1 – Insurance adjusters are paid to employees of the insurance company. They are qualified in negotiations and are advised by experienced insurance company lawyers who know the law. Together they know all the strategies to stop you from hiring a lawyer and get you to settle your claim quickly for as little money as possible. They are not your friend. They work against you, actively trying to see if they can get you to accept little or no money to settle your claim. They can tell you things that are not true, and even pretend you have no right to compensation to see if you fall in love with them. You should not talk to them.
2 – Insurance companies hope not to hire an experienced lawyer. Because they know that if you do, they will almost certainly have to pay you more money. They will tell you that you do not need a lawyer. And they won’t lose sleep at night over the fact that they are billions of dollars of company with an army of lawyers to support to protect their rights (and money), but will tell a single mom without legal training, who was just in a serious car accident, that she should not get a lawyer to protect herself. They prey on accident victims who need money quickly, which, in truth, is most of us, through lowball offers that we hope to accept without hiring a lawyer who will tell you how terrible their offer is. An experienced lawyer will know what your case is worth and help you get the compensation you deserve. The insurance company has a lawyer to look into this. You deserve the same protection.
3 – Do not give the insurance regulator a registered statement. It is a common trick for insurance regulators to try to get a registered statement from you that will damage the value of your claim. They can try this while you are still in shock after the accident. They can ask you to guess the facts about the accident when guessing can hurt you in a very friendly way. The most important thing is that they know what they are doing because they do it all day long. But no. Most people who are already in an accident and end up on the phone with the insurance regulator have never been through this kind of thing before. And their instinct is to want to be nice and helpful to the regulator, never believing that the regulator is trying to trap them to give harmful answers. Stay away from the phone with them. Don’t let them record.
4 – On your first visit to the doctor after the accident, inform the doctor of anything that hurts you, even if it seems small during this first visit. This is not the time to show how difficult you are and how you are not going to let “small” things get in the way. Why? Because often the most serious injuries that result from an accident are not immediately visible. They can get worse days or weeks after the accident. If the case goes to court, the important question will often be whether you are overreacting or even overreacting, so doctor’s appointment notes will be important evidence. The judge or jury in your case may not trust your testimony that you sustained a broken neck, for example, if you did not complain about neck pain during your first visit to the doctor after the accident. Never make up for an injury, for sure. But never underestimate one, either. You don’t know how serious this is going to turn out. Let the doctor decide.
5 – Don’t authorize an insurance company to collect medical records without legal advice. Your medical records are critical evidence in your case. But sometimes, for people who have been injured in the past, or who have had a health problem in the past, these previous health records can be used against them in court by the insurance company in an attempt to show that the damage was not due to a car accident, but rather was the result of a previous accident or health problem. Past injuries and health problems, and their relationship to current damage can be very complicated, and sometimes a ruling from a judge is required before past medical records should be released to insurance companies. Do not try to figure this out for yourself. An experienced lawyer can make sure that the insurance company sees only those medical records from your past that are relevant to the accident and no more.
6 – Hurried settlements are almost always a bad idea. Some people hurry to settle a case before they hire a lawyer and even know how much they are injured …. because they need money right away to pay the bills. This is especially true if the accident has made the victim unable to work for some time, so the money to pay the bills is not coming. The risk here, of course, is that the amount of rush settlement may soon look grossly inadequate if the damage turns out to be more serious than initially thought. As a general rule, it is best to wait to settle your claim until the treatment is complete, or at least until the doctor has a good grip on the extent of the injury, and what (and how long) it will take you to treat. But waiting can also be risky because there are time limits (called “statutes of limitations”) in every state to file a claim in court; if you don’t meet the deadline, you will lose your claim. So, because there is a risk of settling too early or waiting too long, what should you do? Answer: Hire an experienced lawyer. He/she will be able to tell you what your case is worth, and when you know enough about your injuries that it is safe to discuss settlements. Your lawyer will also know when to report your case and make sure you do not miss it. And if you need more time to pay your bills, your lawyer may also be able to negotiate with medical providers to get them to agree that you won’t have to pay them for your services until your case is resolved.