After the Accident: Insurance Tricks to Watch Out For (Part One)
Houston, Texas has some of the heaviest traffic in the country. As a matter of course, we see our fair share of traffic accidents. And as a car accident attorney in Houston, Steve Lee has represented his share of accident victims. More often than not he finds that injury victims are not in a position to collect compensation that is the equivalent to the pain, damages and lost property that they went through in the crash. The reason for this is that they accepted a settlement from an insurance company without talking before consulting with an attorney.
The primary concern of most insurers is not to be “a good neighbor,” but rather to minimize their financial liability as much as they possibly can. Insurance adjusters have some well-used tricks of the trade that they employ for just such a purpose.
It starts from the moment that you sign your policy. Many salesman talk up the policy in such a way that it makes it seem that your coverage will do practically everything.
The tricks of the trade continue when you get into an accident. Adjusters have several ways to extract themselves from any situation where they might have to actually pay for out of pocket expenses.
If you are in a position where you can recognize some of these insurance company methods, it might actually save you from having to hire an attorney at all.
“Really, this is the best insurance policy out there. If you get into a car accident, there really isn’t much to worry about.”
You should always remember that insurance companies have plenty of their own lawyers, and they don’t practice in a reactive fashion. Every time a verdict is handed down that costs them money, or every time a judge makes a ruling that could conceivably affect their bottom line, insurance company attorneys make subtle adjustments in their policies and contracts that will compensate for what made them lose in the first place.
Insurance agents don’t tell you this when they sell you a policy, and why would they? It is hardly in their best interest to tell you that the adjusters can deny just about any claim they want for any reason that they want.
When you sit down with an agent, be sure to take every promise that they make with a grain of salt, and remember that in the event of an accident, they’ll do whatever they can to pay the least amount of money.
“If I Can Just Get You to Sign Here…”
Insurers are autograph hounds. They have all sorts of things that they want you to sign, and sign quickly. Sometimes they will come to the hospital, or come to your house the very next day. They might want you to sign a “witness statement,” or it might be “some standard forms that will help us speed up the process.” In all probability they will also offer you a check that they would love for you to sign immediately.
You should be aware that many checks that insurance companies release have dual purposes. One purpose is for payment. The other purpose is a parachute. The small print on the backs of these checks usually contains small print which absolves them of any future responsibility. That might not seem like a problem now, but what happens if you have sustained an injury where the symptoms don’t immediately manifest themselves? What if two or three days after the accident you find yourself in excruciating pain?
You will generally find that your insurer is not the “Good Neighbor” that you thought.
Your best bet is to sign absolutely nothing. Don’t sign “witness statements” or checks or “standard forms.” Don’t even sign customer service surveys. Tell the insurer in a polite but firm manner that you won’t sign anything until you talk to an attorney. It might turn out that you are being treated fairly, but if you check with an attorney you’ll know for sure.