After being injured in an auto accident, you almost always have to deal with insurers. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses primarily concerned with protecting their own bottom lines. In other words, they are not to be trusted when it comes to paying you the compensation you deserve. Even your own insurer is not your friend.
If you are approached by an insurance adjuster after an accident, the following tips will help protect your right to compensation:
- Do not say anything that could be taken as an admission of fault.
- Keep your conversation brief and do not provide a recorded statement.
- Do not agree to any settlement offer or sign any documents.
Though following these tips will go a long way in protecting you from unscrupulous insurers, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect your rights after an auto accident.
The attorneys at Butler Kahn are ready to evaluate your case, make sure you know your rights, and protect you from greedy insurers. Call today for a free consultation. Read on for more tips on how to deal with insurance adjusters after a car accident.
Why Should I Be Cautious When Dealing With Insurance Companies After a Crash?
However, insurance companies are not to be trusted. As for-profit businesses interested in protecting their own bottom lines, insurers are highly incentivized to pay out as little as possible within the bounds of the law when processing claims. This means you need to be extremely mindful of what you say to an insurance adjuster after an accident, as they will look for as many reasons as possible not to pay the compensation you deserve.
You could try to handle your insurance claim yourself. However, having a knowledgeable personal injury attorney representing you at the negotiation table will significantly improve your chances of securing maximum compensation. This is especially true when major injuries result in enormous medical bills or when your case is factually complex. Securing legal representation in these situations will ensure that your rights are protected.
Insurance Adjusters Are Not Your Friend
Insurance companies like to create the impression that they exist to serve your needs. However, they exist first to make a profit for their shareholders. The less helpful they are, as measured by paying claims, the more money they make.
In a two-car accident, two different insurance adjusters may be involved unless both drivers are insured by the same company. In an accident involving an uninsured driver, a hit-and-run, or a single-car accident, the insurance adjuster who works for your company will probably be the only adjuster who handles your claim.
If you make a claim against your own insurance company, pursuant to your uninsured motorist coverage, your insurer will assign an adjuster to handle your claim. Whether or not you make a claim against another driver’s insurance company, you may also want to make a claim against your own company for property damage. This is pursuant to your collision coverage or for medical expenses pursuant to your medical payments coverage.
Whether the adjuster is employed by your insurance company or the other driver’s insurer, their job is to minimize the payment their company will make. Your own insurance company is supposed to take care of your needs fairly, but that does not always happen. Whereas, an adjuster working for another driver’s insurance company has no obligation to be fair to you.
Tips for Talking to an Insurance Adjuster After a Georgia Car Accident
As a general rule, let your lawyer handle most of the communication with insurers after an accident. That said, many people only hire legal counsel after they are first contacted by insurers. If you are contacted by an insurance adjuster after an accident and have not yet hired an attorney, the following tips will help you protect your right to compensation:
- Keep the conversation brief – Most insurance policies require that you report your injuries within a certain amount of time after the accident. Failure to do so may disqualify you from receiving compensation.
However, when making your report, you do not have to explain everything that happened in depth. Keep it brief. Stick to the basic facts. Do not speculate about the cause of the crash. Simply inform the insurance adjuster that your attorney will provide more information at a later date.
- Do not admit fault – Do not apologize for the accident or say anything that might be construed as an admission of fault. Even if you did not cause the accident, you might feel guilty about the situation.
No matter how sorry you feel, do not give the insurance any room to speculate that you may be even partially responsible for the accident. If you do, you will undermine your own case and compromise your right to compensation.
- Do not provide a recorded statement – When they call, insurance adjusters will nearly always ask you to let them record the phone conversation. They may mislead you into thinking that their motives are neutral. For example, they may suggest that they are simply trying to provide “quality assurance.”
Do not fall for this trap. Once the insurance company has your recorded statement, they will use it against you when negotiating a settlement. They may even try to confuse you and twist your words so that they can contradict you down the road.
- Report your injuries accurately – Talking about your injuries with an insurance company can be tricky. It requires that you tread a fine line between saying too little and saying too much.
On the one hand, you should list every injury you have suffered in the accident, no matter how small. Failure to report an injury can jeopardize your ability to be compensated in full. On the other hand, do not exaggerate your injuries, as doing so damages your credibility.
- Do not release your medical records – There is a good chance the insurance company will ask you to sign a release form so they get a copy of your medical records after the crash. They will say that they are simply trying to verify your injuries.
However, signing an open-ended release means the insurance company has access to your entire medical history. Once they have access to all your records, they can look for prior injuries and other evidence to undermine your claim. Do not give them this power. Your attorney can review your records first and send them to the adjuster when the time is right.
- Do not accept a first settlement offer – There is a good chance the insurance adjuster will make a settlement offer during your initial conversation. You should politely reject this offer without hesitation.
Insurance companies never open with their best offer. However, if you accept a lowball offer, there is no going back. Therefore, do not agree to any settlement offers without speaking to a lawyer first.
Should I Notify My Insurance Company?
If you drove your car into a telephone pole, you probably shouldn’t notify your insurance company. If the deductible on your collision coverage would exceed the repair cost, you will gain nothing but a premium increase by telling your insurer about the accident. However, if you damaged the pole, you’ll need to report the accident to the police.
If you collided with another vehicle and you or the other driver were injured, your insurance policy will probably require you to report the collision. The policy will require you to report the accident especially if you damaged the other driver’s vehicle. If you don’t notify your insurance, you might lose their protection.
Of course, if you want to make a claim against your company’s uninsured motorist or property damage coverage, you’ll need to promptly notify your insurance company about the potential claim.
If you are uncertain about the best course of action, you can get advice from an Atlanta car accident lawyer. The attorney can notify your insurance company on your behalf.
Should I Make a Statement to the Insurance Adjuster?
If you are dealing with an adjuster from your own insurance company, your policy probably imposes a duty to cooperate with the adjuster’s investigation.
Your best approach in dealing with a claims adjuster from your own company is to tell the adjuster that you will be happy to answer questions at a more convenient time. You should take a telephone number and promise to call the adjuster within the next few days.
Your next call should be to your attorney so he or she can give you advice on how to answer the insurance adjuster’s questions. If you are making a claim for personal injuries against your uninsured motorist coverage, your lawyer will want to be present whenever you talk to the adjuster.
If you are dealing with an adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company, you have no duty to cooperate. Your best bet is to tell the adjuster that you have retained or plan to retain, a car accident attorney. Take the adjuster’s name and number and tell the adjuster that your attorney will be in touch. Let your lawyer take it from there.
The Importance of Notifying Your Insurance Carrier Immediately After an Accident
If you have been involved in an auto accident in Atlanta, after you get checked out by doctors and get necessary medical treatment, one important thing you do, although preferably your lawyer will do for you, is notify your insurance carrier. However, don’t ever agree to a recorded statement—must give notice of the accident.
It is a good idea to first speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you talk with any insurance company so that you can better prepare yourself for the questions you will be asked, and more importantly, an Atlanta car accident lawyer can and will notify the insurance company for you. The reason you and your lawyer need to notify your insurance company is that failure to do so can result in loss of insurance coverage. A recent non-precedential case from the Georgia Court of Appeals reinforces the importance of this. See Bramley v. Nationwide Affinity Insurance Co. of Amer., Case No. A18A0009 (Ga. App. May 7, 2018). If you or a family member has been injured in an auto accident in Georgia, you should contact a dedicated and proven Atlanta personal injury attorney.
Bramley v. Nationwide Affinity Insurance Co
On August 17, 2015, the plaintiff, Jennifer Bramley, was struck by another driver while driving. She did not seek medical treatment at the time, but one to two weeks after the collision, she went to see a neurologist for back pain she was experiencing. During the following weeks and months, Bramley continued to experience pain in her lower back and legs and the pain prevented her from working.
In the spring of 2016, Bramley filed a lawsuit against the driver of the other vehicle and, on April 20, 2016, a notice of that pending lawsuit was sent to Bramley’s insurance carrier, Nationwide. However, the other driver was underinsured, and eventually, Bramley sought coverage from Nationwide under her own insurance policy, which provided coverage for damages or injury caused by an underinsured or uninsured motorist.
In response, Nationwide pointed to provisions in Bramley’s insurance policy that required Bramley to “submit written proof of the claim to [Nationwide] immediately after the loss.” The policy provided that “no legal action may be brought against [Nationwide] concerning any of the coverages provided until the insured has fully complied with all the terms of the policy.” Since Bramley waited more than eight months to notify Nationwide, Nationwide argued that Bramley did not comply with the policy and, therefore, Nationwide was not liable under the underinsured motorist provisions. Nationwide argued that, plainly, eight months was not notice made “immediately after the loss.”
What does “Immediately” Mean?
In the Bramley case, the Court of Appeals held that Bramley was required to provide notice “immediately” to Nationwide and that notice was a condition of receiving coverage under her insurance policy.
The word “immediately” was not defined in the policy. The Court of Appeals then looked to case law to provide a definition. Thus, in the case of Progressive Mountain Ins. Co. v. Bishop,338 Ga. App. 115 (2016), a policy provision requiring notice of an accident to be given “promptly” was equated with requiring notice “as soon as practicable.” A lengthier definition was provided in Advocate Networks, LLC v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 296 Ga. App. 338 (2009) where the court said the term “immediately” in an insurance policy meant to notice that was made with “… reasonable diligence and within a reasonable length of time in view of attending circumstances of each particular case.”
In Advocate Networks, the court found notice made four months after the accident was not “immediate.” The Bramley court also cited other cases where 46 days are not deemed to be “immediate” and also cited one case holding that notifying the police of an accident four or five days later violated a Georgia law that requires drivers to immediately notify police of an accident.
Based on the foregoing, the Bramley court concluded that Jennifer Bramley had failed to “immediately” give notice to Nationwide. Eight months was, as a matter of law, not “immediately.”
However, as the court said, the inquiry did not come to an end, “… because we must consider whether Bramley has offered a reasonable justification for the delay.”
Reasonable Justification for Delay?
Even if you do not “immediately” notify your insurance carrier, sometimes the delay can be justified. In the Bramley case, the plaintiff argued that she did not fully understand the nature and extent of her injuries until early 2016. As a result, the Court of Appeals said that a jury was needed to resolve the factual question of whether that was a sufficient excuse and whether the further delay from “early 2016” to April 2016 was excused.
The cases discussed above show the clear need to immediately notify your insurance carrier of an accident even if you believe the other driver was at fault, and even if you think that the other driver’s insurance will cover the costs of medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other recoverable damages. Any unreasonable unjustified delay could result in no coverage. It is a very good idea to at least speak with a car accident lawyer after your wreck.
Is There a Deadline to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in Georgia?
If the insurance company does not make a fair settlement offer, you may need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover the compensation you are entitled to. However, personal injury lawsuits must be filed before a deadline known as the statute of limitations. In Georgia, the governing statute of limitations gives only two years from the date of a car accident to file a lawsuit.
If you miss this deadline, your case will almost certainly be dismissed in court. Losing the ability to argue your case in court also destroys your leverage when negotiating an out-of-court settlement with the insurance company. To avoid the consequences of missing the filing deadline, talk to a car accident attorney as soon as possible after a car accident.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today
At Butler Kahn, our Georgia car accident attorneys know how to deal with insurance companies and are ready to fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. We will make sure you know your rights and are not taken advantage of by insurers. Contact our office today for a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer.