Your day starts like many other days before it. You drop the kids off at school, head to work – and then the unexpected happens. You are involved in a car accident. It isn’t your fault, but now it is your decision where to go from here.
If you decide to proceed without a lawyer, you want to avoid some common mistakes.
Trusting the Insurance Company
You may have claims with the insurance company for the driver who hit you and with your own insurance company. Claims against the at-fault driver are called liability claims. Claims against your own car insurance might include claims for no-fault and uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
No matter whose policy is at issue, the insurance adjuster does not represent you. The insurance company for the at-fault driver has obligations to him, not to you. They will try to limit what is paid to you if they can. Your own company wants to save money on claims as well. As they are taking your statement and looking over the evidence they are also looking for reasons to deny or diminish your claim.
No insurance adjuster is in a position to give you advice about your claims. They don’t have an obligation to advise you against mistakes. The information you give them might be used against you in an attempt to limit what they have to pay.
Not Securing the Evidence
You have heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” It is true. Pictures help tell the story of your ordeal better than most any other evidence. If you can, get pictures of your car before it is repaired. If someone can safely get photographs of the accident scene, those can be very helpful in showing the extent of the damage and in proving how the accident occurred.
In a serious collision, it can be important to have an expert view the scene and vehicles before evidence disappears. When a commercial vehicle like a semi tractor-trailer is involved, it is important to secure evidence from the trucking company before it can be destroyed.
Settling Before You Know How Badly You Were Injured
Increasingly, we find that insurance companies are offering very small settlements within days of a crash. Many people assume that the pain they feel immediately after the collision will go away, especially if nothing serious was discovered in the initial ER visit. Insurance companies know that they can avoid paying large settlements if they take advantage of your optimism and get you to sign an agreement quickly.
Unfortunately, injuries often reveal themselves over time. More thorough tests are done only after your symptoms fail to resolve. More pain and limitations are evident after you begin to be more active or return to work. If you agreed too early, what sounded like a fair settlement can turn out to be a huge mistake.
Settling Without Knowing What You Owe
Even if you know how badly you are hurt, you should be certain that you know how much your bills are and whether and how they have been paid. If your health insurance company has paid accident-related bills, you may have to reimburse them from your settlement.
What sounds like a generous settlement can be a bad deal if you are left with bills and liens to pay.
Settling Claims Without Identifying all of the Possible Coverages
Insurance coverage can come from places that are not obvious. There are situations where you can get a settlement from insurance on vehicles that are not even involved in the wreck – but not if you don’t look for it and ask for it.
When multiple policies apply you have to be very careful about signing a release (settlement agreement) for any of the claims. The release you sign to settle under one insurance policy might destroy your right to bring claims under another policy. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to coordinate the settlements so that you reserve all of your rights.
All of these things considered you may still be unsure about whether you need a lawyer. We hope that either way, you will not be afraid to call us to help you figure it out. You can watch Cyndi Crocker discuss this and other topics in Legally Speaking by clicking on the following link: https://crockerfirm.com/legally-speaking/.