When someone is injured in a car accident, they will most often be dealing with an insurance company in order to recover compensation. But what many people fail to realize is that insurance companies are not on their side, and they do not have their best interests at heart.
Your goal is to be fairly compensated for your injuries, and their goal is to pay out as little as possible for your claim. Since you and the insurance company have conflicting interests, you should view them as an adversary, and always treat everything they do with healthy skepticism.
Insurers are known for using various tactics and tricks to diminish the value of an accident victim's claim or even deny the claim altogether. They hope to capitalize on the claimant's inexperience with the process in order to weaken their claim, so they can protect and enhance their own bottom line.
Here are five common tactics used by insurance companies in auto accident cases:
Making Misleading Promises
Insurance claims adjusters are known for contacting car accident victims very soon after a claim is filed under the pretense of finding out “how you are doing” and empathizing with your situation. It is important to understand that, while they may act like your best friend, this is a common tactic that is designed to build rapport and earn your trust. The adjuster may also tell you things like, “don't worry, you will be taking care of”. They may even try to persuade you that you don't need a lawyer because they are already “looking out for you.”
It is fine to have a polite and courteous relationship with the adjuster, but always remember that they work for the insurance company, and that their best interests are not aligned with yours. As such, NEVER admit any fault for the accident, apologize, or give them any information that may weaken your case.
Asking for a Recorded Statement
After the insurance company has earned your trust, they might ask you for a recorded statement about the accident. This will be presented as a formality that is needed to process the claim. In reality, the purpose of this statement is to get you on record admitting that you may have been partially at fault for the accident and/or to get you to make definitive statements about your injuries before knowing their full extent. Questions will often be worded in a way that is designed to get you to admit that things that could undermine your claim.
This could be devastating if the accident took place in a state like Alabama, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to be even 1% at fault for the accident. No matter what they tell you, NEVER agree to give a recorded statement without first speaking with an attorney.
Asking for a Medical Release
Another common request that is unnecessary and could be damaging to your claim is asking for a medical release. They might tell you that they need you to authorize a release in order to get your medical bills paid. But the release they will ask you to sign will almost always be the broadest authorization possible, allowing them to delve into your entire medical history and obtain information that is irrelevant to your claim. They want this information so they can look for any reason to say that your injury (or at least the severity of your injury) resulted from a preexisting medical condition. Again, do not sign a medical release without first consulting with an experienced attorney.
Spying on You
In this day and age, you need to be very careful how you go about your business after an injury claim has been filed. Insurance companies have been known to hire private investigators to follow claimants around and look for evidence that they are exaggerating their injuries. Be sure to follow all of your doctor's orders and refrain from any physical activities you are told not to participate in. Along these same lines, be very careful about social media posts. Ideally, shut down your social media accounts entirely until your claim is settled. If you cannot quit social media cold turkey, at the very least avoid posting any photos or status updates, even those that are not related to your injuries. For example, if you post a photo smiling, laughing, and looking happy on a family vacation, that could be used against you, even if you are not shown doing any strenuous physical activity. Bottom line: assume you are always being watched and act accordingly.
Presenting a Quick Settlement Offer
Insurance companies know that, after an accident, finances are usually very tight for victims and their families. They will often try to take advantage of your state by making a quick settlement offer. This offer may seem appealing, and you may be tempted to take the quick money. The problem is that, in almost all cases, the offer is for far less than your claim is really worth. Before accepting any type of offer from the insurance company, you should at least talk with a lawyer about your claim. A skilled personal injury lawyer can thoroughly review the facts and circumstances of your case and let you whether or not the insurance company's offer is fair. That way, you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.
Contact the Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers – Birmingham, for Strong Legal Guidance
If you or someone close to you was injured in an auto accident that was the fault of another person or party, there are numerous pitfalls and traps insurance companies will set that could cause you to lose out on the compensation you deserve. With so much at stake, it makes sense to have someone in your corner who knows how to successfully overcome these tactics and get you the settlement you deserve.
At the Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers – Birmingham, we are experienced advocates fighting hard on behalf of those who have been injured through no fault of their own. We work closely with our clients, providing the strong legal guidance needed to help ensure that they are able to recover maximum compensation for their injuries.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 205-666-6000. You may also message us online or visit our office in person at your convenience.