.e. neck and back muscle pain) you may not experience any symptoms until two or three days later, sometimes longer. That is because the pain is most severe when the injury has set-in and the body begins to repair. Those of you who have worked with weights at a gym will recognize that your body feels much worse the next day than it did at the gym. This is the same principle at work.
Therefore, a lot of accident victims do not complain of any pain at the accident scene because they are still symptom free. He or she may even give a recorded statement to an insurance company attesting to the fact that they are not injured. A day or two later, however, and the symptoms become increasingly severe and persistent.
It is OK if you told the police you were not injured. It is OK if you told the insurance company that you were not injured. You are not giving away your rights to a personal injury claim because you were unaware that you were actually injured in the car accident. You are, however, bound, if you agree to sign a Release (as the New York claimant above) mistakenly did. Even if you previously indicated that you were not injured, but then began to experience symptoms of pain, contact an auto accident lawyer right away.
You Didn't Know How Seriously You Were Injured
People will sign a Release for a lot of reasons:
- They need the money
- Their attorney told them it was a good settlement
- Their doctor told them they are not going to get any better
Sometimes the Release is signed before you know how serious the injury is. I always tell clients to seek ALL medical attention and obtain second and third doctor opinions, if necessary, because a Release is final. If you discover that you herniated a disc the day after signing a Release, you will NOT receive the compensation you deserve.
I have a close family friend (I did not represent her because I was not yet an attorney) who settled her case years ago for less than it was worth. She was told by doctors that her back was fine and by her attorney that the settlement offered was a fair one. To this day, she still has ongoing back pain.
Before you settle any personal injury claim make sure that you know the full extent of your injury and do not settle any case with the insurance company within a few days of the accident because the pain and symptoms may not have set in.