In most personal injury cases, insurance companies handle and defend against claims. That’s because insurers are the ones who pay victims compensation when they are harmed by their policyholders – whether that be a negligent driver who carries auto insurance, a business with a commercial policy, or even a doctor with medical malpractice insurance. Because insurance companies are powerful corporations with financial stakes in personal injury cases, they want to pay as little as possible in order to protect their bottom line.
Insurance companies are motivated by profits, and not by doing what is right for innocent people who suffer harm and tragedy, which is why they commonly wage efforts to dispute fault and liability or pay victims less than they deserve. They may also engage in practices to capitalize on victims’ lack of familiarity with the law and the personal injury claim process. In short, they take advantage of what you don’t know.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our personal injury attorneys know the tactics insurance companies employ all too well – and we have been fighting against them on behalf of victims throughout the DC Metro area for more than 45 years. While we value our role in creating an even playing field between victims and powerful insurance companies, we also want to provide information to help everyone protect their rights.
Below are a few things insurance companies don’t want you to know:
- They are not on your side – Don’t be misled into thinking the insurance company is on your side, especially if you are a victim who has been injured by one of their policyholders. While insurance companies typically handle claims filed against their customers, they are ultimately on their own side, and are more concerned about their best interests than yours.
- You do not have to talk to them – After accidents caused by their policyholders, and especially car accidents, insurance companies will typically make attempts to speak with you, sometimes during a recorded statement. You need to know you do not have to speak with them, and you should avoid any informal contact. This is because insurance companies want you to say something that can be used against you, even if it’s something as simple as an apology or something that can be used to place fault on you. When you work with an attorney, they can handle insurance company communications for you.
- They may know your answers – Many insurance providers access a national database through which they can obtain your personal information, and will likely do so before contacting you about a claim. If they ask questions, such as whether or not you have filed a personal injury or workers’ compensation claim in the past, they may know the answer. They may also ask questions about your accident, even though they know the answers from police reports or witness statements. Their goal is to have you say something they can use against you, even if you simply made a mistake or can’t recall certain information when answering. Against, it is best to avoid speaking with insurance companies, and to let your lawyer handle it on your behalf.
- You don’t have to accept a settlement offer – One common way for insurance companies to cut their losses and avoid expending the time and resources to handle a claim is to make settlement offers early on in the process. You do not have to accept their first settlement offer, and you should not – especially without first consulting a lawyer. Often, these are low-ball settlements that provide less than you deserve, especially when you don’t yet know the full scope of your injuries or damages, and still need medical treatment. If you accept, the insurance company knows you can’t come back asking for more. Working with a lawyer can ensure you have the representation to determine when a settlement is fair and when it isn’t, when it’s the right time to settle, or when you may need to litigate to secure the outcome you deserve.
- Denying liability doesn’t mean your case is over – If an insurance company argues their customer is not at fault, and that they are therefore not liable for paying damages, don’t be misled into believing your case has no merit. You may still have a case. Insurance companies may deny liability when they believe a case is difficult to prove, when cases are high value, or when they simply don’t want to compensate victims. To overcome this challenge, you can secure the help of proven lawyers who have the resources to conduct investigations and gather evidence, craft convincing arguments, and compel insurers into paying what you are rightfully entitled to under the law, whether through settlement or a trial.
- They can conduct surveillance – Insurance companies will likely never tell you they are able to request surveillance of your activities, which may be common in certain cases, especially if you have prior or pre-existing injuries. It is your right to know they can conduct surveillance, and that they can use any information they obtain to fight your claim.
Dealing with the insurance company after a preventable accident and injury can be a challenging part of the personal injury claim process – and it is not the only part. If you want help taking the right steps after your accident, our award-winning personal injury lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. are here to help. We serve residents throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and offer FREE case consultations. Contact us to get started.