8 Mistakes to Avoid After a Car Wreck

It’s true you may have a personal injury claim where a lawyer is not necessary. Minor injury cases or claims where damage is not substantial may, in certain instances, not require the assistance of a lawyer. When damages start to mount, an experienced lawyer is likely to obtain a better outcome than if you were to handle the case yourself. If you’ve suffered a permanent or life-threatening injury, or you are going through the loss of a loved one, an experienced lawyer will almost invariably be able to help you obtain a better outcome than trying to handle the case yourself. This list is not intended to be legal advice, but rather it is a list of considerations for working with insurance companies.

1. Going on Record with a Recorded Statement

Insurance company claims adjusters often tell accident victims it is standard procedure to make a recorded statement before the insurance company will make a settlement offer. While this may be a company policy, it is not the law. Insurance adjusters use tactics to reduce your settlement offer or they may pass the information along to insurance company lawyers to use against you if your case goes to trial. Recorded statements may be taken out of context and interpreted in ways you never intended. The best rule is to handle all communication with an insurance company through a lawyer representing your best interests.

In a small number of cases, such as a claim involving an uninsured or underinsured motorist, the law might obligate you to give a recorded statement. Our team often works with clients when recorded statements are required, making sure statements are made in a controlled environment to ensure statements are made as intended.

2. Demanding too much or too little

The consequences of demanding too little may seem obvious. In serious injury cases, you may be facing medical expenses for the rest of your life and your overall quality of life may be permanently altered. A low settlement releases a defendant or insurance company from ever having to pay in the future.

The consequences of demanding TOO MUCH may also be just as damaging. If your demand is unreasonable, you may be sending a red flag to an insurance company indicating you do not understand the value of your case.

What’s the danger in not understanding the value? When the insurance company finds out you have mis-valued your claim, you risk sending the implicit message you might be willing to settle your case for less than its actual value because you do not understand how much the case is worth.

Insurance companies are not likely to respond to an over-valued demand by offering their maximum policy amount. If you finally do reach a settlement with the insurance company, you likely risk leaving money on the table.

3. Assuming the System All Makes Sense

A majority of Kansas accident law has evolved over time. The law responds to meet different objectives over the years, sometimes changing from political swings or in an effort to achieve fairness. The result of these changes is a system that is often counterintuitive. Benefits go to those who best understand the system and the law, leaving many victims and inexperienced accident lawyers with the short end of the stick. In some instances, the law may be confusing where you encounter what you think is an established “rule of the road” when in reality it is not the law.

4.  Accepting a “Final Offer” from an Insurance Company

Internal policies of insurance companies sometimes require every offer to be presented directly or indirectly as a “final offer.” It may be difficult for those representing themselves to push or demand a higher offer, especially when a person lacks the leverage to do so. A threat to sue or take the insurance company to court, may be viewed as empty without the means to actually follow through. Accordingly, many victims will take the first offer and leave money they are entitled to for damages or injuries on the table.

In the personal injury business, our firm has found there is sometimes a “final offer” and then a “final, final, final, offer.” These are usually two very different numbers.

5.  Settling a Case Without Knowing the Extent of Your Injuries

If you’ve been seriously injured and you need a “quick settlement,” it’s very likely you will receive less than the full value of your accident case. In order to persuade an insurance company, judge or jury, a reason to make you an appropriate offer, you will need your medical bills and records or testimony from your doctor or other medical expert about the extent and scope of your injuries. If you settle your case before you have this documentation, there is little to no chance of receiving fair value. To stress the importance of this, our firm will not consider taking a case if a client wants to settle before a medical expert understands the full scope of a client’s injuries.

6.  Assuming the Insurance Company will Stand Behind who is Liable for the Accident

Insurance companies commonly admit to accident victims their insured was responsible for an accident, and they want to settle the case. Our team has found later in the settlement process or once a lawsuit has been filed, this changes fast. This is the reason our firm proceeds through the collection of witnesses and other facts as though the case will go to trial… even after you may have heard the insurance company say “they will take care of you.”

In some cases, the insurance company will continue to admit liability for their insured, but it is still important to collect and organize details of each accident. Collection of evidence in your case may seem like it is not necessary once the insurance company has admitted liability, but it does matter and it is necessary to get the facts under control from the beginning of each case.

7. Failing to understand Interplay with Liens

Accident victims are busy getting their life back on track and do not understand how to deal with health insurance and health care liens. there are instances where your actual recovery may be higher if you work with an attorney that understands how to resolve lien problems with the case. In a few instances, this is even more important than how well an attorney negotiated the settlement of a case. Our team has found mistakes with liens generally fall into two extremes: (1) paying your health insurer (or Medicare or Medicaid) more than you are obligated to pay; and (2) jeopardizing future health insurance coverage because you did not understand your lien obligations. Our attorneys work with each client to help them understand the complications of liens and their legal options and remedies available to maximize recovery.

8.  Falling for the notion that an insurance company is trying to be fair.

Insurance companies are not evil. Insurance company employees, claims adjusters, and lawyers, are by and large good and moral people. However, it is not their goal to be fair with accident victims. Rather, their goal is to pay you as little as possible.

Carl Wagner

About Carl Wagner:

Carl Wagner is a trial attorney with Patterson Legal Group, LC, practicing in the areas of automobile accident and injury litigation. Carl has developed an extensive network in the Wichita legal community after 30 years... Read More »

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