When you are hurt in an auto accident caused by someone else, you can become very
dependent on an auto insurance company that you may have never even heard of.
That’s OK, don’t they insist on what good neighbors they are? The harsh reality,
however, is that insurance companies are in business to make money – and they
don’t make money paying out claims.
That fact puts you and the insurance company at odds with each other: it is in your
interest to obtain every dime of compensation you are entitled to, and it is in
their interest to pay as little as possible. It is this adversarial relationship, in addition to their extensive experience negotiating claims like yours, that puts you at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.
It is best to simply hire an experienced lawyer to handle the claim – just so you will know what you are up against. However, the following are some time-tested auto insurance company tricks that you are bound to run into if you elect to negotiate your own claim:
Gerrymandering the Scope of Coverage
The best way to reduce their payout to zero is to convince you that the policy you are
claiming against (typically the at-fault driver’s policy) doesn’t cover your injuries at all. Sometimes, the insurance company claims that the accident you are involved in is not covered in the policy. They may do this by over-interpreting the language of the policy to try to open up a manufactured loophole in coverage.
Monitoring Your Social Network Accounts
If the amount of your claim is large, do not assume the insurance company won’t put an investigator on your case to monitor your social media account for information they can use to suggest that you are exaggerating your injuries (a photo of you standing and smiling, for example). Beware of friend requests from people you don’t know while your claim is
“You Don’t Really Need That Operation”
Insurance adjusters are not doctors, and they are not qualified to determine what type of medical treatment you do or do not need.
Insurance companies have endless ways to delay your claim. It can be difficult to contact the person in charge of your case, for example, and they are masters of endless bureaucratic delay. In extreme cases, they might attempt to lull you to sleep with promises that never materialize and cause you to miss the statute of limitations deadline.
Blaming You for the Accident
You can be almost sure that the insurance company is going to try to pull this one at some
point. Under New York personal injury law, if they can pin even 10 percent of the accident on you, their payout is reduced by 10 percent. If they can pin most of the fault on you, you might even end up with a net loss if the other driver sues you.
Asking for a Recorded Statement
The insurance company is likely to ask you to give a recorded statement about the
accident. Don’t give it to them unless your lawyer approves it because their tricks are endless. If you even answer “fine” to the question “How are you?”, the insurance company may try to use it against you. And that’s just the beginning.
“You Don’t Need to Retain a Lawyer for this Type of Claim”
When they tell you this, you can be almost certain that the truth is that they are the ones who
don’t need you to retain a lawyer for “this type of claim.” If your lawyer happens to be E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy, we can assure you that this is true – the insurance company definitely could do without us. But can you?
Demanding Unfettered Access to Your Medical Records
In a manner of speaking, you could say that insurance adjusters are trained fisherman. For
them, complete access to your medical records is like a lake they can fish in to find an excuse not to honor your claim (by blaming your injury on a pre-existing condition, for example).
“Sign Here Please…”
Don’t sign anything without the advice of your lawyer, even after reading it. Insurance
companies are bureaucracies, and they have all sorts of forms they would just love you to sign. Be especially careful with checks written for less than the full amount of your claim – they are often bait. The fine print on the other side may release the insurance company from any further responsibility for your injuries.
Signing such a check before your condition has stabilized is especially dangerous because you don’t yet know the full value of your claim. If you sign a check today, have surgery tomorrow, and suffer unexpected complications the next day, you wouldn’t want to have signed away your right to further compensation.
“Nickel and Diming” You to Death
The insurance company may take the strategy of defending every inch of ground by
disputing every medical expense – claiming they are only liable for part of one, the other one was “unnecessary,” etc. Each objection may seem small, but they add up quickly.
Shortchanging You on Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering damages are naturally more difficult to quantify than medical expenses. An insurance company would love to take advantage of this ambiguity to exploit a fact that you might not be aware of: when they apply, pain and suffering damages typically amount to several times the amount of medical expenses. Your pain matters, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different.
Take Decisive Action Today
You have been injured by a careless driver. That fact cannot be undone. Don’t add to the
tragedy, however, by allowing a stingy insurance company to smooth-talk you out of the personal injury compensation you deserve. And don’t try to handle your claim without a lawyer. Don’t worry, you can afford us. We charge nothing unless we win, and our fee will not come due until your money actually arrives.
At E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy, you can expect to be treated with respect, empathy, and consummate professionalism. If you have been injured in an accident that may have been someone else’s fault,contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation by phone, at our office in Albany, or even at your home or in the hospital.