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 and coping with an adjuster or an insurance company that is trying to pay as little as possible, which 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
An adverse adjuster will typically 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 intended to discourage you from hiring a very good lawyer.
Here are some common tactics adjusters use.
The Bigger the Claim- the Harder They Try
Insurance companies have built huge office buildings by paying out as little as they possibly can on claims and 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 pay. If the guilty party had a significant insurance policy, such as a commercial vehicle, and your severe injuries, they would probably be responsive.
If you were injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, find the best truck accident attorney right away before you speak with an adjuster.
On Large Cases- They Want You to Represent Yourself
The more serious the claim, the more likely 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 handling the claim. 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, the innocent victim frequently has difficulty 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 its 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 seek to obtain the maximum compensation for their injuries.
The truth 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 you must 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. Are 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, 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 help you in this situation, and a whole lot of what you may say can hurt you.
Very rarely is the statement to an adverse insurance company beneficial or even helpful for the accident injury victim.
Areas of concern for personal injury victims about recording your statement by an adverse insurance company:
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 ask questions to learn facts that they can operate on; instead, they take statements to learn areas in which 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 evaluate a case fairly.
Don’t Forget Medical Payback
It is helpful to set goals for your settlement and know which medical bills are outstanding or which health insurance companies 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, doctors, and health insurance companies routinely reduce the billed amounts or the amount they will accept to satisfy their lien or payback. Start talking with those interested in your case as soon as possible.
Make the Adjuster Give You Specific Numbers for Pain and Suffering
With severe injuries, personal injury or human damages are the highest portions of the claim. Pain and suffering, and disability should be a big part of a settlement when the injuries are severe.
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 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 you hear for pain, 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 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, the net number counts for claims in Texas.
Personal Injury Lawyers Will Talk with You
A substantial number of personal injury attorneys in Houston 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 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.
Most Houston personal injury lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee basis, taking the burden of paying a lawyer off your back.
Do Your Homework in Choosing an Injury Attorney
If you have concluded 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 or TV lawyers (high-volume law firms)
- Don’t hire a firm- hire THE lawyer (don’t let an inexperienced associate learn about 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.
Looking for Help With a Houston Personal Injury Case?
Call the top-rated Houston personal injury lawyers at Baumgartner Law Firm.
If you have a Houston injury claim- Call us for a free consultation!
6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy, Houston, TX, 77069