Our car accident lawyers speak with clients everyday about their car accidents and what insurance companies have tried to do before our office became involved in their case. The number one thing insurance companies try to do is take a recorded statement from the injured driver. This is one of the worst things an individual can do. First, you have no legal obligation to speak with the other person’s insurance company. Second, anything you say could be used against you by the insurance company to deny your case. We never let our clients give recorded statements to the insurance company.
Many clients ask why they shouldn't speak with the other persons insurance company especially when it was "clear" the other person was at fault. North Carolina has a very draconian law called contributory negligence. Basically, the law holds that if the Plaintiff contributes in any way to causing the accident they shall receive nothing. As such, many times insurance companies do not care about the negligence of their policyholder, they care about your actions. Many times their questions are asked in such a way as to get you to say something, anything, which would allow them to argue contributory negligence.
We prohibit our clients from speaking with all insurance companies, even their own. This is especially important very early on in your case. The reason is that in the very beginning of your case you do not know if the other person has insurance coverage. You can not rely on the existence of insurance simply because it is listed on the police report. The officer gets that information from the NC DMV and that information may not be up to date. When you speak with your insurance company they are also looking to limit their exposure as much as possible. If you carry uninsured motorist coverage you may have to look to your insurance company to pay on the claim. Your insurance is free to argue and defense in not paying your claim, including contributory negligence. This is why you should not speak with them.
Request for statements from the insurnace companies come in many forms. They include the obviousl telephone calls but also trips to the hospital or your home. Typicaly the insurance adjuster is all smiles and concern but think about why they are coming to see you. Insurance companies are money making enterprises. There must be a financial incentive to send an employee to see you. Face to face statements have been successful in disclaiming coverage. People obviously are hesitant about speaking with insurance companies. However, people like to be helpful and if someone shows up at your door with a smile on their face you will probably speak with them. We advise our clients to be polite but refuse to speak with the insurance adjuster.
Insurance companies also try to get clients to sign medical releases. These releases allow insurance companies to get your medical records. Many times there are no restrictions on how far back and from whom the insurance companies can request these records. Many times insurance companies request records from medical providers completely unrelated to your injuries from the car accident. This is typically not disclosed to you when you are asked to sign the releases. Your own insurance company is also guilty of this practice. You have no legal obligation to sign a medical release and we do not let our clients sign them.
Too many people rely on insurance companies to tell them how they should proceed following a Charlotte car accident. This creates a conflict of interest as it is in the best interest of the insurance company to limit its total exposure to the claim. IE, the smaller the claim the less the company will have to pay to settle it. One of the best ways to limit the size of the claim is to minimize the treatment in the case. This can be accomplished different ways but the best way is to delay in initial treatment.
If the Plaintiff fails to treat for an extended period of time it irreparably damages the claim. Gaps in treatment are one of the worst things you can do to your case. Insurance companies are complicit in this in that they will delay the handling of your claim. Understandably many people do not want to incur expenses especially not knowing if they other persons car insurance is going to pick up the bill. Insurance companies hide behind the claim that they are 'investigating" the accident and have not made a determination of fault. Many times that delay results in the plaintiff to concerned about bills from treating. That will cost that person a significant amount of money in the long run.
Everything an insurance company does is designed to limit its exposure to claims or to minimize it. One way to do that is reduce the total amount paid out on property damage. Think about it, if I told you I was in a car accident and sustained 3000 in damage versus I was in a car accident and sustained 1500 in damage I am sure you would subconsciously think the first accident was worse. Insurance companies steer people towards their preferred shops. These shops give discounts to the insurance companies reducing their total property damage. It also reduces the dollar amount to fix the claim and reduces the value of the bodily injury claim.
Finally, insurance companies many times will offer a small sum of money to immediately settle your case. These offers are typically made immediately after the car accident, without the benefit of a lawyer, when the injured person is the most vulnerable. After the dust settles and people get their feet under them they realize what they have done. These releases have been challenged in court. Unfortunately, the courts have held these releases are valid. Once a release is signed it is nearly impossible to void it and reopen your claim.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that make money by taking in money via premiums and not paying out on claims. Everything an insurance company does is calculated to limit how much it may have to pay on a claim. Remember, insurance companies only make money by taking in premiums and not paying out on claims. Individuals should consult with an experienced car accident lawyer who can discuss your rights and options. Our attorneys offer free no obligation consultations to discuss your auto accident. We can set up a time to meet at our office or a location of your choosing.