There are two defying moments whenever you’ve been involved in an auto accident—the first is right after the accident, and the second is when medical treatment ends. The first can be especially trying because there is so much going on in an auto accident victim’s life—getting medical treatment, dealing with pain, trying to handle car damage issues (including potentially a rental car, replacement car or repairs), and keeping a household running even when missing time and money from work. If you’re involved in an accident, the most important thing to remember is that you should not talk to any insurance company before speaking to a qualified attorney. With that said, your insurance company and the other party’s insurance company play different roles and you should know how to deal with each of them.
Dealing With Your Insurance Company
Typically, your insurance company is going to be on your side. This applies unless the other driver was uninsured or under-insured and you are going to have to make a UM/UIM claim. In most other situations, including dealing with property damage (car damage) and your personal injury protection insurance (PIP), your insurance company will help you out.
That isn’t to say that the relationship can’t change. Insurance companies are more likely to let you use the full PIP policy for lost wages and medical expenses when it is a low policy of $2,500. If you have a full $10,000 policy, they will take an extra hard look at your injuries and how the accident happened. The insurance companies can deny PIP claims for many reasons. Two common excuses are that they believe the accident or insurance claim is fraudulent, or they believe the medical treatment is not really necessary. In those cases, you might have to file a lawsuit against your insurance company.
When making a PIP claim, you have to submit an application within one year of the accident. It will cover medical expenses and lost wages incurred in the first three years after the accident. Along with most PIP applications, the insurance companies will send two forms. The first is a medical authorization, and the second is an employer authorization.
Medical Authorization: sometimes called a HIPAA form, the medical authorization is where you give the insurance company permission to talk to your doctors and root through your medical records and bills. Sometimes these forms have limits—for example, the form might specifically exclude information related to HIV or mental health information. In most cases, however, it allows them to seek that information from any doctor you have ever seen (not just since the accident).
Employer Authorization: the employer authorization allows an insurance company to contact your employer to discuss your injuries, how much time you took off of work, and whatever else they think is important.
Whether you sign these documents depends on a number of factors. If you are going to hire a lawyer, you should not sign them. Your lawyer will obtain all of the medical records and bills directly from your doctors, and this will prevent the insurance company from going overboard and invading your privacy. Furthermore, it’s easy enough to get a lost wage form from your employer, which is adequate most of the time.
If you are handling your case yourself, the issue is often one of convenience. It is simpler to just sign the authorizations allowing the insurance company to locate documents than it is to locate the documents yourself. However, you run the risk that they will see something that they can use to deny your claim—evidence of a pre-existing injury, or something transcribed inaccurately on a hospital report. In our view, it is better to collect those documents yourself, and to give the insurance companies only what you want them to see.
Dealing With The Negligent Driver’s Insurance Company
Oftentimes, the first thing the negligent driver’s insurance company wants is a recorded statement. If you plan to hire a lawyer, you should never, ever give a recorded statement by yourself. If it is necessary (it usually isn’t), your lawyer will prepare you for and will be on the call with you to prevent abuse from the insurance adjuster.
Insurance companies usually want recorded statements when they think they have good cause (or a good excuse) to deny an accident claim. The recorded statement is obtained in the hopes of giving them extra reason to deny the claim, and extra evidence (the statement can be used as evidence in court). It is rare for a recorded statement to cause the insurance company to accept liability. Chances are, if the insurance company is demanding a recorded statement, you will need a lawyer to help your chances at settlement or to file a lawsuit.
The negligent driver’s insurance company will also want medical authorizations and employer authorizations. Those should be treated like the authorizations requested from your insurance company, but you should be even less likely to give that information up.
Hiring an Attorney
Again, we can’t stress how important it is to ensure you speak with an attorney prior to speaking with any insurance company. Your lawyer can let you know when it’s okay to talk to them (it’s a short list), and what to say. This protects you from giving them any ammunition to deny your claim. If you’ve been involved in an accident, contact us today. We’re here to help.