Every year there are hundreds of thousands of car accidents resulting in an insurance claim. Insurance companies are there to make money by charging premiums, but to make a profit they must save all the money they can by keeping compensation payouts as low as possible. Even when you are claiming against your own insurance company you need to know the law and your rights, because substantial sums of money are at stake.
Here are the five top tips for dealing with an insurance company:
#1 – Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car
This should include pencil and paper together with a digital camera to take photographs of the wreck. Pictures tell a thousand words and a photographic record is invaluable for recording the damage caused, the site of the incident and the prevailing conditions. Incidentally, your emergency kit should also include equipment to manage the scene of the accident safely with warning triangles, emergency flares and flashlights.
#2 – Do Not Admit Liability at the Scene
Immediately after a car wreck and while suffering from shock is not the right time for you to apportion blame. It is natural to feel some sense of responsibility, especially if someone is hurt, however you cannot be in full possession of all the facts. You certainly are in no position to judge the state of the other driver or the car they were driving, and events can happen so quickly that your ability to judge must be called into question.
In terms of your insurance coverage, as they are the ones liable for making payments it is up to them to argue whether you are responsible or not. If you take it upon yourself to admit liability before you involve the insurer, then you can negate your coverage.
#3 – File an Accident Report with Law Enforcement
Even if a police officer is not present at the scene, you should file an accident report with local law enforcement. You must always report an accident where there are injuries caused by the wreck. In addition, your insurance policy may require you to file a report and again, if you do not you may negate your insurance coverage.
#4 – Do Not Make Any Statements to an Insurance Representative Until You Consult an Attorney
This applies especially where you are hospitalized; in such cases it is usual procedure for insurance companies to send out a representative. They will assess the claim and probably try to seek an early settlement agreement, whilst at the same time also be trying to find grounds to deny the claim.
The problem with making statements to an insurance representative is that you need to be aware of your rights. You have a right to proper compensation under the law, for interim compensation to be paid pending your full assessment and treatment for injuries. You have a right to a proper assessment of compensation to take into account your long term needs and the full scope of the suffering and losses you have incurred. You can also deny making any statement to the insurance company until you feel you are in a fit state of mind to do so, and you also have a right to be represented by your attorney.
#5 – Consult and Retain an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
As soon as it is practical you should consult a personal injury attorney. Your first priority should be to ensure you receive medical assessment and treatment, but your next move needs to be to speak to an attorney. The insurance company will usually respond very quickly to assess and reduce the level of claim payout, frequently asking you to settle whilst still in the hospital or dragging out payments knowing you are amassing a pile of very large bills.
Only an attorney can protect your right to full and proper compensation, and take the insurance company to court and fight for you if need be. An attorney will stop you from becoming a victim a second time around; a victim of unscrupulous insurance company tactics to keep payouts to a minimum. If you’ve been involved in an accident, contact one of our attorneys at Ingerman & Horwitz today.