After an injury in an accident, your thoughts may race as you deal with what has happened. One of the first things you worry about, after getting the medical attention you need, is how quickly you can recover and pay for it all.
Many drivers assume that their first step should be to contact the insurance company to get a claim started. After all, don’t insurance companies exist for this very reason? To pay claims where there is an accident? Sometimes that’s true, and if there’s just minimal damage done to your vehicle or property, there’s a chance that contacting an insurance company could all work out just fine.
But are you sure you want to gamble by putting your own life and livelihood, now and in the future, at risk by taking that chance?
Reality Check: Insurance Companies Have a Job to Do
Everyone has seen the ads on TV: Insurance company agents that seem incredibly friendly, caring, with reassuring voices and warm smiles, are eager to help take care of all of the injured party’s needs. They present themselves as close, caring friends and neighbors, maybe even as extended family.
While insurance company employees may indeed be very kind individuals, keep in mind that it is part of their job to process and settle claims quickly and for as little as possible. Their primary responsibilities are:
- To save their company as much money as they can,
- To convince people to agree to quick settlements so they can pay their bills, and
- To find out any information that will reduce a claim or avoid paying anything at all.
When it comes to deciding just how to negotiate with insurance companies, the best option is often to bring in an expert—in other words, to hire an attorney.
The insurance companies will probably tell you that you don’t need to do this. However, hiring an attorney to handle conversations and paperwork will help in reaching a fair settlement. It will also give you greater peace of mind, allowing you to focus fully on recovery and healing.
An experienced attorney can also more easily recognize when an insurance company is using any of these common tactics. Hipskind & McAninch, LLC can negotiate for their clients’ best interests because they know the insurance companies’ strategies well. They routinely work directly for insurance companies and have become experts in how the companies put these tactics into practice.
Watch Out for Commonly Used Insurance Company Tactics
Dealing with injuries, loss, and possible life-altering changes after an accident can leave people feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. Going it alone in negotiating with the insurance companies, people can end up agreeing to something just to get it over with and put the incident behind them. Unfortunately, a quick settlement might not be enough to take care of all of their losses.
But a quick conclusion is what most insurance companies are hoping for. Insurance representatives, advisors, agents, and claims adjusters at less scrupulous companies might use these common tactics to get you to this “point of surrender:”
- Contact you right away. If you are still suffering from the pain and shock of your accident, you might be easily confused with what the insurance company employee is saying. This could lead to agreeing to things without fully understanding them.
- Offer sympathy and concern to try and gain your trust. While they may be truly sympathetic, there is also a chance they are being overly concerned or friendly to get you to talk more freely. You could end up sharing information that is later used against you.
- Promise you a quick payment. Understandably, you may need to take care of mounting bills or damaged property as soon as possible, making the idea of a quick payout sound good. However, agreeing to a lower settlement amount now may cancel out any chance to cover issues that show up in the days, weeks, and months that follow. Signing anything now will end the claim, leaving you without any way to address future issues that may come up.
- Try to convince you that you don’t need your own attorney. This insurance company tactic is often used along with others, such as gaining your trust and promising a quick turnaround time. Insurance representatives may also try to convince you by telling you that an attorney will take a big chunk of your settlement in the end. While attorneys will need to get paid, their expertise is worth it… Especially since they are often able to negotiate for more than an ordinary citizen can.
- Ask for unreasonable proof of your injuries and damages. To process your claim you must provide proof of your injuries and damages. But an insurance company might ask for additional types of proof that you are not able to provide. This leads some people to drop their claims out of frustration.
- Claim that you are also to blame. Another reason to hire an attorney to help you prove you were not at fault. A crash might be entirely one person’s fault, or everyone involved might share in the blame. In some states, the percentage of liability—and any money awarded—assigned to each person may not matter, but in others, it matters quite a bit.
In Missouri, each party involved in the accident will pay a portion of the settlement claim. The amount paid by each party involved is based on what is decided to be their level of blame. This is because Missouri is a pure comparative negligence state.
However, Illinois is a modified comparative negligence state. If the same accident leading to this claim happened in Illinois, it only matters who was most at fault. That person will be responsible for paying 100 percent of the claim because they were determined to be more responsible for the accident than anyone else.
There is also the timeline for filing your claim to keep in mind called the statute of limitations. In Illinois, you have two years to file your claim. In Missouri, you have five years.
Negotiating a Fair Settlement
An attorney will help gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and complete all the required paperwork in a timely and legally sound way. They are also at their client’s side, helping them to keep from falling victim to the insurance company tactics used to try and rush them into potentially life-changing decisions quickly and cheaply.
With any personal injury claim, a victim is looking for a settlement that returns their life to what it was before, both physically and financially. This legal term is known as “make whole.”
All past and present expenses, as well as an amount for projected future expenses, should be included in a personal injury claim. These include:
- Special compensatory damages, which are all the direct expenses from the accident. They include the cost to repair or replace a vehicle and any other damaged property, emergency and ongoing medical care, rehabilitation and physical therapy costs, follow-up care with medical and mental health professionals, lost wages and future earnings, and even reimbursement for trips, events, or vacations canceled because of the injury.
- General compensatory damages, which are harder to calculate. These may include calculated amounts to cover pain, suffering, and mental anguish.
- Punitive damages, which serve as a punishment. These are included in your claim if it is suspected that the party at fault acted with malicious intent, purposely causing your injury. This can be difficult to prove.
- Other amounts, such as an insurance deductible already paid as well as any legal fees.
An attorney can put together a settlement demand that includes a fair amount to cover the damages from an accident. The insurance company will almost always make a “take it or leave it” counteroffer at a much lower amount than you are asking. The attorney can figure out what the absolute lowest amount is that you would accept, known as a “drop-dead” amount, and get to a more agreeable settlement at the end.
Protect Your Life and Livelihood
A serious injury, with or without property damage, can result in mounting bills, lost wages, mental trauma and stress, and even permanent life-changing consequences. If the injuries and losses you have suffered were caused by another person’s carelessness or reckless behavior, you are entitled to fair and complete compensation.
Insurance companies are large corporations with deep pockets. They can afford armies of lawyers to fight for them, trying to deny or reduce the amount of money they pay out for claims. An ordinary person is no match for their expertise.
When you file your personal injury claim, you stand a better chance of being treated fairly and humanely with an experienced personal injury attorney by your side. You will have a better chance for fair compensation for your losses, with a law firm like Hipskind & McAninch, LLC fighting for you and your interests.