Legal Resource Blog
The following articles and notes may provide helpful legal information oriented to aid persons who have been involved in a collision.
Dealing With the Aftermath of an Injury
Exercise Caution When Speaking With Insurance Adjusters Following an Accident
By David Holub / Published on June 26th, 2008
There are two types of insurance adjusters that most people who are involved in automobile accidents will encounter after a collision: The ones who are against you, and the ones who are really, really, really against you. But most importantly, you will never deal with an insurance adjuster who is for you or on your side following a collision. Why is this? Because adjusters, whether hired by your own insurance carrier, or the insurance carrier for the other driver, both have a goal, and that goal is to serve their employers and save them money. Let’s examine these two types of adjusters.
Your Own Insurance Carriers’ Adjuster
These are the adjusters who are merely against you. You have to report an accident to your own insurance carrier, so you will have to deal with them. They will always be pleasant, and they may seem to be on your side, but be cautious. For example, if asked, “how are you today?” simply reporting, “fine” or “pretty good,” is a mistake if the truth is that you aren’t feeling all that well and you intend to see your doctor. Responses like, “I am good” will get noted in the adjusters’ file. Later, if you need to make a claim for medical payments benefits, or uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits, an ill-advised answer to a seemingly innocuous question can hamper your attorney in his or her effort to obtain a fair settlement for you. Nonetheless, most insurance policies require that you cooperate with your own carrier and their adjusters, so you must respond and you must cooperate. The caution that is required is that you be accurate and mindful that what you say is being noted. So, if you are hurt, say so. Don’t just say, “I’m fine, how are you?”
The Other Driver’s Insurance Carrier
These are the ones who are really, really, really against you. More often than not, they too will be pleasant. They will want to get “your statement” as to how the accident happened. They will want to know who is at fault, who was hurt, and who wasn’t. The important thing to remember is to politely decline to comply with these requests for information. Simply give them the name and number of your attorney. If you don’t have an attorney, then tell them you intend to contact one and then hang up. Under no circumstances should you give them statements about what happened, or sign authorizations for them to speak with your doctor, or your employer, etc., without first considering the situation carefully. The adjuster for the other drivers’ insurance carrier can be expected to do everything in his or her power to get you to sign a release and settle your claim for a minimal amount. If they cannot do that, they can be expected to do everything in their power to document that you “feel fine” or to learn facts that would suggest that you were at fault for the collision as opposed to their driver. Any information you give them, such as whether you had your seatbelt on, were listening to your radio, had a cell phone, were eating a hamburger, etc., will get documented in their file and will be used against you at a later date. You have no obligation whatsoever to cooperate with these types of adjusters and ought to consider them as your adversary. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you if your injuries prove to be substantial and a lawsuit must be filed.
Since the adjusters for the insurance carrier for the other driver do better speaking to people who do not know their rights, frequently, adjusters will hint that if you retain a lawyer, it will make it more difficult to settle a claim with them. This is rarely, if ever, true and is often simply used as a way to entice you to continue to speak. Having a lawyer may make it more difficult for the adjuster to convince you to take a lower number to settle your case, but it will not impact a fair resolution of your claim. Additionally, the adjuster may hint that if you do not provide them the information they want and decide to go to see a lawyer, they will force your case to trial and will not settle it. This again is a tactic to simply try to get you to give the information they desire. There is only one reason they would like to continue to deal with a person who has not had legal advice, and that reason is that the person without an advisor is at a disadvantage.
Things to Do in the Event of an Injury
Getting Your Property Damage Claim Paid After a Collision
By: David Holub / Published on June 16th, 2009
If you have been involved in a collision in Indiana that is not your fault and your car suffers property damage you may have several options for getting the money needed to make the repairs. Your options will depend on the extent and nature of the insurance coverage on the vehicles involved in the crash.
Assuming you are driving a vehicle that is not a “beater” and you have collision coverage, you can make a claim with your own insurance carrier for the damage to your vehicle. This will usually result in prompt payment, but, you will lose the amount of your deductible, at least initially. If your carrier pays you, it will most likely “subrogate” against the insurance carrier for the vehicle that hit you and recover the money it paid to you. As part of the recovery, your own company usually will ask for a recovery of your deductible, and if it is paid, your own company will refund the money to you.
If you do not have collision coverage, or you simply choose to pursue the other driver’s insurance carrier directly, you often will be able to get the other driver’s carrier to pay for repairs, but only if fault for the collision clearly rests with the other driver. Under this option, you will not have to deal meet a deductible. You are entitled to full repair cost reimbursement by the other driver’s carrier.
Under either scenario the insurance adjuster will thoroughly analyze what happened in the accident. Photos will be taken and the vehicle will be examined. In either case, you should take pictures of the damage.
If there is a dispute as to which driver is at fault, your best option is to deal with your own insurance carrier. Your carrier is required to pay you regardless of fault if you have collision protection coverage on the car. Even where fault is clear, if there is severe damage to the car, expect the other driver’s insurance carrier to either argue that the vehicle should be considered a “total loss” (cost of repair is more than pre-accident vehicle value), or not, depending on which argument will cost the company the least money. Also, claims involving a “total loss” usually take time because there is room to argue over the vehicle’s value.
Another component to consider is the loss of use of your vehicle during the time it takes to repair it or to give you the fair value if it is a total loss. This component of loss is usually compensated by giving you a rental vehicle or the value of a rental vehicle. If you have not purchased rental coverage for your vehicle, then your insurance carrier does not have to reimburse you for this loss. If you are proceeding against the other driver’s carrier, be sure to discuss loss of use or rental value as an item of damage that you are entitled to recover.
Lastly, but most importantly, if you are injured, be very careful in discussing your property damage claim with the other driver’s carrier. Do not let the adjuster minimize your injuries. Do not simply respond “I’m fine” to a seemingly innocent question of “how are you doing today”? If you do have injuries, it is important to talk to a lawyer about your rights. Many attorneys are happy to advise you on how to handle the property damage yourself, without charging a fee, and will represent you on your injury claim, which will be more complicated and pose many traps for the unwary.