If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may not have any idea where to start. You may be in severe pain, unable to work, or get around without your car. It’s natural to want to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.
And the insurance company will be more than willing to accommodate you. It’s not unusual for car accident victims in South Florida to receive a settlement offer within 24 hours of the car accident that caused their injuries. However, rushing to settlement is almost always a mistake for the accident victim — especially if they have severe injuries.
If you’ve been hurt in a motor vehicle accident, contact the Pompano Beach law firm of Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. for a free no-obligation consultation. We can answer all of your questions, and if you have a viable claim, we can offer you immediate representation on a contingency basis. In the meantime, here are 10 tips for dealing with the insurance company after a car accident.
1. Do Not Make a Statement
Insurance claims adjusters will frequently ask you to make a recorded statement as part of their “standard operating procedure” for making a claim. While it is likely that you will eventually have to go on record in order to receive compensation from the insurance company, you do not have to provide a statement on their timetable, and you should never go on record without legal representation.
It’s also important that you avoid making verbal statements like, “I was going a little fast” or “I’m partially at fault.” These seemingly reasonable admissions can be used by the insurance company to reduce the amount of your claim.
2. Seek Medical Attention Before Making a Claim
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s essential to get the medical attention you require. Even if you feel unharmed, you should still allow EMTs to examine and follow up with your doctor. Getting medical attention is your first priority, and it should precede any conversations with the insurance company.
If you’re concerned about medical bills, the minimum PIP insurance coverage will pay 80% of all covered medical expenses up to $10,000. Your policy may, of course, have greater coverage amounts. In other words, do not forgo a medical examination because you’re concerned that it’s not part of your coverage.
3. Retain Witness Information
When you’ve been involved in an accident, it’s not uncommon for you and the other party to have different versions of events. For instance, in many intersection accidents, both parties will claim to have had a green light. Without corroborating evidence, it’s difficult for the police on scene — let alone accident investigators reviewing the crash weeks later — to determine who actually had the right of way. Insurance companies can use this uncertainty to reduce or deny your claim. If you are fortunate enough to have an independent witness, make certain to retain their contact information.
4. Retain Copies of All Documents
If you’ve been involved in a crash with injuries, there will be a seemingly endless stream of documents. The police will provide you with a case card and/or a driver’s exchange form, the EMTs will provide you with a copy of their report, the tow company will give you a tow slip, and if you go to the hospital, there will be various forms, bills, and discharge papers. Keep all of these documents in a file and create backups. It might be helpful to scan them and email them to yourself. That way, they exist both physically and electronically.
5. Take Photos at the Crash Scene
Within minutes of your car accident, the scene will begin to change. If you can, start taking pictures with your cellphone from a safe vantage point. These pictures should include any damage on all cars involved, debris on the roadway, visible injuries, geographic indicators (roadsigns, landmarks, nearby businesses, etc.), skid marks, paint transfer, road hazards, and anything else that might help an accident reconstruction expert gain a better understanding of what the scene looked like. Make sure to back up these photos at your earliest convenience.
Oftentimes, insurance companies will argue that the injury victim’s claims are exaggerated. Having photographic evidence can eliminate any misunderstandings.
6. Do Not Delay Filing
While you shouldn’t be overly concerned about filing with your insurance company on the scene, you also should not delay filing. While the car accident statute of limitations in Florida is four years from the date of the accident in most cases, there are other issues with delayed filing. For example, it may be more difficult to track down witnesses, and they may not clearly recall the details of the accident after time. Video evidence from pole cameras or storefront security cameras may be written over. Additionally, if you retain the services of an attorney, they will need time to prepare a case.
7. Do Not Try to Negotiate On Your Own
It’s important that you don’t try to negotiate with insurance adjusters without representation. You may inadvertently harm your case by making inaccurate, unprovable, or incredulous statements. If you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company that you believe is inadequate, just refuse to accept it and contact the professional personal injury lawyers at Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. about your claim. We can review your settlement offer free of charge.
8. Avoid Posting About Your Case on Social Media
You should not discuss any aspect of your case on social media, and be careful about your posts that aren’t case related. For example, a harmless statement meant to put your friends and relatives at ease, like “Recovering nicely from the accident,” could be used by the defense to minimize your injuries. Even a non-case-related post, like a picture of you picking your child up, may be presented as evidence during litigation. Be mindful that your posts — even private posts — may have an impact on your case.
9. Talk to an Attorney as Early as Possible
When you hire Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. to represent you in your pursuit of justice, our law firm will act as a single point of contact between you and the insurance company. That alone will help you avoid many of the pitfalls that commonly adversely affect insurance claims. In addition, your attorney will provide the following services:
- Calculate all economic and pain and suffering damages.
- Subpoena and depose all witnesses, including the at-fault party.
- Hire medical experts and accident reconstruction experts.
- Review all discovery evidence provided by the defense.
- Issue letters of protection to doctors, so you can defer medical costs until your case settles.
- File a letter of demand with the insurance company.
- Review all settlement offers from the insurer or defense counsel.
- File pretrial motions to ensure a fair trial should litigation become necessary.
While this may seem like a substantial amount of work for our law firm, you will never pay out of pocket for our legal services. We collect our fees only after the case settles or we win through litigation.
10. Exercise Patience
Accident victims have an overwhelming temptation to settle quickly. However, this is often counter to their best interests. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help mitigate the anxiety that accompanies personal injury cases by providing realistic timelines and frequent updates. This way, accident victims can focus on their recovery, knowing that their legal case is in the hands of professionals.
FAQs for Dealing With Insurance Companies After a Car Accident
These are some of the most common questions that our attorneys hear from car accident clients. For specific answers to your question, contact Long, Jean, and Wechsler, P.A. for a free consultation.
What if the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
If you have even the minimum insurance policy required by the state, you will be covered up to $10,000 for your injuries. Many drivers have policies with higher insurance limits and uninsured motorist coverage. In that case, your policy may cover more of your damages.
If I Have Minor or Moderate Injuries, Why Can’t I Just Settle On My Own?
This might seem like a much simpler and faster way to receive compensation, but there are several reasons why this is not the best course of action:
- Your injuries may cause you health complications after time. If you settle quickly, and a new condition resulting from the accident arises, you will not be able to go back and settle your claim.
- The insurance company may not include all economic and non-economic damages in their settlement offer. Usually, they will cover all existing medical bills, property damage, and lost wages, to date. You may be entitled to much more.
- You will have to sign a waiver of liability in order to accept a settlement offer. This will guarantee that you will NOT be able to pursue further damages if your expenses are more than originally anticipated.
LJW Legal can review any outstanding settlement offer by the insurance company. In most cases, these offers are a fraction of what the claimant is entitled to. Contact our Pompano office today for a free consultation.