Auto insurance companies make money by cashing premium checks. They try to keep that money by paying as little as possible or even nothing on claims. If injured as a result of another driver’s carelessness and negligence, you can expect the company to use any number of tactics against you in efforts to devalue or even deny your claim. Here are a few of them. Consider yourself forewarned.
The Medical Authorization
Expect to receive a letter from the insurer of the person who caused your accident with an enclosed medical authorization for you to sign and return. The law doesn’t require you to do anything with it. You or your attorney can provide the opposing insurer with copies of all medical records, reports, bills in connection with your injuries, care, and treatment. If you sign off on that authorization and return it, you’re allowing the opposing insurer to access every medical record in your life from the day that you were born. The insurer is looking for a prior injury to the same part of your body. It can then argue that you were already “damaged goods” to devalue your claim.
You can also expect to receive a phone call from the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim “just checking in on you to see if you’re feeling any better now.” Then he or she will ask you to give a recorded statement about how the accident occurred. The law doesn’t require you to provide an account to an opposing insurer, so politely refuse to give one. If you do, the adjuster will be asking you scripted questions, which will be repeated but framed differently, in hopes of getting you to contradict yourself. Your own words will then be used against you sometime in the future to attack your credibility. Never give a written or recorded statement to an insurer. It has a copy of the police accident report already and knows precisely how the accident occurred.
Don’t Get Pressured
An adjuster might go so far as to imply that failing to provide the medical authorization or statement could result in denial of your claim. That’s against the law. If that happens, you’ll want to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney right away.
Unless you were injured in a rear-end collision while stopped at a red light, don’t be surprised if the opposing insurer alleges that you were partially at fault for your accident. Insurance companies often use the law of comparative negligence in cases involving intersections and turning. If you give in to those allegations, the value of your case will be reduced proportionally by the percentage of fault attributable to you. A $10,000 claim will be reduced to $8,000 if you admit to being 20 percent negligent.
Disputing Medical Bills
Insurance companies routinely dispute a victim’s medical bills. It’s all a part of the process of trying to devalue a claim. They might say they don’t believe your injuries are as extensive as you claim, or that everybody else is recovering from the same injury much sooner than you. An adjuster might even try to convince you to stop treating for your injuries by arguing that the insurance company isn’t going to pay a penny more than its last offer. If you do end treatments and restart a couple of months later, the company will argue that the gap in treatment shows your injury wasn’t as severe as you claim, perhaps not to the extent that warranted additional treatment.
Experienced personal injury lawyers are fully aware of these and other strategies that insurance companies use on unrepresented claimants. They don’t want an attorney between you and them who knows how insurers attempt to devalue or even deny personal injury claims. You’ll soon learn that you’re not in good hands or with a good neighbor at all. By then, you’ve probably damaged a perfectly good case, and it’s unlikely that the law will allow you to cure your mistakes.