Hiring the best personal injury attorney should be your first step for the severely injured after a car or truck accident. Houston personal injury victims must make a series of choices after an accident, and many of those involve dealing with the insurance company. Coping with an adjuster or an insurance company that is trying to pay as little as it possibly can be incredibly frustrating. However, if you are going to represent yourself- here are a few secrets:
It is Not Personal – Just Business for the Adjuster
Typically, an adverse adjuster will contact the car or truck crash victim after a serious injury accident. It is important to remember that the adjuster is not on your side and does not have your interest at heart when attempting to settle a claim. Your claim is probably one of several hundred the adjuster has on the plate. Don’t make the mistake of believing they care about your situation. If the adjuster is going out of his or her way to be helpful to you- that is a signal they may be worried about the amount of your claim.
Be careful if they tell you they are “accepting responsibility” or “accepting liability” as many people misconstrue the admission to mean we will be fair with your claim when talking compensation. This technique is under to discourage you from hiring a very good lawyer.
The Bigger the Claim- the Harder They Try
Insurance companies have built huge office buildings by paying out as little as it possibly can on claims and in delaying paying as long as possible. Often consumers are frustrated that the insurance carrier will not call them back or respond to their claims made against the driver of the other vehicle. The ability to get in touch with the adjuster is usually in direct proportion to the amount they may feel they may have to payout. If the guilty party had a significant insurance policy – such as a commercial vehicle, and your injuries are severe, they probably will be responsive. If you were injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, find the best truck accident attorney right away and before you speak with an adjuster.
On Large Cases- They Want You to Represent Yourself
The more serious the claim, the more likely it is you will get a call back from the adjuster. One technique used for severe injury and wrongful death cases where the insurance company has substantial exposure is for the adjuster to be extremely personable and friendly. That is because if the insurance company can convince the victim not to hire an attorney the odds of them saving money on the case -skyrocket.
They may tell you “we accept liability” or words to that effect- partly in the hopes you will feel confident in handling the claim yourself. Study after study confirms those represented by the best attorneys put more money in their pockets than those without an attorney.
However, in less severe cases, frequently the innocent victim has a hard time getting a response from the insurance company. Keep in mind that the longer the claim process drags out, the longer the insurance company can keep their money. Further, initial work must be done on your case to develop the claim- if this work does not get done the value of the matter drops. Delay is always in the best interest of the defendants. Sometimes, the insurance companies drag the process out so long that victims find themselves in the statute of limitations quandary. Do not wait until the last minute to hire an attorney.
Adjusters Know Claims Handling Techniques
It is no secret that adjusters are sent to class and trained in how to handle car accident claims to pay as little as possible to the victim. Accident victims should have the opposite results in mind and be seeking to obtain the maximum compensation available for their injuries. The truth of the matter is that with many injury claims, the insurance company does not treat an unrepresented person the same as those with a capable accident attorney.
A few techniques used by adjusters include:
- Demanding a recorded statement
- Saying things to reduce your expectations
- Always rejecting your first offer- even if reasonable
- Trying to shift the blame to you or others
- Low-balling you!
Preparation is a Key
If you’re committed to handling the claim yourself, you should be prepared to discuss and negotiate with the adjuster. Preparation is critical, and it is critically important that you have all the relevant facts at hand. Preparation would include copies of all of your medical records, a summary of your lost wages, and of course information regarding the defendant and his insurance company. You should also be aware of coverage under your auto policy that may apply in addition to those paid by the defendant’s policy. This would include PIP coverage and Uninsured Motorist coverage.
Collecting evidence about the collision can also be helpful. Where there any witnesses that support your side. Did the other driver make admissions at the scene or accept fault? Photographs of the damage to your vehicle can also be helpful when it shows a severe impact. Photos can also be useful in allowing a jury to understand how the crash occurred.
Should I Give a Recorded Statement After an Accident?
The answer to this question depends upon who is asking for the statement. We suggest that if the police officer investigating your accident is seeking a statement from you and the accident was someone else’s fault and not your own, that you consider giving the statement to the officer.
If you have any reason to be concerned about giving such a statement to an officer, you should speak with an attorney first. But if you have no concerns, giving a statement to the officer is something that occurs regularly after an accident.
If you have made a claim or will make a claim under your own auto policy, you may have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company. That duty may include the obligation to give a recorded statement. If you or others have no intention of claiming under your own policy, there would be no reason to give a statement to your insurance company.
If the insurance company for the driver that struck you is calling seeking a statement from you should be very wary about giving such a statement. Not much you can say will actually help you in this situation and a whole lot of what you may say can actually hurt you.
Very rarely is the statement by an adverse insurance company beneficial or even helpful for the accident injury victim.
Areas of concern for personal injury victims and giving a statement to an adverse insurance company:
1) how the accident happened – the adjuster will be looking for information to use against you should your case go to trial or to discount what they will offer you while trying to shift some responsibility onto you.
Leading questions and other techniques can be used for the unsuspecting person to create defenses for the insurance company. Such things as did you brake suddenly. Or did the car stop suddenly in front of you? Or similar questions designed to question your conduct in the accident.
Another question that is frequently posed to the unsuspecting person is questions that presuppose a fact. Such as, “when did you first see the vehicle?”
This question assumes that you saw the vehicle at all. In short, insurance companies rarely make statements just to learn facts that they can operate on instead take statements to learn areas that they can defend the claim and maybe reduce what they have to pay or deny the claim.
If you have hired an attorney, you should refer the insurance company to the attorney to give the insurance company information that they may require to fairly evaluate a case.
Don’t Forget Medical Payback
It is helpful to have goals set for your settlement and an idea of which medical bills outstanding or health insurance companies that are reimbursed out of the settlement. Many hospitals file liens in Texas against insurance claims when they treat an accident victim after a car wreck or 18-wheeler accident. Likewise, health insurance companies uniformly have subrogation clauses in their policies that allow them to seek reimbursement for proceeds collected in an automobile settlement. Your goal for your injury case should not be the maximum gross amount paid by the other driver’s insurance company but the amount that you get to keep after paying everything off.
Negotiate with the Medical Providers
Hospitals and doctors and health insurance companies routinely reduce the billed amounts or the amount they will accept in satisfaction of their lien or payback. Start talking with those who have an interest in your case as soon as possible. Forgetting the medical liens or subrogation when discussing settlement is one of the biggest mistakes made in handling your own personal injury case.
Make the Adjuster Give You Specific Numbers for Pain and Suffering
With severe injuries, the personal or human or damages are the highest portion of the claim. Pain-and-suffering and disability should be a big part of a settlement when the injuries are severe. A general rule of thumb is that the more serious your damages, the more likely it is you will need an experienced and capable personal injury attorney to help. When you are discussing the settlement numbers with the adjuster, consider asking them to apportion the damages for such things as pain-and-suffering, disability, medical expenses, lost wages and the like. Always make the adjuster apportion damages when making you an offer. Doing so will highlight how low the offer really is.
Be Wary of the Reduction or Disallowed Medical Expense Trick
If the insurance adjuster starts discounting your medical expenses and you don’t like the numbers your hearing for pain-and-suffering or disability, that should be the first clue that you may need to hire an attorney.
Texas passed “tort reform,” and the current law only allows medical amounts that are actually “paid or incurred.” In other words, if the hospital wrote off part of the bill due to contacts with your health insurance or otherwise, it is the net number that counts for claims in Texas.
Personal Injury Lawyers Will Talk with You
There are a substantial number of personal injury attorneys in the greater Houston area who offer free consultations for injury victims. Anyone injured in an accident should consider taking advantage of such an offer to understand the claims process and issues that they may face.
While there are limits to how much consulting you can reasonably expect, a conversation with a capable attorney certainly can’t hurt.
If you are going to hire a personal injury attorney, the sooner, the better. Waiting until a lawsuit must be filed to protect the claim will make it much harder to retain a quality lawyer.
Do Your Homework in Choosing an Attorney
If you have come to the conclusion you need help, do your homework before hiring an attorney to work your case.
- Read actual client reviews and peer-reviewed ratings
- Avoid “mill” firms (high volume law firms)
- Don’t hire a firm- hire THE lawyer (don’t let an inexperienced associate learn on your case)
- Make sure the lawyer you choose is the one who will do the work
- Look for specialty or niche practices as your first choice.
If you have a Houston injury claim- Call us for a free consultation!