By Dale Gribow
Accident victims clearly deserves to be fairly compensated for their pain and suffering. Unfortunately an accident does not mean you will receive a fair settlement offer from the insurance company…you won’t. You didn’t win the lottery because you were rear ended and most clients do not understand why their case is not as valuable as their neighbors.
Follow these 12 tricks to get lots of money after your accident. I am not suggesting you cheat or lie but rather that you do what is legally necessary to prove to the insurance company that their driver was liable and you are entitled to damages. These are the two elements of every negligence case.
1. Use your smart cell phone to take pictures of both cars and everyone’s injuries. You can also tape admissions/statements.
2. Call the police even if there were no apparent injuries or the other driver does not have insurance.
3. DON’T give statements without your lawyer’s permission as they are evidence. This is especially true if the defendant has no, or inadequate, insurance. Your insurance company then becomes responsible under YOUR Uninsured and or Under Insured Motorist Coverage. Thus things said to your own carrier could come back to haunt you. Obviously do not sign anything. The paper you sign could be a release…or just an authorization to obtain your medical records. Do not trust the adjuster who says if you have further problems they will take care of them.
4. TAKE DOWN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA! Insurance companies watch Facebook and Twitter posts which may show you playing sports or on vacation. This arguably suggests you were OK and did not need medical treatment. It also shows you were able to lift your luggage and walk or run.
5. Go to the Hospital or Urgent Care…preferably by ambulance. Some victims do not take an ambulance because they have to pick up their kids or because they are concerned about the hospital and ambulance costs. Many victims do not realize the severity of an injury and do not seek immediate treatment. Later they realize the pain they are experiencing is accident related. Without immediate medical treatment in the first 3 days, many lawyers are not interested in the case. This is because the insurance company will argue if the victim was really injured they would have sought immediate medical treatment…without breaks in treatment.
6. When the victim gives the hospital their medical insurance/Medicare/ Medicaid information it often takes 6-12 months to get Medicare of Medicaid to respond to lien payment information. In addition there is a new law that the only medical bills that can be considered by the jury are those not paid by any insurance or Medicare/ Medicaid. If Eisenhower charges $50,000 and they have an arrangement with Medicare etc. to accept $9,000 as payment in full and if the patient is only responsible for $1,000 we can only submit $1,000 for the jury to consider. A few years ago that $50,000 medical bill would result in a $150,000 settlement offer. If $1,000 is all the victim has to pay we will get settlement offers of $2,500 to $3,500. This is clearly not fair.
7. Contact a Lawyer immediately. Until you are represented by an attorney, the insurance company can contact you to get statements. Your lawyer will never know what you said or what the adjuster/investigator thought he heard you say. With a lawyer there is less of a chance for a “mistake” like this.
8. Ask your lawyer for assistance in obtaining medical care on a lien. Most doctors do not know how to prepare a med/legal report which is essential for obtaining the full value on your case. For years I lectured on How to Write a Medical/Legal Report to the International College of Surgeons at their yearly conferences. The doctor’s report is just as important as the injuries you received. A doctor who orders Physical Therapy rather than having you sit in a hot bath is crucial too. An experienced lawyer should urge you to list all injuries from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes and to take that list to each doctor’s appointment. All that information should be shared with each medical provider. Arm you doctor with ALL your medical complaints so your lawyer can maximize your recovery.
9. Go to your lawyer’s body shop. Insurance companies recommend body shops with whom they have a working relationship and who agree to keep the damage estimates low. When settling the case, the adjuster argues since the property damage was low, how could you be injured. The last thing a lawyer wants is for his client to get a friend to cheaply repair the car.
10. Purchase high liability and UM coverage. In the CV many of our neighbors have no insurance or inadequate limits. If that takes place we make an Uninsured or Underinsured motorist claim against your auto policy. If you have a $100,000 policy and the defendant driver does not have coverage a UM claim against your carrier can be made for up to $100,000. Likewise if the defendant has a $15k policy we can collect that from the other carrier and then make a claim against your $100,000 UM coverage.
11. Be sure you have Medical Payments coverage. No matter who is at fault you can present a claim under the Med Pay section of your auto policy for up to that amount of money to pay your medical bills. With $25,000 of med pay coverage you can collect up to $25,000 from your own policy… no matter who is at fault.
12. Follow your lawyers’ instructions and agree to go to trial when necessary. With some cases the attorney has to threaten or go to trial to get the true value of a case from the defense. I have had cases where my client refused to go to trial because of an abortion they did not tell their husband about or medical records mentioning illegal drugs, a venereal disease, a psych referral or an affair.
If you have any questions regarding this column or ideas for future columns please contact Dale Gribow Attorney at Law at 760-837-7500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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