By: Allan M. Siegel
personal injury cases, insurance companies handle and defend against claims. That’s
because insurers are the ones who pay victims compensation when they are
harmed by their policyholders – whether that be a negligent driver
who carries auto insurance, a business with a commercial policy, or even
a doctor with
medical malpractice insurance. Because insurance companies are powerful corporations with
financial stakes in personal injury cases, they want to pay as little
as possible in order to protect their bottom line.
Insurance companies are motivated by profits, and not by doing what is
right for innocent people who suffer harm and tragedy, which is why they
commonly wage efforts to dispute fault and liability or pay victims less
than they deserve. They may also engage in practices to capitalize on
victims’ lack of familiarity with the law and the personal injury
claim process. In short,
they take advantage of what you don’t know.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our personal injury
attorneys know the tactics insurance companies employ all too well –
and we have been fighting against them on behalf of victims throughout
the DC Metro area for more than 45 years. While we value our role in creating
an even playing field between victims and powerful insurance companies,
we also want to provide information to help everyone protect their rights.
Below are a few things insurance companies don’t want you to know:
They are not on your side – Don’t be misled into thinking the insurance company is on
your side, especially if you are a victim who has been injured by one
of their policyholders. While insurance companies typically handle claims
filed against their customers, they are ultimately on their own side,
and are more concerned about their best interests than yours.
You do not have to talk to them – After accidents caused by their policyholders, and especially
car accidents, insurance companies will typically make attempts to speak with you, sometimes
during a recorded statement. You need to know you do not have to speak
with them, and you should avoid any informal contact. This is because
insurance companies want you to say something that can be used against
you, even if it’s something as simple as an apology or something
that can be used to place fault on you. When you work with an attorney,
they can handle insurance company communications for you.
They may know your answers – Many insurance providers access a national database through which
they can obtain your personal information, and will likely do so before
contacting you about a claim. If they ask questions, such as whether or
not you have filed a personal injury or workers' compensation claim
in the past, they may know the answer. They may also ask questions about
your accident, even though they know the answers from police reports or
witness statements. Their goal is to have you say something they can use
against you, even if you simply made a mistake or can’t recall certain
information when answering. Against, it is best to avoid speaking with
insurance companies, and to let your lawyer handle it on your behalf.
You don’t have to accept a settlement offer – One common way for insurance companies to cut their losses and
avoid expending the time and resources to handle a claim is to make settlement
offers early on in the process. You do not have to accept their first
settlement offer, and you should not – especially without first
consulting a lawyer. Often, these are low-ball settlements that provide
less than you deserve, especially when you don’t yet know the full
scope of your injuries or damages, and still need medical treatment. If
you accept, the insurance company knows you can’t come back asking
for more. Working with a lawyer can ensure you have the representation
to determine when a settlement is fair and when it isn’t, when it’s
the right time to settle, or when you may need to litigate to secure the
outcome you deserve.
Denying liability doesn’t mean your case is over – If an insurance company argues their customer is not at fault,
and that they are therefore not liable for paying damages, don’t
be misled into believing your case has no merit. You may still have a
case. Insurance companies may deny liability when they believe a case
is difficult to prove, when cases are high value, or when they simply
don’t want to compensate victims. To overcome this challenge, you
can secure the help of proven lawyers who have the resources to conduct
investigations and gather evidence, craft convincing arguments, and compel
insurers into paying what you are rightfully entitled to under the law,
whether through settlement or a trial.
They can conduct surveillance – Insurance companies will likely never tell you they are able to
request surveillance of your activities, which may be common in certain
cases, especially if you have prior or pre-existing injuries. It is your
right to know they can conduct surveillance, and that they can use any
information they obtain to fight your claim.
Dealing with the insurance company after a preventable accident and injury
can be a challenging part of the personal injury claim process –
and it is not the only part. If you want help taking the right steps after
your accident, our award-winning personal injury lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman,
Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. are here to help. We serve residents throughout
Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and offer FREE case consultations.
Contact us to get started.