Anyone who has had to settle a claim from an insurance company is well aware of what an ordeal it can be. It goes without saying that any insurance company makes it a lot easier to send your premium in than to get a settlement check in the mail.
At the Law Offices of Charles Boyk, we have spent years helping injured Ohio residents get fair settlements from insurance companies, and as a result we have noticed some standard tricks and tactics that insurers use to minimize their liability. Since we believe that information is power, we thought it would be prudent to share some of these tactics with you so you’ll know what to avoid if you should ever get into a crash.
“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.
“Hi, this is John from Progressive. We’re calling because we wanted to get a quick statement about your accident.”
Insurers will make this call as soon as they possibly can. This statement could cause you a great deal of problems later on. When the adjusters take your statement, they will be recording every word of it. And they won’t be doing so “for quality control purposes.” They won’t just be asking you what happened. They will also ask you if you needed medical attention after the accident, or they will ask you how you are feeling. What they want is for you to say that you didn’t need medical attention and that you feel fine. These recorded statements can be used against you later on should real medical problems develop. It’s important to remember that not every medical condition is immediately obvious. For instance, if you develop a tumor, you don’t feel it’s presence as soon as it appears. Many forms of trauma result in slow damage to the body.
Having you on tape saying “I’m fine,” or “I’m okay” could be used to try to convince a jury that you are faking your injuries. If you receive a call from an adjuster and they repeatedly want to know how you are, say “I don’t know yet,” and try to end the call as soon as possible.
“We’re not available right now. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”
Adjusters have been known to take advantage of the financial situation of the victim. Insurance companies bring in billions of dollars of revenue every year. They are unencumbered with mortgages, car notes, utilities, or groceries for their families. As a result, they have considerably more time than the average injury victim. By making themselves hard to contact and deliberately elusive, they are hoping that the victims will find themselves in dire need of money, and will then accept a settlement that is far below what is necessary.
“There have been some delays in your paperwork. Just go ahead and pay for the damage and we’ll reimburse you later.”
This is a particularly cheap method of maintaining a profit margin, but you should remember that adjusters are graded on how little money they pay out. This technique is usually used when the damage is minor, and when it seems like the owner of the car can afford it. The person with the damaged car pays the bill and waits for a check. And waits. And waits some more. Upon repeated calls the person with the damaged car learns that, due to reasons that vary from adjuster to adjuster, the insurance company will not be reimbursing anyone. The policyholder will be upset, but the car has been repaired, and the damage wasn’t enough to actually go to court over. For insurers, losing a monthly premium can sometimes be cheaper than actually paying to repair the damage.
We would love to say that we find this behavior shocking, but unfortunately we’ve been at this long enough to not be surprised by anything that insurers do. You should always remember that getting what is fair and necessary out of insurers takes a lot of work and careful planning. And if the insurance company in question doesn’t represent you, you can expect them to pull out all the stops in order to avoid any meaningful compensation for your injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact our offices for a free case assessment today.