Dealing With Insurance- Car Accident?
Car Accident: Dealing With Insurance After A Car Accident?
One of the most common questions I get is, “How do I deal with the auto insurance company after a car crash?” Many people start the process after a car accident believing that insurance companies are not going to treat them fairly. I believe this belief is not unfounded. While I have seen insurance companies treat people fairly, I have also seen them treat people very unfairly. On one side, I have seen certain insurance companies treat their clients and others very fairly. On the other side, I have heard stories and tactics used by insurance companies that are shocking and unethical, in my opinion. Interestingly enough, there are certain insurance companies that I know who tend to usually be more fair and generous in their offers and service, while their are others that nearly always tend to be unfair and offer low settlements. I’m not going to name the specific insurance companies here, but certainly there is a difference between insurance companies.
My first piece of advice would be to not talk directly to the insurance company of the person who hit you or who was also involved in the car accident if you have any significant injuries. On the other hand, if the car accident was minor and did not involve much property damage, then you could be okay discussing the claim with the other auto insurance company. The tricky situation is when you are hurting after a car crash, but not sure how injured or hurt you might be. In those situations, it is best to err on the side of caution and not communicate with the other insurance company. However, if you need to communicate with the other insurance company for the damages to your vehicle, for example if you do not have full coverage or you have a high deductible for property damage, then in those situations I would communicate, but limit your communication to the property damage issues and discuss nothing else, which you are entitled to do. Unfortunately, I have heard recordings and seen situations where the insurance company adjuster will try to twist people’s words in such a way to minimize their injuries, which they will later use against the person. Sometimes they will add leading questions or begin an question by improperly suggesting the previous answer was something different. There are many techniques that they use, which is why it is often best to simply hire an attorney to communicate on your behalf.
Secondly, never, under any circumstances, accept a settlement immediately or soon after a car crash for injuries. I have heard of people getting offered a minimal amount of money to sign away their rights to pursue an injury claim the day of the crash or soon after. Some of those who accept this minimal amount later realize that they actually had more serious injuries and now they are bound by the release they signed with the insurance company. While there are some ways to get out of such releases, many times there is not a way out and you will be legally bound to the settlement. Some of these people end up paying out of pocket for medical bills, unfortunately.
Third, be honest with the insurance company. I’ve seen people exaggerate their claims or injuries, only to be perceived as dishonest when medical records, photographs, or other evidence contradicts their claims. There is no need for exaggeration. Explain exactly what happened honestly. An attorney can assist you in your communications as well in this regard.
Fourth, understand insurance companies are not afraid of individuals. Rarely is a person going to go out and sue an insurance company. The reason is because the court rules are so complicated that it is very difficult for anyone but a lawyer to file a large case in court. Some people will go to small claims court for smaller damage amounts, but once again, the damage award is limited and so insurance companies do not fear these awards. Therefore, the only factor that drives higher settlement amounts, besides an insurance company wanting to be fair, which as discussed above, does not happen frequently happen, is the fear of being sued and losing in court. A jury or judge can force an insurance company to pay a fair amount, along with the auto insurance company having to pay a lot in attorney fees. So that said, when you contact an insurance company as an individual, you do not have a lot of negotiating power. For that reason alone, it can be worth it to hire an attorney or lawyer. Many times in my career I have had frustrated people call me telling me that they cannot get anywhere with the insurance company. After they hire me, I can often get things accomplished with one phone call. The reason is because if the insurance company does not comply, we will pursue all available legal action and the automobile insurance companies know this.
When in doubt, contact an attorney. I’d be happy to discuss your potential case with you for free. 801-738-9999.
Sadly, even more tragic car accidents occur frequently. Here is a link to an article that was published by the Deseret News about a recent accident. Our condolences to the families involved.