No matter what they claim in their commercials, insurance companies are not primarily concerned with what’s best for you. Insurance companies are concerned with their bottom line which means they need to keep these secret from as many victims as possible.
Be Careful About Making Formal Statements
When you submit a claim for an injury or accident, the insurance company doesn’t just accept it and cut you a check. They start with some sort of factual investigation. The outcome of this investigation will often dictate whether the insurance accepts your claim or not. Keep in mind that these investigations are not exactly noble truth seeking missions.
The primary function of the insurance company’s investigation is to see if there is any legal basis to deny your claim. As part of this investigation, you will almost always be asked to provide a formal statement about what happened. It might be over the phone with the claims adjuster right after an accident or later on.
In any event, you need to approach this carefully. Even if the context seems informal (e.g., a phone call with a claims adjuster), your statement will likely be on the record. This means that the insurance company can potentially use your own statement against you to deny or limit your claim. You have every right to get legal advice from an attorney before making a statement.
Don’t Jump at the First Settlement Offer
Anytime an insurance company makes an initial settlement offer, they always start with a low dollar amount. The first offer is usually for the lowest amount that they think you might potentially accept. This is particularly true for claimants who are not represented by an attorney. Of course, the insurance company will try to convince you that it is their “best” and “final” offer. Don’t be persuaded into in accepting the first offer without consulting with a personal injury attorney first.
Pics on Your Phone can Help Your Case
In today’s world, pretty much everyone involved in an accident has a phone with a camera on them. Don’t be afraid to use it. Pictures of an accident scene can be very valuable. The fact that you took the pictures with your phone won’t make them less useful. The cars will get moved way before an insurance investigator can come out and take photos so using your phone will probably be the only way to immediately document the scene. Take as many pictures as you can.
Hire an Attorney to Handle your Claim
Most people would never consider filing a lawsuit without an attorney. Insurance claims can be just as complex and difficult as a lawsuit. Just like in court, you have the right to be represented by an attorney in an insurance claim. The insurance company does not want you to bring in a lawyer because this takes away their advantage.
Be Careful About Signing any Release Forms
Insurance companies usually won’t cut you a check until you sign some sort of release form (sample release form). When you sign the release form, you agree to give up any and all right to pursue additional claims and get further compensation. Most people are eager to get their money and quickly sign the release without even looking at it. This can be very risky. You should always read the release form very carefully and, if possible, consult with an attorney before signing. The terms of the release can potentially derail your case and prevent you from getting compensation for other parties.
Insurance Documents are Intentionally Confusing
Even if you actually take the time to carefully read an insurance policy, release form or other insurance documents, you will probably be very unclear about what most of it means.
This is very intentional. Insurance policies and other documents are deliberately written to be confusing and ambiguous. This ambiguous language is design to give the insurance company the ability to argue that certain things are not covered. An experienced lawyer will know exactly how to respond to these arguments and avoid this game.
Insurance Companies can Get in Trouble if They Act in Bad Faith
Insurance companies are definitely not free from oversight and accountability. The law in every state requires insurance companies to act in “good faith” when dealing with their insureds. This basically means that insurance companies must act in the best interest of their policyholders and not themselves. Your insurance company can’t intentionally throw you under the bus to save money.
Unfortunately, many insurance companies regularly push the boundaries of this rule and sometimes have to be “reminded” of their legal obligations. This is where a lawyer can be very advantageous.
Contact Miller & Zois About Your Insurance Claim
The attorneys at Miller & Zois can definitely help get the best result out of your insurance claim. Call us at 1.800.553.8082 or submit a request for a free consultation.