Red Flags That Insurance Companies Don't Want You To Know About After an Accident
The basic business plan of any liability insurance company consists of four simple steps. First, it obtains and retains policyholders. Then, it deposits the policyholders' premium payments in a bank account. After that, they invest that money to make even more money. Then, if a claim arises, the insurer does whatever it can legally do to attempt to devalue or even deny the claim. It's the part about devaluing or denying the claim that maintains the insurance company's healthy bottom line and keeps investors happy. It's also the part that causes injured claimants considerable dismay. Here are some liability insurance company tactics that they don't want you to know about – and what you can do about them.
Gaining Control of Your Case Right Away
You might receive a phone call from the opposing insurance company's adjuster within days of the accident "just to see how you're doing now." That adjuster will sound friendly and concerned. He or she is trying to build a rapport with you. His or her job is to protect the insurance company's best interests, and not to serve yours. When that adjuster asks you how you're doing, respond that you're hurt. Get that person's name and phone number and tell the adjuster that you're not going to answer any other questions. You will give the appropriate contact information to your lawyer.
The Request for a Statement
If you do answer questions, then the adjuster is getting closer to taking control of your case. Then, you'll be asked to give a recorded statement "just for purposes of confirming what our insured person told us." Don't believe a word of that. The reason why the adjuster wants your statement is so it can be used against you sometime in the future. You'll be asked leading questions in several different forms. Without an experienced accident Attorneys present, you might fall for them. The questions are formatted to get you to contradict yourself. All of your inconsistent answers will then be used against you on the liability and damages aspects of your case. Your credibility will be called into question and attacked. When you give a statement, you relinquish considerable control of your case.
The Medical Authorization
You will also be asked to sign a medical authorization and return it to the opposing insurer so that it can get copies of your medical records in connection with your accident. The adjuster knows that your Attorneys will be forwarding copies of all relevant records, reports, and bills. The authorization is so broad in scope that the insurer can go back to your birth records if it so chooses. The adjuster is looking for a prior injury to the same part of your body. He or she will then blame your complaints of pain and discomfort from your recent accident on that prior accident, even if it happened 10 years ago.
In many accidents, the claimant might be partially at fault, and the opposing insurance company will use that against him or her. That partial fault is called comparative negligence. It doesn't operate as a bar to recovery though. If you are determined to be partially at fault for an accident, the percentage of fault attributable to you is deducted from any gross award. For example, if the value of your case is $100,000, and you were determined to be 35% at fault, your net award would be $65,000. Don't believe an adjuster when you're told that you cannot recover damages because you shared some of the fault for an accident. That's not how the law works in Texas and most other states.
The Value of Your Case
It's unlikely that you'll know the value of any case that you have early on. Consider this example: You might have some abrasions and bruising, but your right arm and hand tingle. You're right-handed, too, but you settle anyway. All of your medical bills and lost time from work were paid, but a few months after you settle, that tingling can turn into pain and weakness, and you might not even be able to button your own shirt. Now, you want to reopen your case, but you signed a release. For an extra $1,500 in your pocket, you forfeited any rights that you had to additional compensation in the future. No reputable personal injury lawyer is going to allow you to settle early on without knowing the full nature and extent of your condition.
They Want You to Represent Yourself
Adjusters know that if they can drag a case out for a long time, you'll get worn down, and you'll eventually settle for less. If they're deliberately slow in returning phone calls, responding to emails or any other inquiries that you might make, you can tire and just want the whole situation to end. If the opposing insurer does eventually respond, don't be surprised if you're told that more documentation is needed, or that certain medical bills that you submitted as part of your damages are unreasonable and the treatment was unnecessary. You might even be told that your claim has been transferred to another adjuster, so you'll need to make more phone calls and send additional letters and emails in order to speak with that individual. The insurer is hoping that you'll just forfeit your rights. Claimants forfeit them every day.
As soon as you talk with the opposing insurer after an accident, you'll unknowingly start making mistakes that will ultimately detract from the value of your case. Rather than doing that, preserve your rights, and contact a quality personal injury law firm for help. All of the headaches mentioned above can be avoided, and you'll never need to try and deal with that adjuster again.