Unfortunately, accident victims often trust insurance companies to look out for their best interests after they’ve been hurt. This is a big mistake. While insurance companies are legally liable to pay to compensate you for all of your short- and long-term harms and losses, it is not their responsibility or in their best interest to help you understand what those losses look like or to help you prove your case. After all, insurance companies are for-profit businesses that preserve their profits by paying you as little as possible on your claim.
While insurance adjusters might seem friendly and supportive on the phone, they are not on your side and you cannot trust they will voluntarily compensate you fairly. It is your responsibility to prove your case and prove what you are entitled to if you want to your recovery to be fair and optimized.
Insurance companies train their employees to deploy subtle tactics that allow them to justify reductions in coverage. Seemingly sympathetic representatives are just the tip of the iceberg: insurance companies use many techniques — many of them quite sinister — that are designed to deceive claimants and give insurance providers the upper hand in an accident case.
At FVF, our hope is that accident victims will stand up to insurance providers by learning to spot these tactics and talking to a lawyer to learn what their true rights and options are. With that in mind, here are some of the most common red flags to watch for as you work with the at-fault party’s insurance.
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Rushing to Document Claims
Severe injuries may not exhibit obvious symptoms right away. For instance, signs of traumatic brain injuries are sometimes very subtle — victims may simply notice that they’re having difficulty concentrating or that their thinking seems to be slowed. Although these symptoms may not seem severe at first, they could be indicative of an eventual serious impairment. The same is true for spine injuries. Symptoms that you hope will go away with time might be indicative of a serious, permanent problem.
Insurance companies understand that certain injuries can take time to fully manifest, and they will often hurry to begin processing claims before accident victims understand how seriously they are hurt. In fact, at-fault insurance providers may call you the day of your accident in order to take advantage of your confusion and vulnerability. Adjusters know that you won’t be in a position then to make the best choices about your claim, and they use that fact to manipulate you into accepting lower claim amounts. In many instances, they will try to get you to settle your claim right then and there, permanently preventing you from having a fair shot at a reasonable settlement.
Delaying Claim Processing
While insurance adjusters may hurry to contact you after an accident, once they have obtained details, they will often drag their feet finalizing claims and sending payments. This is purposeful, and the intent is to wear you down. A serious injury is emotionally and financially draining, particularly if you have high medical bills and/or lost wages. Insurance companies use this to their advantage, hoping that you’ll become increasingly desperate for payment and therefore willing to settle for a lower amount — or worse, stop pursuing compensation altogether.
Asking for a Recorded Statement
Another common tactic is to ask victims to record a statement detailing their accident and injuries. This may seem fairly innocent on its surface, but it is actually a way to devalue your claim. Adjusters may ask you to answer questions about your injuries, even if you haven’t received a full diagnosis from a doctor. They know that you’re not a medical or legal expert and will use your lack of knowledge against you. Even something as simple as answering “fine” when a representative asks how you’re doing could be used in a recorded statement to justify a lower payment. The bottom line is that you should always refuse to give a recorded statement to an insurance company.
Disputing Medical Claims
Insurance companies will often try to lower payments by arguing that your injuries are not as severe as you claim. Along with the tactics above, adjusters will assert that your injuries should have healed sooner than they have or that your treatment is taking an unnecessarily long time.
Insurance employees may also try to convince you to end medical treatment early, telling you that you will not be covered for additional medical procedures and doctor’s visits. Insurance employees are not medical professionals and are not qualified to offer advice on these kinds of decisions. What’s more, there is often more coverage available to you than insurance companies let on.
Fortunately, insurance payouts are not the only way to afford medical bills. A lawyer can help you identify more expedient payment alternatives, such as payment plans, funds, and loans, that will help you pay for medical bills. Medical costs should never stand in your way of getting the treatment you need to fully understand your injuries, which is necessary to pursue full compensation for your losses.
Partially or Fully Denying Liability
In many cases, insurance companies will refuse to admit fault on the part of the insured, contesting liability as a way to refute claims. They may insist that you contributed to the accident in some way or even that there was a third party involved who is actually responsible.
If the other party is clearly at fault, they may argue that you couldn’t have been injured as severely as you have been, in an attempt to lower payments. Again, insurance companies are not medical experts. Their “diagnosis” of your injuries is motivated purely by their desire to save money.
Asking You to Sign a Medical Record Authorization
Another way insurance providers try to get around payments is to ask you to authorize the release of your medical records. Although this may seem harmless enough, it is actually used to obtain information that can be used to deny your claim.
Once you sign, the insurance company has the right to request access to your complete medical history, including records from any doctor or specialist you have ever seen in your life. Insurance carriers will pore over these records, looking for details that will help their case. For instance, they may assert that you had a preexisting medical condition that is aggravating or even causing your injuries. For this reason, you should never authorize access to medical records.
Advising You Not to Seek Legal Counsel
One of the most egregious ways that insurance companies devalue claims is to try to convince accident victims not to seek the advice of a lawyer. The insurance adjuster may tell you that a lawyer will be expensive — which is patently untrue, since most reputable personal injury lawyers will work on cases on a contingency basis (meaning they only get paid if and when you do).
They may also tell you that a lawyer will take a huge portion of your settlement, when in fact, research has shown that accident victims who opt for legal representation typically receive larger settlements, sometimes several times higher than what they might obtain without counsel. This is usually more than adequate to pay for your legal fees. That’s because personal injury lawyers are experts at building your case in a way that adds tremendous value, usually more than enough to pay for their services. The misrepresentation of legal expenses is an attempt to keep you uninformed about your legal rights and options and can cost you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With insurance companies vying against your claim, it’s important to have an advocate working for you to help you understand your rights. Information and education is one of the strongest tools you have against underhanded insurance tactics. That’s precisely why we offer a free initial case consultation here at FVF. We want all accident victims to make the best, most informed decisions about their case. Our goal is to arm you with the knowledge and support you need to stand up to insurance providers. Contact us today to get started.