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Tips for Settling with an Insurance Company

  • Date: 2010/08/28 Injury Law Center - Law Offices of Jack Bloxham
  • Synopsis : In dealing with insurance companies after a motor-vehicle accident be extremely cautious and consult your own lawyer.

Main Document

Settling With an Insurance Company: Proceed With Caution - In dealing with insurance companies after a motor-vehicle accident, be extremely cautious and consult your own lawyer.

Serious car and motor vehicle accidents are rare in most people's lives, and even minor accidents don't happen very often to most people. So people are usually not ready to deal with the overwhelming insurance, financial and medical problems that can happen from car crashes. If you are injured in a bad accident, suddenly you must cope with insurance adjusters, hospital stays, doctor visits and medical bills. These extra burdens cause extra stress just at the time you are trying to heal physically and psychologically from your injuries from the accident.

Most of us generally think that insurance will provide us security and safety if something goes wrong. We often place too much faith in the system, believing that an insurance company will take care of all our bills and be fair with us. In many situations insurance policies can make bad situations better. However, ultimately insurance companies are interested in protecting the bottom line, and often, injured people have to fight with insurers to receive full and fair payment of medical and property losses and damages from car accidents.

If you are dealing with an insurance company after a car, truck, motorcycle or other motor vehicle accident, be careful! The important thing to remember is that the insurance adjusters and lawyers working for that insurer are not your friends, even if they are polite and sympathetic.

From the minute an accident occurs, everything you say and do could be used against you as evidence in a court trial. The insurance company will begin gathering potentially harmful evidence immediately and you should exercise extreme caution. For example, you may think that telling an insurance adjuster about your previous surgery, or previous back or neck pain will help the adjuster understand that your injury is more serious than it appears at first. But the adjuster will likely use that information against you by saying the pain you have now must be from the previous incidents you described.

Seek Legal Advice Quickly

The best protection is to contact a personal injury attorney as early as possible after the accident. A lawyer can help you find medical care, check out your insurance benefits, investigate your claim, gather favorable evidence and protect you from the insurance company. Do not delay; evidence deteriorates, memories fade and deadlines for legal claims pass.

Remember, the insurance company probably handles millions or billions of dollars worth of claims and has an army of employees on its side. Don't go it alone without an experienced professional on your side.

The Insurance Adjuster

The insurance company will appoint an insurance adjuster to investigate and evaluate an accident. The adjuster's job is to gather evidence helpful to the insurer, so you should be cautious in what you share with him or her. Do not give a statement - oral, written or recorded - without consulting your own lawyer first. While it might seem harmless to just tell the truth about what happened, you could inadvertently hurt your case.

Similarly, do not sign property damage releases, or medical or other releases of information without a personal injury lawyer's advice.

The adjuster will be interested in whether there have been gaps in your medical treatment that could indicate things are not as severe as you report. However, you may have legitimate reasons for such gaps that do not reflect on the injury's severity. An injury lawyer should be able to guide you to receive appropriate care and arrange ways of getting it paid for.

Significance of the Deposition

With a good personal injury attorney, most cases can be settled outside of court. However, if your case cannot be settled, your lawyer will file a complaint with the appropriate court, and the insurance company will begin the court process called "discovery."

In addition to asking you questions in writing, the insurance company will want to take your deposition. A deposition is an official proceeding in which the insurance company's lawyer will ask you questions on the record. At this deposition it can be crucial for you to be represented by legal counsel to protect you from inappropriate questioning.

The deposition may be the insurer's first chance to see how you will behave as a witness should the matter end up in trial. The insurance company's evaluation of how you would testify can be an important factor in its decision whether to settle or proceed to trial. The insurer will use your performance at the deposition to evaluate your credibility and the impression you are likely to make on a jury.

The insurance company will depose you about your background, previous accidents and injuries, and all the details of the current accident, including who the other witnesses were. It will be particularly interested in how your current injuries affect your daily life, and may ask questions on a variety of subjects: - Have you been unable to work? What is the value of the lost time from work- How have your activities of daily life been affected- Are there activities you enjoy or need to do to care for yourself that have become harder or impossible because of your injuries- Do you have physical limitations in standing, walking, sitting, lifting or movement- Are there significant symptoms that are harder to measure like pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, or difficulty with concentration or mental functioning? Has your doctor told you there may be long-term ramifications to your injuries

Soft-Tissue Injury

The insurance company investigating your auto accident claim may closely scrutinize injuries that cause severe pain without supporting objective medical findings. For example, muscle, nerve or tendon damage can cause serious pain and limitations - but these injuries are not nearly as easy to prove as something like a broken bone that can be proven by an x-ray.

When a slow-speed car accident occurs in which vehicles sustain little damage, the insurance company's adjuster may argue that the minor nature of the impact could not have caused your serious medical conditions. Having your doctor document your symptoms and limitations is important, even if your doctor cannot measure the problem with a picture or test. Even a fender bender can sometimes cause a serious soft-tissue injury.

In such cases, your doctor and your attorney will need to show how and why the low impact crash harmed you. For example, perhaps you are more fragile because of your age or other physical problems. Or you may be physically more susceptible to harm because of an earlier injury or pre-existing medical condition. The insurer will also want to find out if your doctor has any doubts about the nature or severity of your injury.

The insurance company may even have its own doctor examine you, who will then report that there is nothing wrong with you.

Be Careful

Remember to contact an experienced lawyer with a record of dealing effectively with insurance companies in car crash cases. He or she can protect you throughout the insurer's investigation and settlement negotiations, as well as evaluate whether the insurance company is acting in good faith.

Article provided by Injury Law Center - Law Offices of Jack Bloxham Visit us at www.jackbloxham.com

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