How an Attorney Can Help With Your Car Accident Claim
The right lawyer can be key in getting the best outcome for your car accident claim.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you might be wondering exactly how an attorney can help you. In this article we’ll cover what a car accident lawyer brings to the table, including:
- organization and analysis of key evidence and records
- a network of investigators and experts who can help strengthen your case, and
- negotiation skills that will get the best outcome for your car accident claim.
What Will My Car Accident Lawyer Do?
While much depends on the specifics and the complexity of your car accident case, in general a lawyer can:
- communicate with the other driver’s insurer
- obtain the necessary evidence with respect to fault for the accident
- organize your medical records and bills
- communicate with your health care providers to obtain missing records
- work with your doctors to make sure they provide the medical information you need so that you can prove damages in your claim
- organize and present the evidence in order to prove liability and damages
- negotiate with lien holders on your claim (such as health, disability, or workers’ compensation insurers) to potentially reduce the amount of those liens, and
- negotiate a satisfactory settlement with the insurance adjuster or defense attorney.
Let’s look at a couple of these things in-depth.
Communicating with the Other Driver’s Insurer
In any personal injury case, your lawyer will open up a line of communication with the insurance adjuster for the other party (or parties) involved. The adjuster has the pocketbook, and so it is critical for a plaintiff’s lawyer to have good communications and a good relationship with the adjuster.
Obtaining Necessary Evidence of Liability
A good lawyer can help obtain all of the evidence that you will need to prove liability in a car accident claim. Although you may have already taken photographs of the accident scene, your lawyer will probably go back to the scene him/herself to see what it looks like. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, actually seeing the scene can be worth a thousand pictures.
The lawyer will make sure to get all of the accident or police reports in the case and will often speak with the investigating police officers and witnesses. A good lawyer will leave no stone unturned when it comes to obtaining evidence of liability. Learn more about proving fault for a car accident.
Obtaining Necessary Evidence of Damages
This is where a good lawyer can be essential to your case, especially when you’ve suffered significant car accident injuries.
It is critical to obtain all documentation related to your injuries, but it isn’t always easy to get your hands on those records and bills from health care providers. Although the records are technically yours, and you have an absolute right to them, sending medical records to patients and lawyers is just not a health care provider’s first priority.
Small doctors’ offices may not have the staffing or the time to respond to medical record requests on a timely basis. Large hospitals may have specific procedures that must be followed in order to respond to medical record requests. If you don’t follow their procedures (which they often don’t publicize very well), they simply won’t respond to your request.
Then, when the health care provider does respond to the request, the records may be incomplete. Any lawyer’s secretary or paralegal will tell you that they often have to request the same records more than once and that they have to follow up endlessly with the provider’s office.
Finally, it may turn out that the doctor did not use the “magic words” as to causation, prognosis, and disability in his or her notes. In order to successfully prosecute any type of personal injury claim, you must be able to prove, through medical evidence,
- exactly what your injury, disability, or physical limitation is, and
- that it was caused by the defendant’s negligence.
Doctors often don’t mention causation and extent of the injury or disability in their medical records. If this happens in your case, your lawyer will write the doctor and ask for a special letter in which the doctor gives his/her opinion that the accident caused your injury or disability and that, as a result of the accident, you will be hindered or disabled for a specific period of time.
Negotiating With Lien Holders
If you received benefits from a health, disability, or workers’ compensation insurer, that insurer will have a lien on your claim. A lien means that the lien holder gets paid before you do, out of any settlement or judgment you receive. A good lawyer will work with the lien holder to try to get the lien holder to reduce its lien. This is important work. Every dollar less that the lien holder takes is one more dollar that goes into your pocket. Learn more about health care provider liens on personal injury settlements.
Negotiating With Insurers/Defendants
Negotiation is a very specific skill (some might even call it an art). A personal injury lawyer is always going to be far better at settling a car accident case than a layperson would be. A good lawyer knows how much the case is worth and knows how to work the case and conduct the negotiations in order to arrive at the best outcome for the client.
When Can I Handle a Car Accident Claim Myself?
If you weren’t hurt all that badly, if you’re comfortable gathering necessary evidence and documents, and (most importantly) you’re ready and willing to engage in the settlement negotiation process, you can certainly handle your car accident claim yourself. But there’s really no substitute for a skilled legal professional’s help. Learn more about the advantage of legal representation in our personal injury reader survey results.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident and you’re ready to discuss your options, you can use the chat and case evaluation tools on this page, or get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.
When Should I Get An Attorney for a Car Accident?
After an accident, car accident victims are often left to deal with serious injuries and rising medical bills on their own. Insurance companies often offer accident victims a low-ball settlement that is just a fraction of what they need to recover. These insurance companies don’t have your best interest in mind—the only people they have in mind are their shareholders and reducing their liabilities. They may pressure accident victims into signing a settlement too quickly and you could end up with less than you need to cover your injuries.
The moment your accident occurred, a clock started ticking. It’s a countdown to the first financial hit coming your way as a result of your injuries. For most folks, that first hit is a missed paycheck. Then the first medical bill comes in, and there won’t be just one. Pretty soon, you find yourself with a financial problem that you don’t know how to solve.
That’s why it’s important that you call one of our experienced car accident attorneys as soon as possible following your accident. This ensures that our team can collect important evidence and witness accounts that could be lost over time. It also allows our legal team to go to work quickly to build a strong case for you. The sooner you call, the sooner you can get the compensation you deserve for your accident.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Immediately after you are injured in a car accident, there are steps you can take to help you collect the compensation you need.
- Call 911 – Call 911 and report your accident, which helps alert both police officials and emergency medical teams to the scene of the accident. Your police report and your medical report will be invaluable when establishing fault and liability. Without them, it’s just your word against theirs.
- Gather Evidence – Gathering evidence can be done easily now that we have smartphones. Snap pictures of license plates, eyewitness information, vehicle damage, traffic patterns, intersections, and any other important information that could help your lawyer establish fault.
- Contact a Lawyer – Insurance companies will always seek to reduce their liabilities by offering accident victims a low-ball settlement offer. This is usually a fraction of what you need to recover. Contact an experienced car accident attorney immediately to begin building your case. Remember, contacting an attorney is not the same thing as filing a lawsuit.
What Not to Do After a Car Accident
While it’s important to know what to do after a car accident, it’s equally important to know what NOT to do. Immediately after your accident, avoid making these serious car accident mistakes.
- Not Reporting Your Accident – Sometimes it can be tempting to just exchange information with the other driver and go on your way, especially if you don’t believe you’ve been injured. Unfortunately, some car accident injuries can take days and even weeks to become fully apparent. Always report your accident and obtain a police report.
- Admitting Blame – It’s human nature to apologize – even when we are not wrong. Yet after a car accident, saying “I’m sorry” can be used to show that you admitted fault for the crash. Even if you believe that you were partly to blame, do not admit fault.
- Accepting Settlement – The insurance company will often use a “take it or leave it” approach to pressure injured accident victims into accepting a settlement that is far below what they need to truly recover. Don’t sign anything without first speaking with an attorney.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
In the state of Arkansas, car accident victims only have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. While this may seem like a lot of time, three years can pass quickly after a crash. You may be injured severely and focused on recovery and on improving your life. You may be struggling to make ends meet and trying to help your family stay out of bankruptcy after an accident. During this time, valuable evidence might get lost or even destroyed. Contact an experienced lawyer for your car accident immediately to begin building your case and to avoid missing any critical deadlines.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, don’t wait to get the legal help you need. Call our car accident attorneys today for a free consultation. We’re ready to help you get maximum compensation for your injury claim.
When to Call a Lawyer
Not everyone who has been involved in a car accident will need to seek legal representation. However, if your accident was severe or complex, then it’s necessary to call a lawyer as soon as possible, so they can begin building your case. If any of the following apply to your situation, call a lawyer right away:
- Any accident that causes significant injury to you or someone else
- Any accident where fault is not clearly established
- Any crash involving another motorist, such as a pedestrian, other cars, truck, or cyclist
- Any collision in a school zone
- Any crash in a construction zone or work zone
- Anytime you disagree with the police report
- Any crash involving an underinsured or uninsured driver
- Anytime insurance companies send mixed messages or offer confusing answers to liability concerns
Small fender-benders often will not require the assistance of an attorney, however, there are special circumstances where an attorney’s services could be invaluable after a minor crash. These include:
- Minor collisions that result in significant vehicle or property damage
- Any injuries to a passenger in your own vehicle or to yourself
- Any significant work missed by you or your passengers
- Problems dealing with car repairs and insurance limits
The sooner you contact an attorney, the better. In the state of Arkansas, you only have three years to file a personal injury claim. While that may seem like a lot of time, valuable evidence can be lost or destroyed in just a few weeks. That’s why injured accident victims should call an attorney as soon as they are able, even if they’re not certain they wish to file a lawsuit.
Our lawyers offer a free consultation and review of your case and we can help you choose the legal path that is best for you and your family.
What to Provide Your Lawyer
Make sure your meeting runs smoothly by providing your lawyer with the following information:
- Contact information
- Key facts about your case
- Police report
- Medical records
- Financial documents or medical receipts
- Photos of accident scene or damage
- Witness contact information and statements
When to File A Claim
Once you’ve met, your attorney will investigate all aspects of your case and begin negotiating with the insurance company. Remember, a personal injury claim is different from a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury claim is between you and the at-fault driver’s insurance company and involves a series of negotiations. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas personal injury lawyer are skilled negotiators who obtain maximum compensation for our injured clients.
If the insurance company plays hardball, however, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party to seek damages. This often occurs when the insurance claims adjuster denies who was at fault for the accident or doesn’t agree with the severity of your injuries. When negotiations stall and a settlement cannot be reached, the next step is a personal injury lawsuit.
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney
It may seem easier to handle the aftermath of a car accident by yourself. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Hiring an attorney can make your life and your recovery process easier and prevent unscrupulous insurance adjusters from taking advantage of you. Some of the benefits of hiring an attorney include:
- Taking on the Insurance Company – insurance companies don’t always play fair. That’s why you need an experienced Arkansas car accident attorney to fight for you during this time. Your lawyer can take on the insurance company and ensure that they are not acting in bad faith.
- Filing Necessary Paperwork – filing a car accident claim and filing a personal injury lawsuit involve paperwork and forms. These forms must be filed properly and on-time to ensure that your case proceeds accordingly and so you obtain a favorable outcome. Improperly filed forms or failure to file the necessary paperwork can add lengthy delays to your case and prevent you from receiving the money you need.
- Not Missing Deadlines – a car accident attorney will make certain that you do not miss any critical deadlines, such as the statute of limitations. In some cases, accident victims only have a small window to file a claim, so your attorney will act quickly to meet these deadlines and protect your rights to compensation.
- Increased Compensation – those who call a lawyer receive more compensation than those who do not. Lawyers know how to build a case to show the insurance company just how much money you need to recover. They aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with large insurance companies and they will fight to make sure ALL of your medical expenses are considered – both now and in the future.
- Contingency Basis – most car accident lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means that you owe them nothing unless they win or settle your case. Any injured accident victim can seek justice after an accident – not just those who can afford it.
- Thorough Investigation – attorneys have extensive experience investigating car accidents. They often use accident recreation teams, forensic specialists, and experts to uncover all liable parties, even ones not listed in the police report, such as the car manufacturer, the city responsible for maintaining the roads, or the bar that served the intoxicated driver.
When to Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident
Usually, car accidents involving serious or long-term injuries require an attorney to get the most desirable outcome.
An experienced injury attorney can be extremely helpful in navigating the often chaotic and confusing world of insurance claims and injury settlements after a car accident. Here’s what you need to know:
- Most injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning your lawyer only gets paid if there is a successful resolution to your claim.
- An attorney brings to the table in-depth knowledge of the law, the ability to put your best case together, and comfort in the negotiation trenches when it’s time to fight for your best result.
- It can be a risk to handle a car accident claim on your own, unless your injuries are very minor and the other side is conceding fault.
A Car Accident Attorney Knows the Law
Hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you after a car accident means you will have a professional working for you—one who is extremely knowledgeable about the relevant laws and procedural rules that may affect your case.
An attorney can advise you of the shared fault rules in your state and how they might affect your case if your own negligence might have played a part in causing the accident. (Get the basics on fault for a car accident.)
An attorney will also be familiar with time limits (called statutes of limitations) that can bar you from filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. For instance, in many states you must file your lawsuit within two years of your car accident, or you’ll lose the right to take the matter to court. An attorney will also be able to inform you about any special exceptions to the statute of limitations—for minors, for example.
Your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf and will know how best to mitigate any possible defenses raised by the other side. In addition, once your case gets under way, your lawyer will play an invaluable role in preparing your case for trial—and even going to trial if your case doesn’t settle.
Even though a lawsuit is rarely necessary, the threat of legal action offers strong leverage when negotiating a fair settlement.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, having an attorney who is knowledgeable about the law evens the playing field, especially when you are going up against the experience and vast resources of a large insurance company.
A Lawyer Does the Legwork In Your Car Accident Claim
A lot of work goes into negotiating an insurance settlement, not to mention trying a personal injury lawsuit. After you’ve been in a car accident, taking on this time-consuming work might be the last thing you want to do, assuming you’re able. Handing things over to an experienced lawyer can take a lot of worry away.
Whereas this may be your first time dealing with the ins and outs of an accident claim, injury attorneys have dealt with all manner of claims and have faced the gamut of insurance company tactics. They have experience obtaining the necessary evidence to support your claim, including gathering police reports, witness statements, medical records and bills, and employment and lost wage information.
Your attorney will also be able to organize the evidence and prepare a settlement demand letter for the insurance company. If you are unable to settle your accident case, your attorney can take care of filing the necessary paperwork to start a court case and can deal with the defense attorneys on your behalf. Having a seasoned professional navigate the day to day work of your case eases the burden on you so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
A Car Accident Attorney Advocates for Your Best Result
Perhaps the most important role a car accident attorney plays is that of advocate. This means acting on your behalf and with your best interests in mind at every stage of the claim process. Whether it’s dealing with a car insurance company or presenting your case to a judge or jury, your attorney will be your champion, making sure your side of the story is heard and that you are compensated for all of your losses.
When you’re ready to find the right car accident attorney for you and your case, you can use the chat and information submission tools right on this page to connect with a legal professional near you. You can also learn more about hiring the right injury lawyer.
Should I Hire a Lawyer after a Car Accident in Georgia?
Whether you should hire a lawyer after a car accident is an important decision. You have the right to talk to a lawyer before you talk to an insurance company, but you also have the right to fight the insurance company on your own. Make an informed choice. As you decide, consider these tricks that insurance companies use against injured people who don’t hire lawyers.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. Their purpose is to make money, not to make friends, and insurance companies don’t make money when they pay money to you. They will do anything they can to avoid paying you money. While an insurance company representative may pretend to be your friend, remember the simple truth—insurance companies want to pay as little as possible to you so they can keep more money for themselves. In fact, some insurance claims representatives may get paid more if they pay you less.
Most people are not prepared for the tricks that auto insurance companies play to avoid paying a fair amount for injuries caused by car accidents. The U.S. insurance industry is rich—the industry has trillions of dollars in assets and profits that exceed $30 billion per year. Its CEOs earn more than those in other industries. The insurance companies didn’t get this wealthy by paying money to injured people—they got this rich by keeping money for themselves.
There is a good chance you will be in an automobile accident at some point or have been in one already. Over two million people suffer injuries in auto accidents each year according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report.
On this page, we first talk about when you should hire a car accident attorney (if you decide to hire one) for a car accident case. Then we address some of the more common tactics that insurance companies use to avoid paying settlements to people who have been injured in car accidents.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer for My Georgia Car Accident Case?
Whether you hire a car accident lawyer is entirely up to you. But if you decide to get an attorney for your car accident case, it’s usually best to hire one quickly – preferably the day of the collision, or a day or two afterward. There are a few reasons for that.
Legal Deadlines. There are several deadlines that you will need to meet, and a good car accident lawyer can make sure you meet them. The best-known deadline is the statute of limitations, which is generally two years in Georgia under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33 (although it is subject to certain exceptions). The statute of limitations sets the time by which your case must be filed with the trial court.
There are other, lesser-known deadlines that you also need to know about. Depending on what types of insurance are involved, an insurance policy may require that you notify the insurer about the collision “promptly” or “as soon as practical.” Deadlines like this are most common in underinsured motorist insurance policies. If a governmental entity is involved (for example, because the at-fault driver worked for the government or because of negligent roadway maintenance), then you may have to meet “ante litem” deadlines that can be as short as six months or one year.
Missing these deadlines can be a big problem. Sometimes missing a deadline can meet that you cannot win your case.
Preserving Evidence. Evidence might not last very long. One example is surveillance camera footage. In some cases, we found surveillance video from businesses near the accident that proved what happened and who was at fault. Obviously, video like that is very important, but it may not last very long. Most businesses delete or record-over their surveillance camera footage in days or weeks, so if you want your car accident lawyer to have a chance to obtain video of the collision, it’s best to move fast.
Another type of evidence is what we call “roadway evidence.” Roadway evidence includes skid marks, car accident debris (such as broken-off pieces of headlights), or wheel gouges on the shoulder of the road. If there is a dispute about who was in the wrong, it’s important to visit the scene of the collision and preserve this roadway evidence. An accident reconstruction expert can then use the roadway evidence to prove how the car accident occurred. But the evidence can disappear if a lawyer doesn’t move fast because rain, wind, and other traffic can scatter it.
The cars themselves are often evidence. The damage to the cars can show how severe the accident was, and can help an accident reconstruction expert determine how the collision happened. But again, it’s best to move fast. If the damage to the cars is important, a good car accident lawyer will want to get photographs of the cars, or have an accident reconstruction expert conduct a 3D scan of the cars, before they are repaired or crushed. That may not leave much time. If the car can be repaired, then the attorney has to get the photographs or 3D scan before the repairs are made. If the car is totaled, then the attorney has to get the photographs or 3D scan before the car is crushed and sold for scrap.
Medical Treatment. If you have personal relationships with your doctors or have good health insurance, this many not be an issue. But some people who have been hurt in car accidents may not have health insurance and may not know where to turn for medical treatment. The local emergency room or urgent care clinic can only do so much. If you need medical treatment but don’t have health insurance and don’t know where to turn, a car accident lawyer can point you in the right direction.
Witnesses.Memories can fade and witnesses can lose interest. Sometimes immediately after a car accident, witnesses are ready to come forward and share what they saw. The witness may have vivid memories of the injured person in pain, or may be angry at the at-fault driver for not paying attention. But over time, witnesses can forget about what happened and become less motivated to share what they saw. They may dread the idea of talking with lawyers or the possibility getting called to court to testify. If witness testimony is important, it is almost always best for a car accident lawyer or investigator to reach out to the witness quickly, before the witness’s memory (or motivation) fades. The attorney can often take a verbal or written statement to preserve what the witness remembers.
If you’ve decided to hire a car accident lawyer, it is usually best to act fast. Contacting a lawyer on the day of the collision, or within a few days afterward, is best. You can still hire a lawyer if you wait longer than that, but sooner is better.
If you or someone else in your car suffered personal injuries, hiring a car accident lawyer is usually a good idea. But if nobody was hurt, the answer to “when should I hire a car accident lawyer?” might be, “never!” If your car was damaged but nobody was hurt, you may be able to handle the claim by yourself. In that case, take a look at our Georgia Car Damage Manual.
Tricks that Insurance Companies Use in Car Accident Cases
1. Delay Your Car Accident Settlement
There are three benefits an insurance company may gain by delaying your case. First, they can hold onto the money longer so it’s earning interest for them instead of you. Second, as time drags on, medical bills mount, and you become desperate for cash, the chances of an insurance company settling for a low amount increase. Third, if they delay enough and you don’t act, the statute of limitations will run out, at which point you w lose all your rights to collect compensation for your injuries. Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33), the statute of limitations is often only two years to file a legal case for personal injury.
There are various delay scenarios.
The “friendly” insurance agent will trickle out small amounts of money to keep you happy in the hopes you won’t contact an attorney who would immediately recognize that the time to file your lawsuit is slipping away. The company may send you a check to fix your car, but not a check that would cover your current and future medical expenses.
The insurance company may ask for more medical records to “analyze.” They may promise they are trying their best on your behalf to close the case and pay you. Of course, once you provide the requested records, they will tell you they need some other information before they can offer you a full payment. This can go on and on. But once the statute of limitations has run out, you have lost all your rights, and you’ve lost them permanently. Those little checks and the promise of a bigger pay-off will immediately stop.
They may simply not respond or pick up their phone, leaving you to wonder what is happening with your case. This may be an attempt to push you off until the statute of limitations runs out or it may simply be that the company has not hired enough adjusters to service its customers.
From the perspective of a car accident lawyer, one of the most irritating tactics that insurance companies use is trying to talk people out of hiring lawyers by falsely claiming that a lawyer will “drag it out.” That is a self-serving statement that literally makes no sense. Car accident lawyers like our firm charge nothing up front, and our legal fee is a percentage of the final payout. In other words, we don’t get paid until you do. So why in the world would we want to drag your case out? That would be not only bad for you, but bad for us as well!
No car accident lawyer wants to “drag your case out,” as insurance companies sometimes claim. That would make no sense. It’s just something insurance companies say when they’re hoping to talk you out of hiring a lawyer.
Ask yourself this: why is the insurance company trying to talk you out of hiring a lawyer?
Many people don’t realize how important it is to prepare a case for trial, even if your goal is to settle the case with the insurance company. Being ready to try the case in front of a jury is the ultimate weapon, and it is usually an accident victim’s only real weapon. If an insurance company knows that you (and your lawyer) are ready and willing to go to trial, then they know they have to pay you the full amount. But if an insurance company knows or suspects that the injured person is unable or unwilling to take a case all the way to trial, the insurance company won’t pay the full value of the claim. Why would they? If an injured person is unable to take the case to trial because he or she has not hired a lawyer, then the insurance company knows that the person will eventually have to take whatever amount the insurance company offers—even if it is too low.
Of course the insurance company won’t come out and tell you that. They want you to think that they’re going to do what’s right, and pay the full value of a claim, even if you aren’t able or willing to take the case to trial. They say that because they’re hoping that they can offer less than the full amount you’re entitled to, and you’ll take the money because you don’t realize they’re lowballing you. But think about the insurance company’s real goals. Will the insurance company make more money for itself if it pays you the full amount, or if it pays you less?
3. Pretend that They Don’t have to Pay the Medical Bills from the Car Accident
Car insurance companies often pretend that if a medical insurance company or a worker’s compensation policy has paid for your medical bills, then the car insurance doesn’t have to compensate you for them. That’s wrong. In Georgia, the at-fault driver (or the at-fault driver’s insurance company) has to compensate an injured person for his or her medical bills, even if the injured person had medical insurance. The reason is that someone who causes a collision or hurts someone else should not get a ‘discount’ on the damage that he or she caused just because the injured person was smart enough to have insurance.
Here’s something else the car insurance companies won’t tell you—after your case is over, your medical insurance company or worker’s compensation insurer can come after you and claim that you have to pay them back for the medical procedures that they covered. That process is called subrogation. And if the car insurance company didn’t pay you for your medical bills, where does that leave you? The car insurance company paid you just a little bit of money (for “pain and suffering,” maybe), and now your health insurance company or worker’s compensation insurer is telling you that you have to give that money back to them to cover your medical bills. That leaves you in a hole.
In this video clip from a car accident trial in Georgia, Butler Law Firm’s lawyer describes the wreck during opening statement.
4. Under-Count the Medical Bills Caused by the Car Accident
Medical treatment providers like hospitals, doctors, or surgical centers send their bills in unusual ways. For instance, if you went to the emergency room, you probably have multiple bills arising from that one visit. The ambulance company will send one bill, the hospital will send a second bill, and the ER doctors will send a third bill. Surgeries work the same way: the doctor who performed the surgery will send one bill, the hospital or facility where the surgery was performed will send a second bill, and the anesthesiologist will probably send a third. You are entitled to be compensated for all of those bills.
Car insurance companies know that, but they probably won’t tell you about it. They may identify only one or two bills, and claim that’s all they have to pay you for. You may not find out until after your case is settled that the insurance company didn’t cover all the bills that it was supposed to. By then, it’s too late. You’ve been lowballed.
5. The “Causation” Defense: Claim that the Car Accident Didn’t Cause Your Injuries
Car insurance companies often try to make you think they’re being nice or reasonable by admitting certain things. They may admit that their driver caused the wreck, and say that they’ll pay you something because of that. They may admit that you had treatment or a surgery after the collision. But later in the process, they may pull the so-called “causation” defense. That means they’ll argue that your injuries were caused by something other than the accident, and therefore they shouldn’t have to pay you the full amount.
Insurance companies do this a lot. They’ll dig through your medical records for years or even decades before the accident, trying to find some medical record from somewhere in your past that they can say proves that you already had this injury. Or they’ll claim that some event after the collision is what caused the injury, so they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Sometimes they just say “your age” is the cause of your ailing back. In many cases, the insurance company will hire a radiologist—that is, someone who reads MRIs—to look at your MRI and claim that the injury looks old, so it must not have been caused by this accident. Insurance companies pay these radiologists hundreds of thousands of dollars (or even, over the course of years, millions of dollars), so some dishonest radiologists will say pretty much whatever the insurance companies want.
Our best tool to fight these well-paid “experts” that insurance companies hire is cross-examination. Watch the video below to see what we’re talking about.
This video comes from Butler Law Firm’s cross-examination of a hired-gun radiologist named Barry Jeffries. Watch and see how much money the insurance companies have paid him.
6. Use Normal Pleasantries Against You to Blame You for the Car Accident
After a wreck, it is natural to be polite and look after the other person, even if that person was at fault. Unfortunately, sometimes if you tell the other person not to worry or kindly suggest the collision wasn’t the other person’s fault, their insurance company may try to use your kindness against you. The insurance company may claim that your statement implied that you were not really injured or were admitting to fault–even if that is not what you meant.
Even if the accident is clearly not your fault, Georgia is a comparative negligence state, which means your compensation will be reduced by the percentage you are to blame. (You are barred from collecting anything if you are 50% or more to blame). The other party’s insurance company will do everything they can to show you are partly at fault, because that reduces their pay-out. In other words, by blaming you, the insurance company keeps more money for itself.
7. Pressure Before You Have Had Time to Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer
Soon after a collision, you may be contacted by both your insurance company and the other person’s insurance company. Remember: you do not have to speak with them before you talk with a lawyer. The insurance company may push you into accepting a low settlement that is unlikely to cover your real expenses, which will still be rolling in. They may also record what you say in hopes that they can find something to use against you later.
The insurance adjuster may tell you that you must accept a settlement agreement by a particular date. Don’t listen. Much of the time, that’s just not true. Insurance companies may make say that to people who do not have lawyers because they’re hoping to force the injured person to settle before he or she has a chance to hire a good lawyer. Once an injured person hires a lawyer, the insurance company knows it’ll have to pay more.
8. Demand that You Provide a Recorded Statement Describing the Car Accident
The insurance company may demand that you provide a written or recorded statement within a certain period of time. The insurance adjuster may tell you that they cannot start their claims process before you make a statement. This can be a trap. If they get you talking, the insurance company can ask leading questions in hopes of getting you to say something they can use against your case later.
Consider consulting with a good Georgia personal injury lawyer before you talk to the insurance company. You have the right to talk with a lawyer before giving any statement, recorded or not, to the insurance company. Don’t make a statement when you are still upset, angry, or emotional about the accident.
If you make a statement too soon after an accident, some of your injuries may not yet be apparent because the initial shock and pain can mask other symptoms. Later, when doctors find other injuries or the pain starts to appear and you tell the insurance company about the medical issues, the insurance company may claim that you are lying.
In fact, there is usually no requirement that you make a statement to the insurance company at all. If you’re dealing with the other driver’s insurance company, then they have no right to force you to give a recorded statement. The only circumstance in which a recorded statement might be required is if you are negotiating with your own insurance company (such as an underinsured motorist or “UM” insurer), and giving such a statement is a part of the policy conditions to which you agreed when you signed up for the insurance.
You definitely don’t have to make a statement on a deadline unilaterally set by the insurance company. In fact, you have the right to speak with an attorney before talking with the insurance company at all.
9. Act Concerned for Your Welfare to Get a Quick, Cheap Car Accident Settlement
Insurance representatives—often called insurance “adjusters”—are not your friends. Adjusters may try to settle early and act as though they are giving you a great deal by agreeing to pay your medical bills to date and throw in a few thousand more. Not so fast. What about future medical bills? Lost earning capacity? Lost work, or the value of the vacation and sick days you had to take?
Remember that you can only settle once. After a settlement, if your injury gets worse or starts acting up again, you can’t ‘re-open’ the case or claim to obtain additional compensation. So be careful—and know your rights. When an insurance company says “early settlement,” that often really means “lowball settlement.”
10. Lead You to Believe They Are Willing to Pay Everything from the Car Accident
To keep you from talking with a good lawyer, insurance companies often claim they will “accept fault” or “accept liability” and pay your bills. That’s a bait-and-switch. What the insurance company doesn’t tell you is that they were going to have to “admit fault” anyway, especially if you were rear-ended or the police officer wrote a ticket to the other driver. The insurance company also may not tell you that they’re going to try to avoid paying for your future medical bills, for your pain and suffering, or even for the full amount of your past medical bills. They may “admit fault,” but they’re going to nickel-and-dime you.
Insurance companies often suggest or hint that you should not hire a lawyer because “lawyers charge too much” or “a smart person like you doesn’t need help.” That should tell you all you need to know about the insurance company’s true intentions. They want to keep you from hiring an attorney because if you do hire a good personal injury lawyer, the insurance company will have to pay more.
n this video clip from a trucking accident deposition, Butler Law Firm cross-examined the owner of the trucking company about who was responsible for the collision.
11. Deny Your Car Accident Claim Outright
Imagine making deliveries for your employer on Peachtree Street when suddenly a truck causes a collision that almost crushes you. This is what happened to Ethel Adams who had a $2 million policy with a subsidiary of Farmers Insurance in Seattle Washington. She almost died and suffered permanent and life-altering injuries that left her in a wheelchair. When she finally woke from her coma, she discovered that her insurance company was denying her claim on the grounds that the incident was not an accident, but rather a purposeful act.
In fact, denying claims was systemic in the company. Farmers Insurance actively awarded adjusters who met low payment goals by offering them an incentive program that included gift certificates and pizza parties. In other words, Farmers Insurance—which runs commercials where it pretends to be your friend—was giving gift certificates and pizza parties to insurance adjusters who underpaid people who had been hurt.
Other times, the insurance company may deny that it provides insurance coverage for an accident, then conceal the evidence about why. In one recent case, the truck that struck our client (who was a pedestrian) was owned by a car dealership, meaning that the car dealership’s insurance company had to provide coverage for our client’s injuries. But the insurance company denied coverage and claimed that the truck had already been sold at the time of the accident—then refused to show us the sale documents or any other proof of when the sale had occurred. Here is the email exchange with the insurance company. We followed up with a demand for the full insurance policy.
The lesson for us is clear—an insurance company’s goal is not to pay you money, but to keep the money for itself.
12. Dispute the Severity of Your Injuries and Your Medical Expenses from the Accident
Whatever you do regarding your medical care, the insurance company will try to spin it. They will even dispute treatments ordered by your doctor. If you get a lot of medical treatment, the insurance company may say you didn’t need it, and are faking it to build a case. If you get just a little medical treatment, they may say that your injuries are slight.
If you’re hurt, it’s see a doctor immediately. You only have one body, and you need to take care of it Some people like to put off seeing the doctor, in hopes of ‘toughing it out’ and hoping their injuries will heal on their own. Unfortunately, when people wait even a few days to see a doctor, the insurance company often claims that the person’s injuries must not have been serious. The insurance company may also claim that any injuries the doctor diagnosed did not occur in the wreck, but must have occurred after the collision.
In reality, you may have thought the pain would subside after a week or so, and didn’t want to make a big deal of your accident. When it didn’t subside, or when you didn’t regain your mobility, you may have decided it’s time to see a doctor after all. But by that time, your hesitance has given the insurance company ammunition. Remember, your health comes first. Get the amount of medical treatment that your doctor recommends and take care of your health. But don’t wait to do it.
13. Claim Your Injuries from the Car Accident Were Already There
Insurance companies routinely blame injuries suffered in accidents on what they call “pre-existing conditions.” Basically, even if the accident was not your fault, the insurance company will claim that you already had the injury before the collision happened, and for that reason, they should not have to pay anything. This is particularly true if you ever had an injury to a body part that was re-injured in the accident. Don’t sign anything giving the insurance company general medical authorization to dig through all your unrelated medical records so they can look for ways to trip you up. Talk to your attorney before ever signing anything with an insurance company following an accident.
This video clip comes from the testimony of our client’s doctor. Here, the doctor discusses how car accidents can cause back or spine injuries. We took this testimony, in what is called a “deposition,” so that we could show it to the jury at trial if necessary.
14. Spy on You
Insurance companies don’t just take the information about your accident and medical condition and then do what’s right. If it’s a big enough case, they may assign an investigator to try to get secret video footage of you anytime you leave your house, hoping to find something that they can use against you. They call this “surveillance,” but we call it by its real name—spying. Insurance companies may also monitor your social media in the hope of finding photos or video that they can use against you.
When we catch an insurance company spying on our client, we go after them. We first demand that the spy appear for a deposition (the spy usually hates this). Then if the spy comes to trial, we cross-examine him in front of the jury like in this court transcript.
Does an insurance company spying on people and internet-stalking them sound creepy to you? It sounds creepy to us. Insurance companies do it all the time.
15. Claim You Have Less Car Insurance Coverage than You Actually Do
Don’t take the word of an insurance company employee when they tell you that an expense of your accident is not covered. Insurance policies can be complicated, and insurance companies often pretend that there is “no coverage” when there really is. A good personal injury lawyer can help untangle the legal issues related to your car accident lawsuit.
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