DEALING WITH INSURANCE AFTER A CAR CRASH
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER A CAR CRASH…
You will get many calls and letters from the other driver's insurance company. You might even start to think they care about what happened to you.
But don't be fooled. They have one goal- save themselves money. If they can devalue your claim, trust me, they will.
HOW THE INSURANCE COMPANY DEVALUES YOUR INJURIES
The insurance industry is a multi-million dollar business. There are thousands of car accident claims per year. The insurance company wants to settle as cheaply as possible in order to save the most money.
Often, the injured person is tricked into the belief that the insurance company is on their side and will fairly pay them for their injuries. The insurance company will have a team of “claim adjusters” whose job is to evaluate your claim and try to settle with you. The claim adjuster will call you almost immediately after the accident. You will also receive a letter telling you that they are investigating your claim. The claim adjuster will ask for your statement and ask that you provide all medical providers you have seen since the accident as well as in your lifetime.
Once they have your medical records, the claim adjuster will enter that information into its computer program to get a value for your claim. The software program reviews your medical bills, the type and frequency of treatment and whether the treatment was necessary.
Basically, the insurance company reviews your medical records and determines when your injuries should be better and how much pain you should have experienced. Without talking to you and/or your doctor, the claim adjuster values your claim based simply on your medical records.
DO NOT TRUST THE CLAIMS ADJUSTER
The claim adjuster wants you to feel they care about your injuries and that you will be fairly paid.
The insurance company will want your written or recorded statement almost immediately after the car accident. The claim adjuster wants to lock you into what happened and your injuries. Most likely, they have already spoken with their insured driver about the accident and any conversations he/she may have had with you afterwards.
These trained professional claim adjusters are looking for any evidence to decrease the value of your claim. Specifically, the claims adjuster will closely look at the accident report and your medical records. Here is some of the key evidence they are looking for within those records:
Looking to See: If the Accident Was Low-impact
The adjuster will check the accident report for each vehicle's speed and damage. If the speeds are low and/or there is very little damage to either vehicle, the claim adjuster will assume that the drivers and passengers were not hurt or received only minor injuries.
However, Louisiana law says there is no direct correlation between the severity of impact and injury. This means you can have a wreck at low speeds and still have major injury. Unfortunately, most injured victims and/or their lawyers, who are not car accident lawyers, do not know this.
Looking to See: If the Injured Person Was Wearing a Seat Belt
Insurance companies argue that if the injured person were wearing a seat belt, the injuries would have been much less. In Louisiana, whether you are wearing a seat belt or not makes no difference in evaluating your damages. In other words, you will not be penalized by a judge or jury if you are not belted at the time of the accident. Without knowing the law, the insurance company will use this false defense against you to negotiate a much lower.
Looking to See: If You Were Ejected from Your Vehicle
You can have significant injury even if not ejected from your vehicle, but an insurance adjuster will argue that if you weren't ejected, you were not badly hurt.
Looking to See: If the Accident Report Documented Injury or if Medical Attention Was Refused.
The insurance company will look at the police report to see if the officer recorded any injuries and whether medical attention was denied. If you reported no injury or turned down medical attention, then the insurance company will argue the collision caused no injury.
However, it is common for car accident victims to have no pain right after an accident. Sometimes, it takes days or even weeks for pain to appear.
Also, it is not uncommon for the police report to be inaccurate.
Insurance Companies have been very successful with these arguments against injured victims who negotiate settlements without a lawyer. They will beat down the injured victim with these arguments and then leave them with a “take it or leave it” offer.
Looking to See: If You Gave Any Written Statements
Right after the accident, the claim adjuster will call and ask you to give a statement over the phone. They will ask many questions, but many have nothing to do with the accident. You will also be asked the same question many different times but phrased slightly different. The adjuster does this to trick you or get you confused hoping that you give a statement that is different from the accident report or other statements. If successful, the adjuster will argue that you are not trustworthy and then use this to negotiate a much lower settlement than what your case is worth. Before discussing the accident or signing any documents given by the claim adjuster, please seek the advice of a car accident lawyer.
Your medical records can be a treasure chest of information for the insurance company. This is why they ask you early on for permission to get all of your medical records.
Once they get signed medical releases, they will immediately request ALL your medical records. This means the insurance company will get records from any healthcare provider you have seen in your entire lifetime. The following is what the insurance company is trying to find in your records:
Looking to See: If You Have a Pre-Existing Condition
Most of your records are not relevant to your current car accident. But the insurance company will get these records and look for any pre-existing injuries/conditions, prior accidents/incidents, and/or issues from employment or criminal activities. If any of your prior medical records place you in a negative light, the insurance company will definitely use this to their advantage in negotiations.
Looking to See: If You Reported Your Injuries or Followed Your Medical Plan
The insurance company also reviews your current medical records to see if the car accident or your injuries from it were mentioned. Not reporting the accident and/or injuries to your doctor can hurt your claim. Also, failing to follow your doctor's advice, such as missing follow up appointments, not taking the prescribed medication, etc. can be harmful to your case. Again, the insurance company is looking for any evidence against you to reduce your claim.
Insurance Companies Do Not Value Your Pain and Suffering
Insurance companies almost always undervalue or “low-ball” the injured party using their computer software's evaluation. They do not consider the injured person's “true” pain and suffering after the accident, future medical care or future lost wages.
The insurance company also ignores the effect on the injured party's family, which are called “consortium damages”. Getting paid for future medical expenses, lost earnings and consortium damages will require hiring a lawyer to negotiate a settlement or taking the insurance company to court.
What the insurance company's computer program does not realize is that every person is different and not all injuries are equal.
Some people respond to treatment much better than others. For example, if two people have the same injury, one may need only pain medication, while the other needs more advanced treatment like injections or even surgery to rid their pain.
Some car accident injuries take longer to heal. A broken bone heals much slower than a muscle spasm and will cause pain for much longer.
As you can see, the insurance company's method of evaluating car accident claims is unfair and unreasonable.
AN EXPERIENCED CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER ADDS VALUE TO YOUR CASE
A car accident victim without a lawyer is a WIN for the insurance company. You will be at a major disadvantage without the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer.
The insurance company will often deny your claim at first arguing that its driver was not at fault despite the police report saying their driver caused the accident. The insurance company will likely continue to deny your claim until a lawyer is involved. They use this strategy in the hopes that you will give up on filing a lawsuit before the required deadline.
The insurance company knows they will be able to settle these claims for much less when a lawyer is not involved. However, a skilled lawyer will be able to get the most for your case by attacking the insurance company's arguments against your case. This includes getting you the real value for your pain and suffering, recovering all past and future medical expenses, recovering all past and future wage losses as well as any other compensable damages coming out of the accident.