Recovering your health should be the first priority after you get hurt in an accident. But physical and emotional recovery can come at a significant financial cost. Affording your expenses often means dealing with or (let’s face it) fighting with insurance companies.
Unfortunately, you cannot simply file a claim and expect full payment from your and the at-fault party’s insurance companies. But that’s rarely how things work. Often, it takes the services of an experienced personal injury attorney to secure the money you deserve.
Let’s look at how insurance works after an accident, the risks of dealing with insurance companies directly, and what a lawyer can do to ensure you get paid for your losses.
Accident Insurance Overview
Insurance enables us to manage the risk of future harm. We pay premiums in exchange for the insurance company’s promise to pay certain costs and losses, up to an agreed maximum amount, in the event of an accident that harms us or someone else.
Some common insurance coverages triggered by a motor vehicle accident are:
- Your own auto insurance, which commonly covers damage to your vehicle
- Your own health insurance, which may cover some of your medical care
- Your own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance (required in some states), which covers your accident-related medical care and lost wages
- An at-fault party’s auto or commercial liability insurance, which covers all types of accident-related damages you suffered because of their wrongful actions
You may have the right to turn to several of these (or other) types of insurance to pay for your injuries and losses in an accident. Sometimes, insurance coverages can overlap, and the insurers or courts may need to decide which among them has an obligation to step up first to pay for your care and needs.
Obtaining payment from an insurance company typically involves submitting a claim under a policy the company issued. Insurers normally react to a claim by appointing an employee known as an adjuster to investigate the claim, verify its validity, and decide (or make a recommendation) whether and how much to pay the claimant. If an insurance company refuses to pay a claim, the claimant can seek to force payment by taking the insurer to court.
When liability insurance is involved, the claimant may sometimes skip submitting a claim and sue the insurer’s policyholder for damages right-off-the-bat. This is common, for instance, when the party at fault for an accident refuses to acknowledge their role in an accident or to disclose who their insurer is.
Risks of Dealing With Insurance on Your Own
You probably will not be able to avoid having some contact with insurance companies after an accident. For example, you may have to make a prompt report of an accident involving your car to your auto insurance company as a requirement for making a claim.
Still, you should not seek to have more contact with an insurance company than you absolutely must. Why? Because insurance companies—even ones to whom you pay a premium every month—would prefer not to pay for your losses after an accident.
Given the opportunity, they would much rather hold on to the money they’ve collected from you and their other policyholders to boost their profits. And they’ll try to find or create that opportunity whenever they can, sometimes using aggressive, high-pressure tactics.
Here are some of the dangers of dealing directly with an insurance company—especially someone else’s—after an accident.
Insurance companies may take advantage of any mistake you make in submitting a claim. If you miss a deadline for notifying your insurer, your delay could serve as a basis for denying your request for payment. So could misstatements of details of your accident (time, date, parties) or descriptions of what happened that raise questions about whether an insurance policy covers your injuries.
An insurance adjuster assigned to your claim or the claim of an at-fault party may ask you to give a recorded statement about the accident. Only agree if you’re absolutely sure you have an obligation to do so. Your own insurance policy might require it (be sure to read the fine print), but in most cases, you do not have any obligation to give a recorded statement to someone else’s insurance company.
Giving a recorded interview to an insurer is dangerous because adjusters will use it to ask you loaded questions and manipulate your responses. Their goal will be to get you to say something that harms your claim, such as admitting fault or downplaying your injuries. Because the interview is recorded, any mistakes they get you to make can be used as a reason to deny your claim or even as evidence against you in court.
Medical Records Waiver
An insurance company that has issued a policy potentially covering the costs of your accident-related care or income loss may ask you to sign a waiver (or release) giving them permission to review your medical records. They’ll make the request sound sensible—after all, if you’re asking them to pay your medical bills, it’s only fair for them to learn about your health conditions, right?
Not really. Insurance providers might have the right to review a limited amount of information about your injury care (the scope of that right is usually defined by the terms of the insurance policy and state insurance law). But they’ll probably ask you to give them access to a far wider swath of medical records than they legitimately need. Their goal is to find something, anything, in your medical records to support an argument that an event other than the accident caused your medical condition, which would give them a reason to deny your claim.
Lowball Settlement Offers
Insurance companies that recognize they’re on the hook for your accident-related damages may also try to trick you into agreeing to a lowball settlement offer. To be sure, they’ll dress it up as an act of generosity and goodwill. But make no mistake—any amount offered directly to you as a settlement of your pending or anticipated claim will fall far short of the amount you have the legal right to receive. Insurance companies will try hard to get you to say “yes” because if you do, you’ll be giving up your rights to demand the full amount you deserve.
Insurance providers also keenly understand that the passage of time works in their favor. The longer they can make you wait for the money you need to pay expenses, the greater their chances of getting you to cave to a lowball offer or make a mistake in pursuing your claim.
If they can draw out the process long enough, they might even succeed in lulling you into forgetting about your deadline for taking legal action, called the statute of limitations. If you allow this deadline to expire without filing a lawsuit seeking compensation for your losses, you will likely lose your right to payment altogether, and the insurance company will be able to walk away from its obligation to you without paying a penny.
What You Can Do Instead of Dealing With Insurance Companies
By leaving dealings with insurance companies to an experienced lawyer, you can give yourself time and opportunity to focus on other priorities that may advance your claim. Here are some examples.
Focus on Healing
The single most consequential step you can take after getting hurt in an accident is to seek medical care and do everything needed to heal as fully as possible. Never shrug off or ignore an accidental injury. Even seemingly minor aches and pains can signify severe trauma that could threaten your life or long-term health if not treated immediately. And only a qualified medical professional can evaluate your condition.
Seeking and following recommendations for care can also safeguard your legal rights. By going to see a doctor, you generate medical records that document your injuries and can assist a lawyer in proving a claim to an insurance company or in court. Obtaining treatment also protects you against an insurance adjuster trying to blame your health condition on something other than the accident.
Assist Your Lawyer in Gathering Evidence
You are one of the most critical sources of information your lawyer will need to make a successful claim to an insurance company or a court. By turning dealings with insurance companies over to an experienced attorney, you can free up time to help your attorney locate and secure evidence to support your claim. (Of course, assisting your lawyer still comes second to recovering your emotional and physical health)
Contact an Experienced Accident Lawyer Today
Insurance coverage plays a vital role in paying expenses after you get hurt in an accident. But that doesn’t mean you need to bear the burden of dealing with insurance companies on your own. You deserve to spend your time and energy healing and rebuilding after your trauma. You shouldn’t worry about saying the right things to insurance adjusters or preparing and negotiating a claim.
An experienced accident attorney can handle the entire process of obtaining money from insurance companies after your accident. And it probably won’t cost you a penny to hire an attorney who can begin working on your behalf immediately.
So what are you waiting for? Contact a skilled Florida personal injury attorney in your area today.