Imagine that you and your twin are involved in a car accident. You both receive the same injuries - essentially soft-tissue damage to your back and neck that causes some bruising, swelling, and pain. When your claims are settled however, your twin receives twice the amount of damages that you receive! The reason two nearly identical people with nearly identical injuries can end up receiving vastly different settlement amounts has a lot to do with what happens after the accident. Learn what makes the difference.

What You Can Do Wrong

If you're injured in an auto accident, you'll probably see a doctor to have your injuries evaluated. Imagine that your doctor refers you to a specialist for a consultation and prescribes physical therapy but you decide to forgo it..

Because you don't take the time off work to heal and you don't get the physical therapy that you need, your medical bills are low and your lost wages are minimal. However, your suffering is considerable because it takes you longer to heal. The pain affects every aspect of your life and you believe that your pain alone should entitle you to a significant monetary settlement from the insurance company to make up for your suffering.

Unfortunately, you aren't likely to receive very much of a settlement, despite the extent of your suffering. The insurance company will look mostly at how much time you missed from work, calculate your lost wages and the cost of your medical treatment, and add a small amount for your pain and suffering that will in no way make up for what you've endured.

Why? Because anyone who is injured due to someone else's negligence has a duty to mitigate their own damages. The insurance company is going to argue that you didn't follow your doctor's advice and didn't follow through with the therapy that would have helped you heal faster. Your pain, essentially, would be self-inflicted.

Plus, you don't really have hard evidence of the extent of your injuries. Your "real" damages are measured by the dollars-and-cents value of your missed work and medical costs. The more economic losses that you can show as a result of your injuries, the larger your resulting settlement is likely to be.

What You Can Do Right

Now, imagine that everything happens the exact same way, except that you respond to the doctor's instructions differently. You may receive a higher personal injury settlement than you would have from the first scenario, in large part because of the amount of economic damages that you can prove. In general, insurance companies often simply assume that larger economic losses prove greater pain and suffering.

If you've been injured in an auto accident, talk to a personal injury law firm as soon as possible so that you know the best way to proceed as you heal. Knowing what not to do can be as important as knowing what to do, especially where personal injuries are involved.