When you’re a victim in a motor vehicle accident, dealing with the party-at-fault’s insurance company can be a difficult, time-consuming process. Especially when you need to focus your energy on healing and recovering.
Cleveland personal injury attorney Joseph T. Joseph, Jr. says that a phone call is among the first things the injured victim should expect within a day or two of the accident.
And it pays – literally – to know your rights and how to handle that call when it comes.
“Usually it’s the adverse insurance company that’s calling to find out what happened, whether anyone injured, and your account of facts of the accident,” Joseph said.
Joseph says people should be cautious and very guarded when talking to these individuals.
You don’t have to answer the adverse insurance company’s questions
“People have to realize that the adverse person’s insurance company is looking out for their own interests, not the injured victim’s interests,” he said. “One of the first thing they will want to do is take a recorded statement.”
Also, Joseph always advises clients not to give a recorded statement.
“They’re not going to allow you or your attorney to take a recorded statements of their person. And their person is who’s at fault for the accident and caused the injury or harm,” he said. “The adverse insurance company is trying to get a recorded statement of the victim because they want to nail down certain things that may help them.”
Not only do insurance companies typically want to take a recorded statement, they also will send you, if you were injured, medical release authorization forms to sign.
“I advise clients not to do that as well,” Joseph said. “They will ask for the injured victim to sign these so they can get complete medical records and files. They’re really not entitled to your complete set of medical records.”
Hiring an experienced attorney to represent you is key
When someone has been injured in a motor vehicle accident or an incident such as a slip-and-fall accident or workplace injury, Joseph believes it’s in their best interest to speak with an attorney.
“As soon as someone’s been injured because of someone else’s negligence and an insurance company gets involved, it becomes an adverse situation.”
Not only do you need to heal and get back into good health, but the law allows an injured victim to make a claim to pursue money for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
“That’s what insurance is there for,” Joseph said. “The law requires us to have insurance so if there’s a momentary lapse of judgment, not only are you protected, but the person who’s been injured can pursue a claim.”
Going it alone with the adverse insurance company puts victims at a disadvantage
An injured victim can choose to deal directly with an insurance company to resolve their claim, but Joseph believes that puts you at a much greater disadvantage.
“The problem with that is how experienced are you with the knowledge behind the value of your claim,” he said. “If you’re entitled to lost wages, pain and suffering, or other monetary damages, an insurance company will not openly say what you’re entitled to.”
And an insurance company will likely tell you your claim doesn’t have that much value.
“You can settle your case on your own, but I think you’re at a disadvantage when dealing with an insurance company who is trying to push you in one direction.”
They don’t want you to get an attorney
Joseph also mentioned that studies show insurance companies pay significantly more on claims when a party is represented by an attorney or council.
In a study done by the Insurance Research Council, data shows that motor vehicle accident victims receive on average 350 percent more on their claim when they’re represented by an attorney.
“They know the value of that claim is going to go up, or exposure will go up if an attorney is involved,” Joseph says. “So, they don’t want you to get an attorney.”
Joseph, who offers no-obligation, free consultations, recommends getting an attorney involved as early in the process as possible.
“I have gotten involved later and gotten a much better result than if they would have resolved it on their own,” he said. “It can put an attorney at a disadvantage though late in the game versus sooner. It’s better for the attorney to be involved upfront.”
Plain and simple, Joseph stresses that insurance companies want to pay as little as possible, whereas the victims want to be justly compensated. The best way to ensure fair treatment is with your own attorney.
“Each party – the victim and the adverse insurance company – has separate interests,” he said. “It’s really important for anyone who has been injured by someone else’s negligence to get an attorney right away.”
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