(1) Insurance adjusters are paid employees of the insurance company. They are skilled at negotiation, and are advised by experienced insurance company lawyers who know the law. Together, they know all the strategies to keep you from hiring a lawyer, and to get you to settle your claim quickly for as little money as possible. They are not your friend. They are working against you, actively trying to see if they can get you to accept little to no money at all to settle your claim. They may tell you things that are not true, and even pretend that you are not entitled to compensation, to see if you will fall for it. You should not be talking to them.
(2) Insurance companies hope that you do not hire an experienced attorney. Because they know that, if you do, they are almost certainly going to have to pay you more money. They will tell you that you do not need an attorney. And they will lose no sleep at night over the fact that they are a billion dollar company with an army of lawyers on retainer to protect their rights (and money), but will tell a single mom with no legal training, who has just been in a serious car accident, that she shouldn’t get a lawyer to protect herself. They prey on accident victims who need the money quickly–which, truthfully, is most of us–by making a lowball offer that they hope you will accept without hiring an attorney who will tell you how terrible their offer is. An experienced attorney will know how much your case is worth and will help you get the compensation you deserve. The insurance company has a lawyer to look out for it. You deserve the same protection.
(3) Do not give the insurance adjuster a recorded statement. A common trick of insurance adjusters is to try to get a recorded statement from you that will damage the value of your claim. They may try this when you are still in shock from the accident. They may–in a very friendly way–ask you to guess about facts relating to the accident, when your guesses may hurt you. The bottom line is that they know what they are doing, because they do it all day long. But you don’t. Most people who’ve been in an accident and wind up on the phone with an insurance adjuster have never been through that kind of thing before. And their instinct is to want to be nice and helpful to the adjuster, never believing that the adjuster is trying to trap them into giving damaging answers. Stay off the phone with them. Don’t let them record you.
(4) On your first visit to a doctor after an accident, tell the doctor about everything that hurts you, even if on that first visit it seems minor. This is not the time to show how tough you are, and how you are not going to let “little” things bother you. Why? Because often times the most serious injuries that result from an accident are not immediately apparent. They may worsen over the days or weeks following the accident. If your case goes to trial, an important issue will often be whether you are exaggerating your injuries–or even making them up altogether–and therefore an important piece of evidence will be the notes of your visits to your doctor. The judge or jury in your case might not trust your testimony that you sustained, for example, a sprained neck in the accident if, on your first visit to the doctor after the accident you were not complaining of a sore neck. Never make up an injury, certainly. But never downplay one, either. You don’t know how serious it’s going to turn out to be. Let your doctor decide.
(5) Don’t authorize the insurance company to collect your medical records without the advice of a lawyer. Your medical records are critical evidence in your case. But, sometimes, for people who have been injured in the past, or who have had health problem in the past, those past health records may be used against them in court by the insurance company, trying to show that the injury did not result from the car accident, but rather was the result of a previous accident or health problem. Past injuries and health problems–and their relationship to your current injury–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 on your own. An experienced lawyer can make sure that the insurance company sees only those past health records of yours that are relevant to your accidence case, and no more.
(6) Rushed settlements are almost always a bad idea. Some hurry to settle their case before they have hired a lawyer, and even know how badly they are hurt…..because they need the money right away to pay bills. This is especially true if the accident has rendered the victim unable to work for a while, so the money to pay the bills is no longer coming in. The risk here, of course, is that the amount of the rushed settlement may soon look grossly insufficient, if the injury turns out to be more serious than first believed. As a general rule, it is best to wait to settle your claim until your medical treatment is complete, or at least until the doctor has a good handle on the extent of your injuries, and what (and how long) it will take for you to heal. But waiting can be risky, too, because in every state there are deadlines (called “statutes of limitations”) for filing your claim in court; if you miss the deadline, you lose your claim. So, since there is a risk in settling too soon, or waiting too long, what should you do? Answer: Hire an experienced attorney. 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 settlement. Your lawyer will also know what the deadline is for filing your case, and make sure that you don’t miss it. And if you need more time to pay bills, your attorney may also be able to negotiate with your medical providers, to get them to agree that you won’t have to pay them for their services until your case is resolved.