This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of 'Do I Need a Lawyer?' hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.
Now let's go to the next question from one of our viewers.
"Hi Gary - I have a question for you.
I was rear-ended by a man that was driving a company truck. He admitted he was at fault and he received the ticket. When he hit me, my right hand was jammed into the steering wheel. I had x-rays at the emergency room and the doctors told me it was fractured. The doctor there told me it would probably require surgery to fix it. I don't have health insurance!
What can I do?
Do I need a lawyer?
-Kirk in Stone Mountain
Kirk - thanks for the question.
I am so sorry to hear about your wreck and your injuries.
- and let me tell you right now -
Yes - you need a lawyer and I am happy to help you.
And let me answer your question by talking about some of the tricks the insurance company will try to use to keep from paying you the fair value of your claim - IF you do not have a lawyer. And you have to beware of these tactics because - if they are successful - they can cost you a lot of money.
(1) The adjuster refuses to confirm that their insured was at fault.
Some companies will delay giving you authorization to get your car repaired or give you a rental car because they claim they are still investigating the wreck.
This tactic will often result in people not being able to get the medical treatment they need because they don't have transportation to get to the doctor's office.
The insurance company is trying to discourage you from making a legitimate claim. They want to make the hassle so great that most people will just give up.
(2) The adjuster asks for a recorded statement from you.
Do not let anyone take a recorded statement from you. If you give incomplete answers, or accidentally give an incorrect answer or estimate, it could cost you lots of money - or even worse, your entire claim.
Know that the adjuster is trained to ask questions in certain ways to make your claim seem unreasonable.
(3) The adjuster asks you to sign a medical release.
Most insurance companies want you to sign a medical release that will give them blanket authorization to ask for your medical records. And they will use it - not just to get the records from doctors you treat with for the wreck - but also from ANY doctor you have ever seen in your past.
Assume you hurt your back in the wreck.
They will get all of your medical records to look for that one time you went to the doctor ten years before the wreck because you pulled a muscle in your back. The adjuster will then claim your injuries pre-existed the wreck with their insured - and either completely deny your back injury claim, or drastically reduce their offer.
(4) The adjuster offers you a quick check.
They offer a check to you before you have a chance to go to the doctor to find out what is wrong with you.
You assume you are just a little sore and will get better - so you take the settlement offer.
Once it is settled - your case is closed.
There is nothing that can be done to open it.
Sadly - I see what happens to people that fall for this trick.
They call me and ask what we can do to help.
Unfortunately, nothing can be done because the claim is settled.
So how do you prevent this from happening?
DON'T TAKE THE INSURANCE COMPANY'S QUICK OFFER!!!
Don't fall for this!
$500 may seem like a lot of money right after the wreck - but it is nothing when your future medical bills can be thousands of dollars.
(5) The adjuster tells you that you don't need a lawyer.
Think about that one for a minute.
The insurance company has attorneys on staff that they routinely consult about your claim.
And yet they tell you that you don't need a lawyer?
Why do you think they are telling you this?
Maybe - just maybe - it is because the adjuster doesn't want you to know the true value of your case.
The insurance company does not want you to know about your rights - nor their responsibilities.
The more the adjuster can keep you in the dark about your claim - the less they will have to pay you.
In 1999, a Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) revealed:
* Injured victims receive an average of 40% MORE MONEY just by consulting a lawyer to learn their rights.
And . . .
* Injured victims receive an average of 3 ½ times MORE MONEY before legal fees when they hire an attorney to defend their rights!
Remember this important point: insurance companies are "for profit" businesses and one of the ways they make money is by not paying full value on these claims.