Below are 7 common mistakes accident victims make in handling their own accident claim that really hurts the settlement and trial value of their claims:
- You Gave (or Will Give) a Recorded Statement
Most insurance claims adjusters tell victims that they need a recorded statement before making a settlement offer. Most of the time, this is not the case.
Insurance adjusters will try to use anything you say to knock down your settlement offer. They may take what you say out of context. They may even pass along the information to the insurance company’s lawyers to give cross-examination fodder against you at trial.
In the rare cases where a recorded statement is needed, our attorneys set them up under controlled conditions to limit any damage the client can do to the case.
- You Demand Too Much or Too Little
You need to understand the value of your case. Asking for too little, is selling yourself short for pain and suffering and medical costs, etc. If your demand is beyond what the case is worth on its best day, you are sending a red flag you don’t understand the value of your accident case. When you signal you don’t understand what the value could be, you are implicitly sending the message you may be willing to settle for less than the value of the case because you don’t know the value. Insurance company’s response to ridiculous demands is to not put the money they have on the table.
- Taking the Insurance Company’s “Final” Offer
Insurance companies often directly or indirectly present their offer as a final offer. Many victims take the first offer and leave their money on the table. In our business, there is a final offer and then there is a final, final, final, offer. They are usually different numbers.
- Settling the Case Without Medical Documentation
If you have been seriously injured and are looking for a quick settlement, you are almost invariably going to get less than the value of your accident case. To give the insurance company a reason to make something approaching a reasonable offer, you need all of your medical bills and records and often written comment from a doctor – either a treating doctor or “independent” medical expert – as to the extent and scope of your injuries. If you settle a case without submitting all of the documentation, you are selling yourself short.
- Assuming the Insurance Company Will Stand Behind Its Admission of Liability
You have to proceed as though the case will go to trial because insurance companies can and do change their mind on liability as more details emerge from accidents.
- Failing to Understand the Interplay with Insurance Liens
Victims do not understand how to deal with health insurance or other health care liens. Sometimes, having a lawyer adept at understanding and resolving the lien problem is critical in negotiated a settlement. The ramification of paying the health insurer (or Medicare) far more than you are obligated to pay, and (2) jeopardizing your health insurance because you have failed to understand your lien obligations. You’ll want an attorney who understands ERISA.
- Falling for the Notion that the Insurance Company Is Trying to Be Fair
Watch out for the adjuster who befriends you with promises for more than they will deliver—like paying future medical bills, full coverage and a host of benefits that they then find catches for and do not pay. These are tactics to prevent you from hiring a lawyer. Once it is time for payment, if there is not lawyer to fight on your side, they will argue every reason why the benefits they promised shouldn’t’t be paid. Their goal is to pay you as little as possible.