If you have been in a car accident, the insurance company may use a variety of tactics to avoid paying you as much as your claim should be worth. This includes blaming you, minimizing your injuries, delaying, and other tricks. Not every insurer will do this in every case but it’s common enough that you need to know what to watch for. Car insurance companies are profit-making businesses, and they are motivated to keep their costs down and their profits high. As a result, no insurance company wants to pay more money than it has to—and its adjusters and representatives are highly trained in ways to avoid paying you.
Here are 10 of the most common tactics to watch out for:
- The recorded statement. In the days after the accident, the insurance company may ask to record your responses to some questions about the way the accident happened and your injuries. You are NOT legally required to give a recorded statement, and it’s almost always a bad idea. The insurance representative will ask questions designed to trick you into saying something that will hurt your claim. Remember, once you say something that’s recorded, those words will be part of the case forever—even if you got something wrong or feel misled. Always talk to a lawyer before you make a statement on tape.
- Calling to see how you’re doing. The insurance company may also call just to see how you’re doing. This seems like a friendly, casual call. Most people don’t like to complain, so you may say you’re feeling better, or that things aren’t that bad. But that’s what the insurance company wants you to day. They can then use what you said to minimize what they have to pay you.
- Making an offer right away. You may be surprised at how fast the insurance company offers you money. But think about it – do you have any idea what your injuries are going to cost? If you don’t know yet, then neither does the insurance company. They’re offering you “fast money” hoping that they’ll settle your claim on the cheap. Always talk to a lawyer before you take insurance money.
- Delaying. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the insurance company that does nothing for weeks, or sometimes longer. It hopes you’ll start to feel panicked because there’s no money coming in, and then take whatever small offer they finally do make. This is a particularly devastating tactic because it relies on the pressure you feel as debt piles up. But you do have a way out. A lawyer can help get the insurance company to focus on your claim and offer a reasonable amount.
- Claiming the accident was partly your fault. Georgia is a “comparative fault” state, meaning that if the accident is partly your fault, you cannot recover as much money for your injuries. You can still recover as long as you were less than 50 percent to blame, but your recovery will be reduced by your proportion of fault, potentially costing you a lot of money. For example, if you had $10,000 of costs but were 30 percent at fault, you would only be able to recover $7,000. A car accident lawyer can investigate your case and make as strong a case as possible showing the insurance company that the accident was not your fault.
- Claiming your injuries weren’t caused by the accident. The insurance company only has to pay for injuries that you have because of the accident. If you wait too long to get medical attention, the insurance company may try to claim your injuries were caused by something else. This is why it is important to see a doctor and get a diagnosis right away.
- Claiming you are exaggerating your injuries. Some of the most common car accident injuries tend to start as minor complaints and then grow worse over time. Whiplash is the classic example of this. The insurance company knows this, but it may still accuse you of exaggerating things.
- Sending you to the wrong doctor. The insurance company may send you to a doctor for evaluation. But this doctor may be more concerned with the profits of the insurance company than with giving you a full and thorough diagnosis. Always get your own medical opinion. A car accident lawyer can help you find a doctor who is trained to evaluate your type of injuries.
- Making you sign a release. When you accept money from an insurance company, you’ll also be asked to sign paperwork. This paperwork releases the insurance company from any further obligations to you – meaning that if you find out the settlement wasn’t enough to pay your costs, you cannot get more money.
- Not offering you money for pain and suffering, or offering you less than you should receive. Unlike your out-of-pocket costs, “pain and suffering” is hard to put a dollar value on. And many accident victims don’t really understand all the things that might be included in a “pain and suffering” claim. In fact, pain and suffering can greatly increase your financial award. To make sure you are being treated fairly, it is critical to talk to a car accident law firm around Atlanta, Georgiabefore you agree to any insurance company offer.
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