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.
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.