When you get injured in an auto accident caused by someone else, dealing with insurance companies is a natural part of the aftermath. For the overwhelming majority of accident victims, there are two different insurers to deal with — and sometimes more. Besides interacting with your own insurance company, you will be dealing with the insurance adjusters form the company that insures the party that caused the accident.
It’s a good idea to take the lead when it comes to talking to your own insurance company. Call them as soon as possible following your accident to let them know what’s happened. Your insurer will need all of the factual details you can provide, including the location, date, and time of the accident; the road conditions; and all the information you have on all the people involved.
During this initial contact with your insurance company, you do NOT have to discuss your injuries. In fact, you want to avoid doing that until after you have at least talked to an attorney who’s experienced in personal injury cases. You should also avoid the question of why the accident happened (that is, who caused it) until you’ve consulted with a lawyer.
There is one last universal rule that applies to your own insurance company as well as any other: Never consent to have a statement recorded by an insurance company representative without first consulting with an attorney.
Some auto accidents occur in circumstances that oblige you to treat your own insurance company as an opposing insurer. When making an uninsured motorist claim, for instance, this will be the case. In these circumstances, you need to take pains to ensure that you provide your insurer with the factual information they are entitled to and nothing more.
An experienced attorney at Winters & Yonker will be intimately familiar with all the best practices for protecting you when you communicate with insurance companies. This is why it’s a good idea to hire a Tampa car accident lawyer sooner rather than later.
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Verifying An Insurance Adjuster’s Affiliation
When you take a call from an insurance adjuster, you must start by verifying the company you are talking to before you discuss anything else. Which company employs adjuster matters. Things you should and should not share with a given adjuster depend on whether he works for your insurance company or someone else’s. It is paramount to be clear about this to protect your rights and avoid saying anything that could harm your claim.
The interests of an insurance adjuster align exclusively with the company that employs them and that company’s customers. Thus, when you’re speaking to an adjuster from another company, you should always bear in mind that your rights are not their concern.
Dealing With Your Own Company’s Insurance Adjusters
The terms of your insurance policy make it obligatory to cooperate with the company and its representatives following an accident. In this context, cooperation has a precise legal definition. It means you must be an active participant in any claim investigation.
Your insurance company will want to know what happened and how bad your accident was.
Is It Okay To Fill Out A PIP Application?
When you’re injured in an accident, your insurance company is obliged to pay no-fault benefits, typically referred to as “PIP.” To do this, they’ll ask you to fill out a PIP application. Among other things, this form authorizes your insurance company to access your medical records.
This step makes it easier for your insurance company to process medical bills and repay you appropriately. Filling out a PIP application for your own insurance company is a reasonable request that you can fulfill without worry. Your insurance company will also try to establish if you were, in any way, at fault for the accident. Their interest here is in being prepared to deal with any claims made against you.
What Are The Risks Of Not Cooperating With My Insurance Company?
Adjusters for your insurance company will sometimes ask you to make a recorded statement regarding your accident. Refusing to provide such a statement when requested may be used as justification to deny paying your claim.
Despite this risk, our general legal opinion is that you should only give a recorded statement with guidance from a Tampa personal injury attorney who understands the specifics of your case. The lawyers at Winters & Yonker have the experience you need to make sure you don’t harm yourself while making a recorded statement. Insurance adjusters use recorded statements to establish who was at fault in your accident.
What Will My Insurance Company Do If I Was At Fault?
If you were at fault for your accident, your insurance company must pay for other parties’ damages and injuries up to the limits set by your insurance policy.
The total amount to be paid out is, ultimately, up to your insurance company. Depending on the information gathered regarding fault and negligence, your insurer may pass some or all of the financial burden on to you.
An attorney with personal injury experience is fully aware of the risks you’re exposed to when you may be at fault for an accident. This is why you need legal counsel on your side, protecting you, before you give any recorded statement, even to your own insurance company.
Dealing With Adjusters From Other Parties’ Companies
There is no such thing as a friendly, inconsequential chat with an insurance adjuster. Remember that whenever you speak to an insurance adjuster who works for someone else’s insurance company, their priority is saving that company as much money as possible.
Adjusters from other insurance companies are much more likely to ask you to make a recorded statement even if you were not at fault. In this case, you have no obligation to make any such statement.
This is an important fact to commit to memory: There is NO situation in which making a recorded statement to another party’s insurance company will benefit you.
This is the unanimous conclusion of all the professionals on the Winters & Yonker personal injury team. We always advise our clients not to give recorded statements to insurance companies other than their own. Anything and everything you say in such a statement can be misconstrued to the benefit of the other party — and to your loss.
What Can I Do To Avoid Giving A Recorded Statement?
Whenever an insurance adjuster (working for any company) asks you to make a recorded statement, you are entirely within your rights to respond with: “I have to speak with my lawyer first.”
You need to consider any request for a recorded statement with a full understanding of the legal implications of what you say and a strong defense of your rights. The accident attorneys at Winters & Yonker will give you the expertise and protection you need.
Whenever possible, you should communicate with insurance adjusters through an intermediary. If they call or visit your home in person, let them speak to a relative or friend. This provides you with an additional layer of protection; if your intermediary gives factually incorrect information to the adjuster, it cannot be held against you.
Why Shouldn’t I Speak To Adjusters Myself?
Insurance adjusters are highly experienced professionals. They will do everything in their power to put you at ease, but while they are doing this, they are also gathering information that may be used against you.
As a basic example of the challenge facing you, consider this: Simply saying that you are fine when an adjuster asks you “How are you doing today?” can be entered into the adjuster’s notes as an admission that you were not hurt in your accident.
Another high priority for insurance adjusters is to get you to make statements suggesting you were partially or entirely at fault for your accident. Anything you say that implies responsibility for your accident may be used to justify the insurance company paying less than the full value of your claim.
Can An Insurance Company Force Me Make A Statement?
Insurance company representatives that work for the other parties in your accident will often tell you that they cannot pay your property damage claim unless you give them a statement. If you find yourself in such a situation, you can agree to give a statement. However, you should exercise your right to refuse to authorize a recording of the statement.
This can give you a great deal of legal protection. If adjusters want to use a statement given in this way in court, the adjuster will have to testify instead of simply playing your recorded statement. Insurance adjusters count on the fact that most people are unaware of the steps they can take to protect themselves legally after a car accident. They use this ignorance to get accident victims to compromise themselves.
Don’t Ever Rush To Sign Documents
As noted above, your own insurance company will often ask you to give them access to your medical records. Adjusters working for other parties can ask you to sign a similar medical authorization form. Our advice, as personal injury attorneys, is to not sign such a form for an insurance company that does not represent you. Instead, forward your own records and bills to the adjuster.
Adjusters’ medical authorization forms are often written so broadly that their companies gain access to more medical information than they need. They also won’t be under any obligation to tell you what records they have accessed. The risk of providing this sort of medical authorization is that adjusters may use it to speak to your healthcare providers without your consent or awareness. They may also be able to mine your past medical history for information that should not have any bearing on your injury claim.
Insurance medical authorization forms do not have expiration dates. This means that adjusters can continue perusing your records even after you hire a lawyer.
Do Insurance Adjusters Have Legal Expertise?
It’s worth keeping in mind that most insurance adjusters are not lawyers. Adjusters will not be able to explain the full legal ramifications of the documents they present to you — and what’s worse, many adjusters may not even be aware that their legal knowledge is lacking.
This is why you need the expertise that can only be provided by a good personal injury attorney. It’s particularly important to review releases and other consequential documents with a lawyer before you consider signing them.
Should I Review My Own Medical Records?
As noted above, it is often in your best interest to forward medical records to insurance adjusters yourself rather than signing a medical authorization for them. Make the most of this opportunity by carefully reviewing all of your records before sending them on. You want to make sure there aren’t any mistakes.
Consult with your doctor about fixing any mistakes before sending records to an insurance company.
It is risky to assume that your doctor knows how to deal with insurance companies. Rely instead on the guidance of a professional personal injury attorney.
Don’t Settle For A Quick Settlement
Adjusters may try to settle your case before your medical treatment is complete — sometimes before it even starts. In extreme cases, you may have an adjuster contacting you with a settlement offer less than 24 hours after your accident.
Insurance adjusters have a much better idea of the potential value of your injury claim than you do, particularly in the early stages of the recovery process. A nominal settlement typically comes only after you sign a release. This will make it significantly harder to bring a claim and seek full compensation if your expenses and losses turn out to be more than you expected.
One reason that adjusters try to strike quickly is that many accident victims are unaware of their full injuries in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Pain may be masked by adrenaline for several days, and you may have suffered internal injuries that are only apparent after careful medical examination.
Take your time and get yourself thoroughly examined by a doctor. Taking time to learn more about the extent of your injuries and losses is entirely in your favor, not the insurance companies’.
Do I Have A Time Limit For Filing A Personal Injury Claim?
Various time limits apply to civil cases. In Florida, you have four years from the date of a car accident to file a claim. This limit is reduced to two years if the case involves wrongful death, and extended to five years if it involves an uninsured motorist.
PIP no-fault insurance (see above) can only be used if you see a doctor within 14 days of your accident.
Do not assume that these general guidelines apply to your specific case. Consult with a practicing attorney to make sure you’re looking at the right time limits.
Why Should I Get In Touch With A Qualified Injury Lawyer As Soon As Possible?
You might think that you are capable of handling your case all by yourself. While it is possible, you will, in most cases, require the help of a personal injury lawyer to secure the compensation you are seeking successfully. Consider this:
Hiring a personal injury lawyer on a contingency fee basis means that you will not spend a penny to get the legal representation you need. Under the contingency fee plan, you only get to pay the lawyer once they successfully get you compensated for your injuries.
So, the sooner you call an attorney, the sooner you get the professional legal help you need. This will allow the lawyer to start taking the necessary steps to ensure they collect and save vital evidence. As an expert on legal matters, the attorney will answer any questions you might have, guide you through the compensation process, and help move the case forward while avoiding unnecessary and sometimes costly mistakes.
Can the Insurer Withdraw Their Offer?
No. It’s worth noting that insurance companies typically never withdraw their settlement offers. If an insurance company’s adjuster is pressuring you to settle, what they are offering you will most likely still be available for you in the future.
If you opt to handle the case by yourself, make sure that you are well-versed on everything concerning your case before settling. Make sure you know your injuries, the medical costs, the risks, and your future medical needs. Also, consider how the injuries you’ve suffered could or will affect your ability to earn a living or work in future days.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Moving to Settle Your Case
- Will the injuries you’ve suffered cause you to take more breaks from work than before?
- Is there a possibility you will have to retire sooner than you thought?
- If you were not injured, what are the chances you would get a promotion or a raise?
- How much will you make a year towards the end of your stint as a worker?
- What’s the value to your quality of life and happiness?
- If you are forced to retire two-years early due to arthritic pain in your spine, how much money do you stand to lose?
- How will work-related injuries, or those caused by the actions of others, affect you 10 to 20 years from now?
Will the Insurer Settle Immediately and Pay All of My Present and Future Medical Bills?
No. In most cases, insurance companies want to buy their peace from claimants. They want to make sure that they get a full release of your claims so that they can close off your claim file and move on to the next.
In personal injury situations, insurance companies will not keep a claim open for the rest of the claimant’s life. As such, once your case is settled, that is it! So, do not make the mistake of settling too soon, for too little.
Avoid Talking to Insurance Adjusters. Let Winters & Yonker be Your First Call
There are lots of reasons as to why you should never consider insurance adjusters friends – they don’t have your best interest at heart. This is why it is essential that you call Winters & Yonker immediately after your accident and speak to a Florida car accident firm.
If you want help dealing with an aggressive insurance adjuster, give Winters & Yonker a call right away. We are here 24-hours a day, seven days a week to answer any questions you might have and to provide you with the legal help you need. Dial (888) 373-7770 now for a cost-free consultation.