If you are in a serious car or truck accident, you will benefit by having an attorney represent you for your own damages. The insurance companies representing the driver who caused the accident and your damages have an army of well-trained experts who know the law much better than you do, and who will use this unequal knowledge for the benefit of their employer. No matter what he or she says, the insurance adjuster is not your friend. He or she will try to convince you that you don’t need a lawyer, but you should ignore these phony promises. The adjuster is an advocate for his employer, the insurance company. You need an experience personal injury attorney to be your advocate. What sort of things do you need to do in relation to your personal injury claim and what shouldn’t you do?
If you’re involved and/or injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to keep in communication with your insurance company. Here are some dos and don’ts to remember throughout the process:
- If the accident is serious and you suffered an injury, be sure and call the police and file a report. Before the officer leaves, request the report number so you may obtain a copy for yourself as soon as it becomes available.
- Review the Coverage and Exclusion sections of your own insurance policy so you have a clear understanding of the coverage that’s available to you through your own insurance. These could include something known a medical payments coverage which will provide reimbursement for some or all of your medical expenses or underinsured motorist coverage which would provide extra coverage in the event that the driver who caused the accident and injuries has minimal or inadequate coverage.
- Be sure you understand the difference between replacement coverage or cash value coverage. Having replacement coverage allows you to replace lost items at current costs, whereas cash value coverage does not. Don’t make a settlement for actual cash value until you have determined that you do not have replacement coverage available to you.
- Take pictures, where possible, of your injuries and the damage to your vehicle.
- Keep detailed notes, including names, titles, dates and times of all conversations with insurance companies and their representatives.
- Organize and keep track of all receipts and invoices for anything regarding your claim and any recovery time needed to heal from your injuries. You should maintain this practice up until you make the final settlement with any insurance company.
- Do not give a recorded or written statement to any other party’s insurer until you completely understand your coverage. You are not required to ever provide the insurance company with a recorded statement. If you’re confused or unsure by what the insurance company is requesting, you should consult an attorney.
- Don’t allow your insurer, or any other insurance carrier to give you legal advice. Only a licensed attorney will know all the current laws that affect the statutes in your state, limits of your losses, as well as, punitive damages, pain and suffering, etc.
- Don’t accept the initial estimate of your losses as represented by your insurer. Many times injured parties accept the advice of the insurance estimator, or repair person’s judgment of replacement estimates, which most times are somewhat low.
- Never sign a release or waiver of any kind until you’ve spoken with an attorney. Necessity, due to a difficult financial situation created by your injuries or loss, may make it seem necessary to make a settlement prematurely. Once you sign a release, even if you remember additional losses, or have additional problems due to the original injuries, you may find you have no additional rights to coverage. Consult an attorney before signing and be sure you thoroughly read any fine print on any payments you receive from the insurance company.
- Don’t accept a check that indicates a ‘final payment’ until you are settling all aspects of your claim.
- Remember that your insurer has a legal obligation to provide the coverage promised to you within the policy guidelines. Be persistent and insist that they meet their obligations. This is especially true with respect to medical payments coverage. It is not uncommon for your own insurance agent to try and convince you to pass on valid claims which you may have pursuant to your own policy. If you have medical payments coverage, you are paying an additional premium every month so that you have this coverage in the event that you are injured in an accident irrespective of whether the accident was your fault or not.
Bob Healey is a licensed attorney and principle with Healey Law, LLC, a full-service St. Louis law firm, specializing in handling cases for accident and injury victims, injured workers, and consumers who have been abused or mistreated by debt collectors, banks, mortgage companies and credit reporting agencies. With 4 convenient locations in Chesterfield, Downtown St. Louis, North County (Bridgeton near DePaul Hospital) and South County (on Tesson Ferry across from St. Anthony’s Hospital) the attorneys at Healey Law, LLC have over 25 years of experience representing clients in the State and Federal Courts in both Missouri and Illinois. For more information visit: http://www.healeylawllc.com