SECRET #1: Do not talk to anyone… except your doctor or attorney. Do not speak with the other insurance company and its adjusters or lawyers. They will often try to record you and misrepresent you. You should also be careful when speaking with even your own insurance company or to any lawyers hired by your insurance company, without notifying your attorneys so they may be present if necessary.
SECRET #2: Seek medical treatment promptly. Tell your doctors about all of your symptoms. You should try to keep all medical appointments, and you should always tell your doctors about all of your areas of pain. You should never exaggerate your symptoms, but you should also not minimize your ailments when talking with your doctors. This is important to your treatment. If you see any other doctors, make sure that you tell both your current doctors and your attorney immediately.
SECRET #3: Always tell the truth to everyone involved. If you lie or misrepresent something, the other party’s insurance company will probably find out. They know when and how dishonest accident victims try to get more money than they deserve. Tell the truth and explain exactly what happened to everyone involved – your lawyer, the insurance adjuster, and your doctor.
SECRET #4: File a police report. The police report will contain the contact information of the other parties involved. Also, it provides the documentation you may need if your case goes to court. On the other hand, if you don’t file a police report, it may appear that you’re exaggerating your claim because the insurance company assumes that if your claim were legitimate, you would have notified the police.
SECRET#5: Tell your insurance company about the accident as quickly as possible. This helps your insurance company get the information and reports that it needs to pay your claim without delay.
SECRET #6: Conduct a complete investigation. It is extremely important that you or your attorney collect all witness statements, police reports, medical reports, and anything else related to your accident. Your case may require hiring private investigators or accident, reconstruction experts. The other party insurance company will collect all sorts of information that may be used against you. You could be at a serious disadvantage if you do not conduct a thorough investigation soon after the accident.
SECRET #7: Get photographs of all important elements in your case. For example, if you are in a car accident, you should obtain photographs of your car and the car that hit you, the accident scene, and your injuries. If you fall, you should take photographs of the defective condition that caused you to fall. Photos are vivid evidence of what you experienced. Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and juries find photos to be powerful proof of your injuries. If you have taken pictures, tell your attorney and provide him with the photographs or negatives. If an investigator is necessary, I have several who work with me to conduct all aspects of the investigation.
SECRET #8: Don’t have your car repaired until you have taken photos of your vehicle’s damage. You don’t want to rely on photographs taken by the other party’s investigator. These people are trained to minimize the damage that appears in the photos. Take your own photos or tell me and I will obtain photos that properly show your damages. Also, if the other driver was clearly at fault and you have collision coverage on your own policy, you have two alternatives: Either your attorney may insist that the other driver’s insurance company pay for the auto repair — or you may submit the claim to your insurance company and then your attorney can attempt to recover your deductible for you from the at-fault party insurer. Always consult with your attorney to determine which choice he recommends.
SECRET #9: Don’t sign a release for your medical records to the other party’s insurance company. Many accident victims make the mistake of signing a release for the other party ’s insurance company. This gives the other party’s insurance company access to your medical records. The same is true for your own insurance company. However, in certain types of claims, your own insurance company may be entitled to your medical information. Don’t release your medical records to any insurance company or sign an authorization allowing an insurance company to get the records directly until you speak with your attorney.
SECRET #10: Keep the adjuster informed about the seriousness of your injuries. Now we get into an area where you must be very careful. You want to keep the adjuster informed. Yet, at the same time, you must be careful what you disclose to the adjuster. (See Secret #9.) There’s a fine line between what you should and should not tell the adjuster. And, certainly, the circumstances of your injury will play a part in what you should reveal. It’s not possible to address this subject in one or two paragraphs. When we meet, I’ll be happy to discuss this with you and answer any questions.
SECRET #11: Don’t let the insurance adjuster pressure you into settling your case. Adjusters use many methods to get you to settle for a smaller amount than the fair value of your case. The insurance adjuster may try to get you to admit that the accident was your fault, or at least partly your fault. The adjuster may try to get you to give a recorded statement or sign a statement, either of which may be used against you later at trial. Adjusters are trained to gather information that may be damaging to your case, and to settle cases for the lowest amount possible. What’s more, don’t be surprised if the adjuster is polite. His or her kindness may be a tactic to get you to settle for less than your case is worth and to get you to settle before you hire an attorney. The longer your file remains open, the more the adjuster will pressure you to settle. Your lawyer can help you evaluate whether the insurance company’s offers are reasonable or unreasonable. Also, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf if the insurance company refuses to make a fair offer to settle.
SECRET #12: Know all of your damages. They include (1) the cost of medical treatment, (2) pain and suffering for your injuries, (3) loss of income for time off work, (4) loss of business,(5) cost of a rental car, (6) cost of fixing your car, (7) cost for psychological counseling caused by stress or some other aspect of the accident. Keep an accurate record of all expenses and hours or days lost from work due to your injuries. Your attorney will get written documentation from your employer to verify the lost earnings.
SECRET #13: Keep all bills and receipts related to your accident. If you don’t save your bills and receipts, you will not be able to prove the amount of your damages. Be sure to save everything: doctor bills, hospital bills, pharmacy bills, and all other bills you incurred because of your accident. Immediately give all bills to your lawyer so he may deal directly with the medical providers on your behalf. Make sure you get a receipt for every bill you pay. And if you are worried you might not be able to fix your car because of the accident then consider selling it to a Junk vehicle buyer for cash so you can pay off any extra bills that may come your way. My office will be happy to help you process payments in car accident cases.
SECRET #14: Know all your injuries. Many victims think that if they don’t hurt, they aren’t injured. Yet injuries caused by accidents may not develop into symptoms for days or weeks. Don’t be too quick to rule out injuries just because they haven’t yet appeared. This is why, at least early in your claim, you should not discuss your injuries or possible lack of symptoms with insurance company adjusters. (See secrets #9 and #11.)
SECRET#15: If you want to know exactly what your insurance policy covers, then read your policy. Many accident victims rely on the other party’s insurance adjuster to explain what their policy covers. But insurance adjusters don’t always tell the truth. Make sure you read your insurance policy, including the exclusions, endorsements and riders. If you don’t understand what your policy says, then ask your lawyer to explain it to you. Don’t believe what the other party’s insurance adjuster tells you.
SECRET #16: Know your sources for insurance coverage. In many cases an injured victim can legally collect from two or three different insurance policies at the same time, yet many accident victims don’t know where to look for various insurance coverages. Your attorney will help you determine whether you can collect from more than one policy.
SECRET#17: Continue under your doctor’s care until your doctor releases you. Many people stop going to their doctor when they feel better, but before the doctor releases them from treatment. Make sure you continue going to the doctor until your doctor releases you! Your doctor knows the complications that could result from your injury. The type of injury may be complex, and the mere fact that you are no longer in pain does not mean that your injuries have fully healed. If you can’t afford the continuing cost of treatment, you’re invited to call me to discuss your options.
SECRET#18: Consider and be prepared to file a lawsuit if the settlement offer is not fair. After your doctor releases you from treatment, your case must be prepared quickly and, if necessary, a lawsuit filed for you. Insurance companies are not in a hurry to settle cases unless (1) they can settle the lawsuit for far less than it’s worth, or (2) they feel the pressure of the approaching court date. Insurance companies usually get serious about settling your claim if they see that they will have to start paying lawyers to defend your lawsuit. I will be more than happy to discuss the benefits and risks of filing a lawsuit and will make sure you understand all of the aspects before deciding to take this important step.
SECRET#19: If you decide to hire a lawyer, choose one who isn’t afraid to go to court. Insurance companies keep tabs on lawyers. They know which lawyers will take them to court — the fighters. And they know which lawyers will not go to court — the settlers. The fighters usually get more money for their clients than the settlers. Make sure you discuss your case with a skilled personal injury attorney.
SECRET#20: Ask a qualified, experienced personal injury trial lawyer to evaluate your case. You probably had a doctor evaluate your injuries. Doesn’t it also make sense to have a lawyer evaluate your legal claim? The insurance company wants you to settle quickly in hopes that you’ll settle for far less than your case is worth. An experienced personal injury trial attorney can help you by reviewing your file. He will carefully review the police report, doctors’ statements, medical bills, time lost from work and other information. Then he can give you an informed opinion about the estimated value of your case. If you’d like me to evaluate your case, please don’t hesitate to call.