9 Attorneys from Around
the Country Share these Tips
Dealing with the insurance company after an accident can be stressful and can leave you with many questions. Are they going to give you a fair settlement? Do you need a lawyer? Should I be agreeing to a recorded statement? (spoiler alert…NO!) Not every accident requires hiring an attorney but we wanted to ask accident lawyers around the country for some free advice on dealing with the insurance company after an accident.
Here are the 24 tips below.
Don’t give a recorded statement. Insurance companies will tell you this is routine and they always do these. Well, there’s a reason for that. They often use them to minimize your recovery. Granted, you might be lucky and the statement might not reduce what you recover in settlement, but they rarely if ever help your case. Stay away from these like the plague.
Insist that your doctor bills your insurance company. Many people have private insurance they can use to pay medical bills while waiting to settle. Unfortunately, many doctors and chiropractors don’t want to bill your coverage. They would rather wait until you settle and get paid from your settlement. This is because many doctors and clinics have signed contracts with certain insurance companies to accept lower fees for their services. Waiting until the case settles can put more money in their pockets. Unfortunately it means less goes into yours. When you settle you are entitled to recover the full value of your medical services, not just what was paid by your health coverage. The difference between what was paid and what you recovered should go to you, not your doctor. After all, you were the one making payments over the years to be insured. Although doctors and clinics who do this are violating state insurance law, prosecutions are rare and the practice is widespread. Not insisting your doctor bill your insurance can mean you end up with thousands of dollars less in your pocket when you settle.
You may want to use your own collision coverage than pursing a property damage claim from the at-fault party’s carrier. The reason is your carrier will repair your car first and questions later. The upside is you get your car back on the road faster. The downside is you likely will have to pay your collision deductible up front. However, assuming you are not at fault, your carrier will recover your deductible for you and reimburse you. The alternative, is to wait for the at fault carrier to talk to all drivers/witnesses and conclude their investigation until they are in a position to accept your claim. Assuming that they do accept responsibility, you are often 30, 60, 90 days down the road. All the while, you are out of a car.
Another important point is that they should never give their statement to the insurance company without having an attorney present.
Be extremely careful before agreeing to give a recorded statement to the insurance company. If there were injuries involved, I would strongly recommend that you speak with an attorney who has many years of experience handling car accident lawsuits. Also, it’s important to know that the insurance company knows which attorneys settle all their cases and which ones will take a case to trial if need be. The insurance companies want to avoid trial because it’s expensive so some insurance companies will often vary their settlement offers depending on who the attorney is representing the plaintiff. So, make sure you hire an experienced trial lawyer to handle your case so you can increase the chances of a larger settlement.
Do not settle too quickly. People sometimes assume they will recover from their injuries, and then they end up agreeing to a small settlement based on that assumption. However, we don’t always fully heal exactly as expected. If the injury becomes chronic there’s nothing that can be done. You’ve already settled and even though you have more medical bills, you end up having to pay all those yourself. So, don’t make the mistake of settling too quickly. Patience can be important when it comes to settling personal injury claims.
Attorneys, not clients, should give adjusters everything they want to properly value the claim. Too often attorneys think it is adversarial. It doesn’t mean you’re rolling over on the client. I think of it as positioning the case, convincing the adjuster to value it properly and making sure they know I will file if they do not. Clients should not do this on their own or they risk getting tricked and saying the wrong thing to an adjuster. A lawyer skilled in dealing with adjusters however knows how cases are valued and without fear provides the adjuster with the proper medical records and opinions to show causation and injuries, and the proper wage loss, life care plan, vocational report and economic loss report to support a complex claim. Not every case needs or warrants this of course but a good lawyer is ready to provide it when warranted and simply file the case, litigate it further or even try it if necessary but only if the case cannot be resolved swiftly and at a good value for the client.
Do not give a recorded statement to the opposing insurance company. Many times adjusters say that they’re just needing to get information and will record the call. If they were only needing information, then they would not need to record the call. The only reason to record the call, is to play the recording back at some point in the future to further their main goal of reducing the value of a claim. It’s an unfair fight; insurance adjusters are trained in obtaining recorded statements, whereas you are not trained to give one.
After any motor vehicle accident, if you are physically able and it is safe to do so, take as many photographs as possible of damage to your car, any other cars involved, any property involved (e.g., fences, buildings, guardrails, trees, mailboxes, etc.), and injuries. One cannot have too many photographs or too much information when it comes to dealing with the insurance company. Remember, they want to pay you as little as possible for accident claim. Having documentation and witnesses to what actually happen is important to helping you maximize your recovery.
If you or a family member were injured, and have visible injuries, take photographs of your injuries, and do that every several days to document your recovery.
Always call the police if in a fender bender, especially if it is not your fault. This helps to document the crash (when, where, how, why, etc.) and to obtain necessary information about the other driver. Inevitably, there is a dispute about the above, and a police officer may help resolve some of the disputed issues.
If fault for the accident is clear and there is no personal injury ok to deal directly with insurance company. Be mindful that their loyalty is to the or employer, not you. You are not “their” customer so they have no incentive to please you.
If fault can or will be disputed, do not give them a statement and hire an attorney as the insurance company will take the most aggressive position possible against you. Even if fault is clear against their driver, and you are injured, immediately hire an attorney. Although this is not a criminal matter, be mindful that anything you say or do can and will be used against you. Insurance companies are in business to make money. You represent a cost. Their mission is to reduce costs. Hiring an attorney levels the playing field for you and ensures that you will receive the compensation required by law.
Do not give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. You are under no obligation to do so.
If you are not going to hire an attorney right away, the only time you should talk to the other driver’s insurance company is when you call to report the claim or confirm that a claim has been opened. Then only tell date, place and time and see #1 above. Then you should not talk to them again until you have either finished your medical treatment or been told by your doctor you have a permanent condition.
Do not sign a medical authorization for the other driver’s insurance company. You are under no obligation to do so. Rather, gather all of your medical records and medical bills and separate them by provider. Then you send a complete set to the medical provider.
Remember, the law says you are entitled to the reasonable value of your medical services. This means you are entitled to what was billed for your medical care, and not just what was paid or that you paid out of pocket..
Report the accident to your insurance company just so they are aware.
Get a copy of your insurance policy declaration page the lays out your coverage, that way, you know exactly what you are owed.
If you live in a comparative negligence state, you can recover damages if you’re partly at fault for an accident. Comparative negligence means that the person that is at fault doesn’t have to be 100% at fault, he may be 70% at fault, 80% at fault, or 20% at fault. All that means is that you compare the negligence of that person to any other person and if he’s only 20% at fault for causing the crash or the injury to the plaintiff, then he only has to pay 20% of the damages because he contributed that degree.
Getting paid underinsured insurance by your insurance company doesn’t mean your rates will go up. You have a contractual right to these payments based on someone else’s fault (not yours) and you paid an extra premium for these benefits.
Remember to stay at the scene after an accident occurs, and wait for authorities to get there, these accidents must get reported to the appropriate police department. Don’t admit fault for the accident and get a copy of the police report.
Take pictures of the vehicles at the scene and the damage to BOTH vehicles. This is to ensure all crash information is accurate and avoid evidence from being manipulated after the accident.
- If it’s your fault, report it to the insurance company. Be honest and cooperative.
- If it’s not your fault and you are fine, report it to the insurance company. Be honest and cooperative.
- If it’s not your fault and you are injured, consult with an attorney before speaking to either insurance company.
The most common piece of advice given by the attorneys here is do not give a recorded statement to the insurance company. Keep these tips in mind if you, a friend or a family member ever has to deal with the insurance company.
If you have any stories on dealing with insurance we’d love to hear about it in the comments below!