What Steps Should I Take If I Am Injured In An Auto Accident?
If you are hurt in an automobile accident case, do not speak to the insurance company on the other side. You have to report it to your own insurance company, but do not speak to the defense. This is because you might say something that will hurt your case or create confusion. Insurance companies are in the business of rushing cases and paying as little as they can.
After many years of practice, I have never seen a generous insurance company; their job is to delay the process and to pay as little as possible. You need time for your injuries to develop and to see what the X-rays, CAT scans or MRIs show. All of this can be very complicated. Some injuries do not arise until six months after the accident, so you need to slow down. Let your lawyer answer the questions and deal with the insurance company adjuster.
Some lawyers will file a lawsuit as soon as the case comes to them, but I don’t think that’s the best way to do it. In these cases, the plaintiff has the advantage because they have the two-year statute of limitations within which to develop the case. When the insurance company lawyers get hit with a complaint, they have less time to develop their defenses. So, I would say it is best to wait a while, and don’t speak to the insurance company. You should get some kind of idea of what you are dealing with, and then you can start some sort of dialogue with the insurance company. If you get nowhere with them, then you can always file a claim (as long as you don’t file one at the last minute).
Should I Notify My Insurance Company Of The Accident? Am I Responsible For Notifying The Other Party’s Insurance Company As Well?
In the contract with your insurance company, there is a provision that says you have to notify them. However, I sometimes tell clients not to notify them until they meet with me. This is because sometimes clients have to go against their own insurance company under the underinsured provision because the other person didn’t have enough insurance. In addition, sometimes people present their cases too lightly to their own insurance company. So, it’s better if you meet quickly with a lawyer and go over a few things. Once you notify your insurance company, they will investigate and try to build a case against the other company.
You definitely do not have a duty to report the accident to the other person’s insurance company. If they call you, you can do one of two things. You can say that you are represented and ethically they have to stop asking you questions. Alternatively, you can let them talk for a while and get information, such as the claim number, your file number and the name of the adjuster, etc. You have nothing to gain by discussing anything with them. When dealing with the defense’s insurance company, a lawyer will be better able than you to present the necessary questions and answers.
The insurance company’s job is to gather facts. They may be very sympathetic and kind, but most adjusters are buried with cases, and all they want to do is gather the facts and close the file so they can breathe. I have seen one or two cases where people were almost in oxygen tents in hospitals, and the insurance adjuster was asking them questions anyway. So, their job is to build a case against you for the benefit of the company.
What Are Some Defenses Insurance Companies Tend To Use To Avoid Paying Out On Injury Claims?
There are defenses that are frivolous or foolish, and there are others that are simply not valid due to the nature of the accident. In addition, not every accident makes for a case. If our client ran a red light which led to the accident, then we will have problems. For slip and fall events that occur in daylight, a common defense is that the person should have seen what caused them to slip.
Pre-existing injuries or aggravation of pre-existing injuries is another big defense. In other words, if you had a bad back, you may be more vulnerable to new injuries. As a result, a new injury may be magnified more readily. The defense insurance company doesn’t want to pay for old injuries, so there is usually a battle when a person’s pre-existing condition is worsened by an injury. It’s very hard to separate a pre-existing condition from a new injury, so it often becomes a matter of doctors having different opinions.
If you’ve missed the statute of limitations, then that is also a very good defense. If you contributed to the accident, that can be used as a defense. They may even say that the driver’s brakes were not working, so we should be suing the repair shop instead. If you go into a house and a dog that has never bitten anyone before decides to bite you, then that bite goes against the dog owner’s homeowner policy. If you provoke the dog by going into the house and hitting it with a newspaper or doing something else which any reasonable person would not do, then they will always try to blame you for causing the accident.
Oftentimes, they have not done their full research or taken depositions. As a result, they will use general defenses that may become more specific. There will be a lot of walls built to keep you from recovering. Many of them will crumble because they are nonsense, and one or two may stay and reduce your recovery.
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