Insurance companies, in the last few years, have been more difficult than ever before when it comes to settling bodily injury (B.I.) or property damage (P.D.) claims. Many insurance companies will not make an offer to settle a claim if the damage to the car is less than $2,500. They argue that if the car was not damaged, how could you be hurt? That is one reason why it is important you not go to a friend who owes you a favor and will repair your car for less money. The insurance company will also tell you another lie which is “you do not need to hire an attorney and that they will be fair”. You have to believe in the tooth fairy to buy that line.
Insurance companies figure if they can stall you on settling the property damage and repairing your car, you won’t have the transportation to see an attorney or a doctor. Thus, your legal rights will not be protected. More importantly you will not be able to prove the pain and suffering you have experienced, since you have not been able to see a doctor and report your pains to him/her.
If you don’t see a doctor within a few days, the value of any future treatment is lowered substantially and the case may not be financially worthwhile for an attorney. In other words, the insurance company could argue that if you were really injured you would have taken a bus, got a ride from a friend or walked to get medical attention at a county medical facility. A doctor does not diagnose an injury based on the damage to your car and you should not either. Let a doctor give you a full exam. It is a good idea to see a doctor you have never seen before so there are no skeletons in your closet and so that you treat with a doctor that knows how to write a medical/legal reports.
When you delay treatment, the insurance company can argue the treatment you did finally receive may not have been from this accident. For instance, how does the adjuster, judge or jury know if the problems for which you were treating, were from the accident. Maybe you slipped and fell while running around the pool or falling in your shower. The insurance company considers that you may have said to yourself, I was in an accident a week ago, so, why don’t I say this injury was from the accident. The insurance company thinks that everyone is lying and trying to take advantage of them to cash in. If the insurance company has a 10% to 30% chance of convincing a jury of this argument, then the value of your case is diminished by 10% to 30%. The longer you wait to treat, the more your case is damaged by these possible defense arguments.
If you are not represented by an attorney, the adjuster can call and pump you for information. Your attorney protects you from the insurance company adjuster. Once you have a lawyer they can NOT legally contact you. To trick you, the insurance company will often assign a nice sweet adjuster to your case in the beginning. They will tell you not to hire a lawyer and that you can handle it yourself. The adjuster will make small talk with you and keep records of everything that is said. For example they might say “I understand it’s a nice day in Palm Springs. It looks like a perfect day to play tennis or golf in the Desert. Do you play tennis or golf? Have you played recently? What kind of a player are you?”, etc., etc. Because you played tennis or golf does not mean that you didn’t play in tremendous discomfort. However, the insurance company will argue you were OK to play a sport so you could not be that injured.
A property damage adjuster may trick you by asking you to step into the picture of the damage to the car. When they take the picture of the damage to the left rear bumper/quarter panel they may ask you to bend and point to the damage and at the last minute ask you to smile right before they snap the picture. You have told your doctor you cannot bend without pain and the insurance company has a picture of you bending and smiling.
However, later in the case, the file will be turned over to another adjuster or attorney who will say they are only reading the notes in front of them and if you were well enough to play tennis or golf, you really didn’t need to see a doctor. In other words, your statements could decrease the value of your case and your lawyer will have no idea what you said over the phone to the insurance company if you give a statement.
This was Part 3 of a 4 part series to be continued next week.