car accident insurance claim

Common Tactics and Tricks Used by Insurance Companies in an Injury Claim

When someone suffers a personal injury that was the fault of another person or party, they usually have to go to an insurer to obtain compensation. For most people, this is their first time filing a claim with an insurance company, and they are most likely unfamiliar with the process. Insurance companies will often try to take advantage of this by using various tactics and tricks to undermine their claim.

It is important to understand that the goal of the insurance company is to settle the injury claim for as little as possible. Most of them are “for-profit” businesses, and their primary objective is to enhance their bottom line. This means that their interests are in direct conflict with the interests of personal injury victims.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to deal with an insurance claims adjuster, there are several tricks and tactics to watch out for. Here are some of the most common:

A “Courtesy Call” Soon after the Claim is Filed

Within just a few days of the injury claim being filed, it is not uncommon to receive a friendly call from the insurance claims adjuster. They will tell you that they are calling to find out “how you are doing”, and they will empathize with your situation. They may also strongly suggest that you do not need a lawyer to handle the claim by saying things like, “don’t worry, we will take care of you.” The claims adjuster may talk to you like they are your best friend, but this is most certainly not the case. They might be friendly, but this is a tactic they use to build rapport and get you to trust them. Because if they can persuade you to work directly with them, then they believe they can take advantage of your inexperience.

Unnecessary Requests

After the adjuster has earned your trust, they might ask you to provide a recorded statement and to release your medical records to them. Giving them a recorded statement is a bad idea, because the questions they will ask you to answer in the statement are usually worded in a way that weakens your claim. Providing a medical release is also a bad idea, because it allows the insurance company to review your entire medical history, which they may use to claim that your injuries resulted from some type of preexisting condition. Although they may present these requests as “formalities” that are needed to move the claim forward, never agree to them without first speaking to a lawyer.

Offering a Lowball Settlement

Insurance companies know that after someone has been injured, finances are usually very tight.  If they believe you have a solid case, one common tactic they may use this to present a quick settlement offer that is worth far less than the value of your claim. They are hoping that you will take the quick money in exchange for signing a release of your claim, meaning you would not be able to come back later to ask for any additional compensation. In general, it is best not to accept the first offer the insurance company gives you. At the very least, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. By having an attorney look at your claim, you will be able to make the most informed decision on whether or not you want to accept their offer.

Unnecessarily Delaying the Claim

If you do not accept the insurance company’s offer, they might decide to slow walk your claim in order to frustrate you into giving up and accepting their offer, and/or to “run out the clock” on the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. In Virginia, for example, the statute of limitations for filing a legal action is two years for most personal injury cases, which can go by fast if you are not hearing from the insurance company for several weeks or months at a time. If this has happened to you, it is best to get a lawyer involved immediately, so your right to recover compensation can be preserved.

Call Schilling and Esposito Today for a Free Consultation

If you have been injured through no fault of your own, dealing directly with the insurance company can be very stressful, and there are numerous pitfalls that can cause you to lose out on the just compensation you deserve. This is especially true in a state like Virginia, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine. Under contributory negligence, you can be barred from recovering damages if you are found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying injury.

At Schilling & Esposito, we have extensive experience successfully representing individuals who have suffered all types of personal injuries in Virginia. We work closely with our clients, and we fight hard to help ensure that our clients recover maximum compensation. Call our office today at 804-261-1001 or message us through our online contact form to schedule your free consultation. You may also stop by our office in person at your convenience.

Aggressive Driving Accident

What Happens when You are Injured by an Aggressive Driver?

We have all seen aggressive drivers on the road. Someone is running late for work or late for an important appointment, so they drive as fast as they can, zip in and out of lanes looking for the one that can allow them to break through traffic and fly through stoplights that were yellow a few seconds earlier. No doubt you have seen this behavior with other drivers, and maybe this has even been you on occasion.

With everyone in our society in such a hurry to win the rat race, aggressive driving (which can sometimes escalate into “road rage”) happens all too often and is a leading contributor to motor vehicle accidents. In fact, according to a 2016 report by the Insurance Information Institute, speeding and other forms of aggressive or reckless driving are contributing factors in approximately half of all fatal crashes in the United States.

What is Aggressive Driving?

In 1964, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in trying to describe obscenity, famously said:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it

This is how many people view aggressive driving. They may not know how to clearly define it, but they definitely know it when they see it displayed on the roadways. 

Aggressive driving is operating a vehicle in a way that is designed to intimidate, harass, or injure others on the road. The intimidation or harassment may not be just for the sake of it; more often, as we saw with the example used earlier of the aggressive driver running late for an important engagement, the intimidation and harassment occurs because the other drivers are “in their way” and preventing them from getting where they want to go. But whatever the underlying reason, the bottom line is that the aggressive driver cares more about themselves than they do about the safety of others on the road.

In addition to speeding or exceeding a safe speed based on the road conditions, there are several other examples of aggressive driving:

  • Failing to stay within clearly marked traffic lanes (i.e., weaving);
  • Failing to maintain a safe distance when driving behind another vehicle (i.e., tailgating);
  • Failing to stop or yield the right of way;
  • Failing to give way when another vehicle passes;
  • Failing to obey traffic signs, signals, and other devices (e.g., running a stop sign or red light).

Virginia takes aggressive driving very seriously. The criminal charge for this offense is usually a Class 2 misdemeanor, which can incur fines of up to $1000 and up to 180 days in jail. But when the actions of an aggressive driver cause an accident with serious injuries or fatalities, they must also compensate injury victims for their losses; which could include medical bills, property damage, time missed from work, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.

What to Do if you are Injured by an Aggressive Driver

If you are involved in an accident with someone who was driving aggressively and you suffered injuries, there are some important steps you should take immediately after the accident:

Call 911

The first priority after a motor vehicle accident is to ensure that everyone receives the medical attention they need. Even if you do not feel like you are injured, it is still important to get checked out, because some injuries do not show up right away, or they may be more serious than they first appear.

Call the Police

Whenever there are injuries from an auto accident, the police need to be called to the scene, so there will be an official report on file. The other driver may try to convince you to settle directly with them without involving the police or their insurer, because they want to avoid criminal penalties and/or they do not want their insurance rates to skyrocket. This is not a good idea, because if you do not have an official report or a claim filed with their insurer, you will have far less documentation to prove what happened in case the driver does not pay as they promise and you have to file a lawsuit later on.

Exchange Insurance Information

After the accident, the other driver may come out of the car accusing you of all sorts of things and claiming that you caused the accident, when in fact it was caused by their aggressive driving. Do not be intimidated into apologizing or admitting any fault whatsoever for the accident. Virginia applies the “contributory negligence” legal standard, meaning if you are found to be in any way at fault for the accident (even 1%), you may be barred from recovering compensation. Calmly and politely exchange information, and do not admit to anything – leave that for the experts to determine.

Document the Accident

In addition to the police report, it is best to retain as much documentation as possible of what just happened. Take multiple photographs of the accident scene from various angles, write down your own detailed report (or if you are unable to write, use the voice recorder on your phone to record details of the accident), and obtain statements and contact information from individuals nearby who witnessed the event.

Contact an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

Pursuing an accident injury claim can be complex and confusing, and there are numerous tactics the insurance company for the other party may use to discredit your claim and avoid paying compensation. If you have been injured by an aggressive driver, get in touch with a skilled auto accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options. 

Should I Seek Medical Attention after a Rear-End Collision?

Rear-end crashes are among the most common types of collisions, accounting for approximately one-third of all motor vehicle accidents. A rear-end collision happens when the front end of the trailing vehicle collides with the back end of the lead vehicle. Some of these accidents happen at higher speeds, often resulting in major vehicle damage and severe injuries. The majority, however, happen at lower speeds, which usually result in minimal damage to the vehicle. These are commonly known as “fender benders”.

Fender benders can seem like little more than a nuisance for those involved. The car behind you bumps into you, you get out, exchange contact and insurance information, and move on. At the time, you might not have felt any pain or injury. After a seemingly minor rear-end accident, many people wonder whether it is even worthwhile to seek medical attention. The accident already took up an hour or two of your time, so why bother going to see the doctor?

In general, it is always best to get medical help after any type of auto accident, even one that does only minor damage to your vehicle. There are several reasons for this:

Vehicle Accident Injuries are Not always Detected Right Away

You have probably seen or heard about an athlete who gets hurt during a game, continues playing and does not notice the injury until later on. This is usually because of adrenaline and endorphins, two chemicals that are fired off when someone is participating in an exciting event.  Car accidents are also “exciting”, although not in the “fun” sort of way. During a vehicle collision, your heart starts racing and your mind starts moving in all different directions, and your main focus is resolving the situation. The adrenaline rush at the moment can mask the pain of an injury. You may not start to feel the injury until a few hours or even a couple days later.

Even Minor Vehicle Accidents Can result in Serious Injuries

Injuries from rear-end collisions can be moderate to severe, and there may be a lengthy recovery time before you are back to normal. Examples of injuries that can happen because of a rear-end crashes include:

  • Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries;
  • Back and neck injuries;
  • Spinal cord injuries;
  • Traumatic brain injuries;
  • Internal injuries.

If these injuries are not treated right away, the symptoms can start to worsen; and in some cases, the situation could become life-threatening. By getting a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment, you can help prevent more severe issues.

Seeking Medical Attention helps Establish a Legal Connection between the Accident and Your Injuries

Getting immediate medical help also helps protect your legal right to pursue a claim for any injuries you may have suffered. In order to get compensation for medical bills, time missed from work, and other losses, you will need to show that your injuries are related to the underlying accident. If you wait too long to seek treatment, the insurance company might argue that you must not have been hurt that badly, or that the accident did not cause your current medical condition.

Seeking Medical Attention fulfills your Legal Obligation to Mitigate your Losses

Another issue that may come up if you decide to pursue a claim for compensation for your injuries is your obligation to mitigate your losses. Even if the accident was another party’s fault, you are obligated to take reasonable steps to ensure that the damages you suffer are minimized.  If you do not seek medical help right away and your symptoms get worse, it could be argued that you are responsible for your worsening condition.

Injured in a Rear-End Accident in Virginia? Contact a Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone close to you was injured in a rear-end collision in Virginia, seek medical attention as soon as possible, then speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer to review your legal options. Virginia is a “contributory negligence” state, meaning that if you are found to have “contributed” in any way to the accident that caused your injury (even 1%), you may be barred from recovering compensation. For this reason, it is important to have strong legal counsel in your corner from the outset advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.

For a free consultation with one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schilling & Esposito, contact our office today at 804-261-1001, or send us a message through our web contact form.  

Head On Collision

What are the First 5 Things you should Do after a Car Accident?

Being involved in a car accident can be a frightening and unsettling experience. This is especially true if you are injured during the crash. An accident causes a sudden change in state, and your mind begins to race in all different directions. When this happens, it is important to stop, take a deep breath, and regain your composure.

Once you have had a chance to collect your thoughts, there are several things you should do right away to ensure that everyone is safe and that your legal rights are protected. Here are the first five things you should do immediately after a car accident: 

Secure the Accident Scene

The top priority after any type of vehicle accident is to secure the scene and make sure everyone is okay. If possible, pull the vehicles off to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. In addition, keep your hazard lights on and place cones or flashers around the vehicles that were involved in the crash. Finally, call 911 right away if anyone appears to be hurt (including yourself). Some injuries are not always readily apparent, and this is especially true with vehicle accidents, because people tend to experience an adrenaline rush that might mask the pain of an injury. This is why it is always a good idea to get an ambulance to the scene, so anyone who needs medical help can get immediate attention.

Contact the Police

When you call 911, they may summon the police for you. Either way, make sure you call the police to the scene, especially if anyone was hurt. A police report is important to provide official documentation of what happened. The police will investigate the incident, interview witnesses, and file a report. This report will be one of the major documents used by the insurance company later to help determine what caused the accident. When speaking to the police, be honest and up front and tell them all of the facts that you know. If there are things you are uncertain about, let the officer know that as well. Do NOT admit fault for the accident or even speculate that it may be your fault. Just give them the facts and leave it to the experts to determine the cause.

Document Everything

In addition to the police report, it is important to have your own documentation and records of what happened. Take multiple photographs of the accident scene from as many angles as possible. In addition, as soon as it is convenient, write down (in as much detail as you can) the facts of the case as you know them. It is best to do this as soon as possible, so everything is fresh in your mind. If you do not have anything to write with, you can use the voice recorder in your smartphone to record your thoughts, then write everything down later. Finally, if you have a dashboard camera, be sure to capture footage of the accident.

Exchange Information with the Other Party (or Parties)

When you speak with the other individuals who were involved in the accident, be calm and courteous, provide them with the required information, and obtain their information as well. As mentioned in an earlier point, do not make any apologies or admissions of guilt. Just be polite and stick to the facts of what happened.

Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses

If there are any individuals who may have witnessed what happened, be sure to ask them what they saw and write down what they tell you. Then obtain their names, phone numbers, and other contact information so you can follow up with them at a later date. Eyewitness testimony can be a critical factor in a personal injury claim, and it is important to get a statement from witnesses while they are at the scene (if possible). Memories can fade over time, and people’s stories may start to change. The more information you can collect (from those who saw the event) while they are still at the scene, the better off you will be if you decide to pursue a legal claim. 

Contact an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer

If you were involved in a car accident in Virginia and you sustained an injury, it is important that you understand your legal rights and options. Before accepting any settlement offer from an insurance company, get in touch with a skilled personal injury attorney. At Schilling & Esposito, we have extensive experience representing clients injured in auto accidents and all other types of personal injuries in Virginia. We have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to ensure that they receive full and fair compensation, and that those responsible (for their injuries) are held accountable. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our office today at 804-261-1001, or send us a message through our online contact form.

Teen Drivers and Distractions

Distracted driving has always been a problem, but it has become far worse in recent years. These days, virtually everyone has a smartphone, and motorists seem to have a hard time staying off of their phones while they are on the road. Teen drivers are especially susceptible to distractions. Their youth and inexperience often result in poor driving decisions, and they are also the most active smartphone users.

Distracted Driving Statistics

According to a study done by TeenSafe, distracted driving accounts for roughly one out of every four motor vehicle crash fatalities in the U.S. This comes as no surprise when you consider that at any given moment during daylight hours, there are approximately 660,000 motorists throughout the country who are texting while driving or performing other activities on their smartphones. It also comes as little surprise that teens are the largest age group that reported being distracted while driving in this study.

More than half of all teens have admitted to having used a cell phone while driving, and one out of four admit to having texted while driving within the past 30 days. Here are some other disturbing statistics from the distracted driving study:

  • 9 people are killed in the U.S. each day in crashes involving a distracted driver;
  • Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the United States;
  • 16 to 19-year-olds are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group;
  • More than 58% of all teen crashes are caused by distracted driving.

While the number of alcohol-related driving fatalities is currently decreasing among teens, the number of overall traffic fatalities is on the rise. The authors of this study believe this is largely attributable to distracted driving among teen drivers.

Types of Distracted Driving Among Teens

Teens are easily distracted by nature, and this is a major reason insurance rates have traditionally been higher for drivers in this age group. These distractions can be placed into three general categories:

  • Visual: A visual distraction is one that causes drivers to temporarily take their eyes off of the road. Examples may include staring at a billboard, looking down to tune the car radio, turning sideways to talk to a passenger, reading an electronic message, watching a video, or looking at their GPS.
  • Manual: A manual distraction is one that causes a motorist to take one or both hands off the wheel while driving. Examples in this category may include eating, drinking, changing clothes, putting on makeup, digging around in their pockets, purse, or car for something they lost, dialing a phone number, holding the phone up to their ear to talk, or typing a message.
  • Cognitive: A cognitive distraction is one that takes a motorist’s mental attention away from driving. A motorist can be mentally distracted by listening to the radio, talking on the phone, talking to a passenger, thinking of a response to a message, or just daydreaming.

The Heightened Danger of Smartphone Use while Driving

While most driver distractions may fit into one or maybe two of the aforementioned categories, smartphone activities can often involve all three. For example, when motorists send a text message, they are using at least one hand to hold the device and type on it while they look at the screen rather than the road and direct their mental focus to the message they are responding to.

This is why activities such as texting while driving bring the dangers of distracted driving to a whole new level. No one can be expected to drive safely while their full attention is directed toward their smartphone instead of the road, and even just a few seconds of attention directed at a smartphone can result in disastrous consequences.

Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in Virginia? Speak with an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney

If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver (teen or otherwise), you may be entitled to compensation. Before accepting any settlement offer from the insurance company representing the responsible party, it is important to talk with a skilled personal injury lawyer, so you understand your rights and legal options.

At Schilling & Esposito, we have several decades of experience successfully representing clients who have been injured due to the actions of distracted drivers and other negligent parties. Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and we work tirelessly to ensure that our clients receive full and fair compensation, and that the parties responsible for their injuries are held fully accountable. For a free consultation with one of our seasoned Virginia personal injury lawyers, call our office today at 804-261-1001. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.