Hastings & Hastings’ Guide for Insurance Claims

Here at Hastings & Hastings, we are fully immersed in the world of personal injury law. It has been over 35 years since we first opened our door and began defending the rights of accident victims here in Phoenix, Arizona. From day one, our mission was to give accident victims the help and support they needed as they began the process of recovery and putting their lives back together. What’s more, we committed to doing this while saving our clients money with our legendary Discount Fee.

Our legal team has over 150 years combined experience handling personal injury claims. An essential part of handling personal injury claims is interacting with insurance companies. For most people, insurance is something of an afterthought. They accept that it is part of life. They are paying their monthly premium while hoping they are never forced to make a claim. In effect, they almost never interact with their insurance provider. This results in a situation in which most people don’t know how to interact with their insurance provider when it is time to make a claim. They don’t know how to protect their best interests.

If you have suffered an injury as a result of an accident it is always best to contact a legal professional to begin exploring your options. Lawyers are incredibly skilled at building a case, presenting evidence and entering into negotiations with insurance providers, helping their clients receive favorable settlements.

Today, we will provide a guide for dealing with insurance claims and give you a peek into the inner workings of insurance providers, illustrating how they establish the value of a claim while discussing the tactics they use while handling you (the injured party).

When to Contact Your Insurance Provider

The events following an accident are always stressful, chaotic, and confusing. Accident victims are left disoriented, not sure what they should be doing, what actions they should be taking. Whether you were involved in a car accident or suffered an injury as a result of a slip or a fall in public or in a private residence, your primary concern should always be your health.

Seek medical attention immediately even if you do not believe you have suffered any major injury. Often, injuries can present themselves hours or even days after an accident. Experiencing an accident will cause your body to release adrenaline. It could even throw you into a state of shock. Adrenaline and shock both mask pain which could cause injuries to go unnoticed.

Many insurance policies contain notification deadlines which state that the insurance provider must be notified by the policyholder of an accident within a “reasonable time.” Typically, this window of time is within 72 hours of the incident occurring, however, this will vary policy to policy.

It is important to be familiar with the terms of your specific insurance policy. There are situations in which you will want to put off contacting your insurance provider. For instance, if you plan on employing a personal injury attorney. If you choose to go this route, the attorney you retain will handle all communications with the insurance company. There is a myriad of benefits to this which we will discuss later.

Your insurance provider should be contacted any time you are involved in an accident/incident in which you or other parties were injured. They should also be contacted if the accident resulted in property damage. Often, the resolution of insurance claims comes down to establishing fault. If you are at fault in the accident, things will be handled by your insurance company. If another party is at fault, damages will be paid out by their provider. There are instances in which you will want to file a claim with your insurance company even if you believe another party to be at fault for an accident. For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident with another driver who does not have insurance. In this instance, you may need to make a claim using your policy. Next, we will discuss the claims process.

Navigating Insurance Claims: The First Call and On

If you have chosen to retain the services of an attorney,all communication with the insurance company will be done by them. When you retain the services of a firm like Hastings & Hastings, you employ a legal team that possesses intimate knowledge of the claims process. We know exactly how an insurance adjuster handles a personal injury claim. Our experience and knowledge enable us to maximize the value of a potential settlement. Next, we will offer tips for interacting with a claims adjuster and detail some of the tactics insurance companies utilize when handling your claim.

You may find yourself speaking with a claims adjuster within a matter of hours following an accident, even if you did not reach out to your insurance company. Your first conversation may be with an adjuster or representative from another party’s insurance company. If you are not employing the services of an attorney, you will have to handle these phone calls on your own.

It is important to remain calm and polite when speaking with insurance adjusters. Establishing goodwill with them could payoff in the long run.

During a phone call following an accident, you want to have a clear idea exactly who you are speaking with. Before anything else happens, ask them to identify who they are, who they work for, and who they represent. Take down all of this information.

It is important to avoid making any statements on the record. Do not give them any detailed information regarding the accident or the extent of your injuries. They only need to know the bare essentials: who, what, when, and where. Often, an insurance adjuster will attempt to obtain details about the incident by engaging you in casual conversation. Avoid engaging in discussion. Reiterate that you will not be making any statements on the record and minimize the length of the conversation. The adjuster may even offer you a settlement. Do not take this. It is simply too early in the process. You may not even know the full extent of your injuries, let alone the full value of the claim.

Detailed information regarding the accident will be provided when you submit a demand letter. The letter will contain the details of the accident include the extend of the property damage as well as a summation of your injuries. Finally, it will have a dollar amount representing what you believe (or your attorney) believe to be a summation of damages. This will be the starting point for negotiations.

The Benefits of a Lawyer

The benefits associated with retaining the services of a lawyer through this process are quite extensive.

  1. Accurately calculating the value of a settlement

With extensive experience handling personal injury claims, a lawyer will be able to understand fully the cost and the impact of your injuries. The value of a settlement should be more than just the total of your medical bills. It should account for lost wages, pain and suffering, physical therapy, lost future income, and much more. Without the assistance of a lawyer, it is almost impossible to account for all the extensive costs and damages which should be factored into your claim.

  1. Expertise handling negotiations

Insurance companies want to minimize the amount of money they pay out. They will negotiate fiercely, attempting to lower the value of the settlement. If you retain a lawyer, they will handle these difficult negotiations ensure you lose as little ground as possible.

  1. Familiarity with insurance company tactics

One of the reasons a personal injury attorney will be so adept at handling negotiations, is their familiarity with the tactics used by insurance companies. The adjuster will attempt to minimize the value of the settlement by employing tactics such as linking injuries to pre-existing conditions. Fighting these tactics on your own can be difficult, if not nearly impossible.

  1. Ability to go to trial

In determining what to offer, the insurance company will consider your chance of winning a case in court. If they believe you have a good case and fear that the jury may award you with a large settlement, they will be more inclined to offer a larger settlement themselves. If you have not retained the services of a lawyer, they probably won’t be very fearful of losing the case in court.

Insurance claims are complex and multifaceted things. Fully understanding them isn’t easy. If you have any questions, contact Hastings & Hastings at (480)706-1100.

Hastings & Hastings Guide to Entering the Field of Law

At Hastings & Hastings, we are committed to defending the rights of accident victims and supporting them in any way we can. When our founder, David Hastings, opened the doors to the first Hastings & Hastings office in 1981, he had a mission to provide excellent legal representation at a discount rate. He understood that not everyone had the skills and expertise that he had spent a lifetime developing and nurturing. Becoming a lawyer is no easy task. It requires years of dedication and hard work. Some lawyers will tell you that they took their first steps towards becoming a lawyer all the way back in high school.

The thing about practicing as a lawyer, even after years of schooling, your education is just beginning. There is no way to replicated the experience of practicing law in the real world. This is why lawyers will speak to the importance of experience. Learning and growing as a lawyer can only happen through real life practice.

Many individuals are drawn to the legal field when they are young. However, they may be dissuaded from pursuing it because they don’t know how to become a lawyer. Sure, they know you are supposed to go to law school, but what can you do to increase your odds of being accepted? Law school is competitive. What habits do great lawyer practice on a daily basis? Where should I go to school? Does it matter? We have been asked all of these question and more by young men and women hoping to become lawyers one day. Today, we are going to talk about the process of becoming a lawyer and entering the field of law.

Start Early – Excel in High School

It is never too early to develop good habits. In fact, the earlier you learn to practice good habit, the more deeply they will become ingrained in your daily behavior. If you plan on entering into a competitive professional field, it is important to take academics seriously. Doing well in high school will allow you to attend a better college. Doing well at a good college will allow you to attend a good law school. The quality of the law school you attend could have a major impact on your career as a lawyer.

There are many skills that are important when practicing law, including writing, reading, communication, and critical thinking. These skills can be developed in high school. By working hard and studying, you may be able to enroll in advanced placement classes. Not only are advanced placement classes more challenging, allowing you to develop the skills we discussed, they also give you the chance to obtain college credit by passing AP Exams.

It is highly encouraged that young men and women participate in extracurricular activities. While the options at each high school may differ, Debate Club is an excellent option. In Debate Club, students learn to research topics, create arguments, present arguments in front of an audience and, verbally spar with other well-informed debate participants.

Next, we will discuss college prep. Colleges look at many factors when considering applicants. First and foremost, will be your grades. Getting good grades throughout high school displays persistence, commitment, and studiousness. Colleges also place high value on admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT. Students may do better one test or the other, so it is a good idea to study and prepare for both. It is possible to retake tests if students are disappointed or unhappy with their initial scores. Many colleges will ask students to submit an essay. This is to be a thoughtful and personal piece of writing. There is no formula to an excellent college essay. However, it should be well-written, well-edited, and show personality.

With all of these elements in place, students should be prepared for college.

College and Pre-Law

A Bachelor’s degree is necessary to attend law school. However, students are not required to pursue a pre-law degree.

As with high school, grades are extremely important. Many law schools require a minimum grade point average of 3.0, but it is best to aim for higher. There are always extenuating circumstances. Some students can secure admissions to law school with a GPA under 3.0, but these situations are rare and likely required exceptional LSAT scores.

As we discussed, it is wise to choose a major such as pre-law, economics or a business degree. In fact, the American Bar Association does not recommend and specific major to those individuals hoping to become lawyers one day. As with high school, the important thing is to develop skills that would be relevant to taking the LSAT, attending law school, and practicing as a lawyer. Such skills include reading comprehension, critical thinking, logic, and reasoning, as well as communication. Majors which may help develop these skills include Math, Political Science, Economics, English, Business, and Psychology. You should fully utilize college counselors, as they will be best equipped to provide you with advice regarding majors.

Your goal during college is to excel academically while preparing to apply to law school. Letters of recommendation are an important element of the law school applications process, so it is important to develop relationships with professors and other faculty members.

The LSAT

The LSAT or Law School Admissions Test is required for law school admissions. There is one exception. The University Of Arizona James E. Rodgers School Of Law is currently accepting the GRE in addition to the LSAT, meaning students can submit either test score for the admissions process. However, every other law school in the nation requires that aspiring law school students take the LSAT.

The test is only administered four times a year, so it is important to register early. Scores on the exam range from 120-180. The average score is around 150. Many LSAT prep programs recommend 150-300 hours studying. Studying can be done independently, or through an accredited program, whichever method is best for the individual student. It is possible to retake the LSAT, however, schools will see all scores.

Personal Statement

Admissions offices comb through thousands of law school applications. The only way for them to learn who you are outside of your test scores and grades is through your personal statement. As the name suggests, a personal statement should be personal. It should tell your story. It should touch on your reason for pursuing a career in law. It should explore your motivations and your aspirations. This is also your chance to explain extenuating circumstances such as a low GPA. And finally, your personal statement should be well-written. We encourage you to let your friends, family, and professors read your personal statement and offer constructive criticism. Make sure you prepare your personal statement well ahead of time. As with most writing, it is best to revisit the initial draft after stepping away from it for a period of time.

Applying to Law School

Finally, now that you have completed all the of elements necessary for a law school application, you are ready to apply. Higher ranked law schools are more difficult to get in to. You should apply to as many as eight schools, but you should be aware, many application fees will cast as much as $100, so you should prioritize.

Now, after all of this work, we are going predict you have been accepted to law school! Congratulations! The work has just begun.

That is it for today. In a future post, we will discuss law school, passing the Bar exam, and your early professional career.

The Judicial Branch of Government

On the Hastings & Hastings blog we endeavor to provide useful and actionable information regarding accident prevention, auto insurance, personal injury law, personal injury cases, retaining a lawyer, as well as other issues surrounding our fields of expertise. We also like to take close, studious looks at specific topics related to government and law. Today, we are going to discuss a topic with which we are intimately familiar – the judicial branch of the United States government.

The Constitution of the United States created a federal government which divided into three major branches – the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The branches of government were designed such that they would hold separate, yet co-equal powers. The operating principle behind this division was that prevent any one branch of government from becoming too powerful. By creating three separate yet equal branches of government, our founding fathers created a system of checks and balances which prevents any one branch of government from becoming too powerful. The system works similar to the game of rock-paper-scissors, in which no single element of an interconnected trio can express its power over the other two in such a way as to gain dominance.

As attorneys at law, we deal closely with all three major branches of government. The Legislative branch is tasked with creating laws, the Executive branch is tasked with carrying laws out, and the Judicial branch evaluates laws and manages the court system. In today’s blog, we are going to explore the history of the Judicial branch while learning about its structure and the way it fulfills its role in government.

The History of the Judicial Branch: Its Formation and Defining Tenets

In 1787, the young United States faced a number of problems. Primarily, it was bankrupt. Under the Articles of Confederation, which the country adopted in 1777, the federal government had no ability to levy taxes or regulate commerce. In fact, the federal government had almost no power at all. Congress couldn’t even raise enough money to pay the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Individual states bickered and fought among themselves vying for economic advantages. Change was necessary. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was convened.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was a heated and dissentious affair defined by two major conflicts – the balance of power between the branches of the federal government, and the balance of power between the federal and state governments. Initially, the focus of the debates regarding the structure of the federal government was placed on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches. While the delegates agreed that it was necessary to ensure that the two branches retained separate but equal power, they were unsure how to support this vision. Sitting somewhere to the side of this debate, left somewhat forgotten, was the promising judicial branch. It was only as the summer progressed, and the debates continued, growing in scope and complexity, that it became apparent how essential the judicial branch would be in creating a balanced and stable government. Over the next several months, the constitutional outline for the nation’s court system began to take shape, although what we think of as the modern federal court system was not fully outlined until the First Congress convened in 1789.

The first outlines of the modern judicial system can be traced back to the Virginia Plan, submitted to the Constitutional Convention by Edmund Randolph and written by James Madison. It proposed the establishment of a Supreme Court that would hear appeals of cases with national importance. This initial outline for a Supreme Court was quite difference from what we have today.

First off, it was proposed that judges would hold “tenure with good behavior,” rather than take lifetime nominations. There are clear complications with such a proposal. What does “good behavior” mean? Who determines this standard? Is the legislature qualified to oversee judges? If the legislature was given the power to oversee judges and remove them from service, would this open judges to political pressure and influence? In the final draft of the Constitution, it was determined that federal judges could only be removed via trail for violation of standard good behavior as defined by the protection of public interests. Upon the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a constitutional outline for the structure of the judicial branch had been outlined, however, the final piece of the puzzle would not come into place for a few more years.

The Judiciary Act of 1789

The Judiciary Act of 1789, signed to effect on September 24, 1789 established the modern federal judiciary of the United States. Although Article III, section 1 of the Constitutional stated that, “judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and such inferior courts,” it did not detail the structure of the courts. Such specific details were outlined in the Judiciary Act of 1789.

The Federal Court System

The federal court system is composed of three levels of courts. United States District Courts are the lowest level of federal court. There are 94 federal judicial districts, with one court in each district. There are also three territorial courts. The federal judges who serve in these courts are nominated by the President of the United States and ratified by the Senate. They hold their seat until they retire, resign, pass away, or are impeached. These district courts are the primary trial courts in the federal court system.

The next level is the United States Courts of Appeals which provide mandatory review for decisions made by federal district courts. The United States Courts of Appeals are considered one of the most power legal bodies in the United States, in large part due to their ability to establish legal precedent. Currently, 179 judges serve on the United States Court of Appeals. Judges are nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. As with federal district court judges, they hold a lifetime tenure. The annual salary for judges serving in the United States Courts of Appeals is $213,300. This is established by congress.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest level of federal court. It is considered a court of last resort, which is to say, judgements by the Supreme Court are not subject to further review or appeal by any other court. The Judiciary Act of 1789 initially set the number of Justices on the Supreme Court to six, with five Associate Justices and one Chief Justice. Today, the Supreme Court is made up of nine justices, with eight associate justices and one Chief Justice. The current presiding Chief Justice is John Roberts. He was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005 by President George W. Bush. He is the 17th Chief Justice of the United States.

Arizona Supreme Court

Just as the Federal Court system is divided into three distinct areas, so too is the state court system. The Superior Court of Arizona is a statewide trial court which hears a wide variety of cases including civil and criminal issues. The state appellate court reviews trials and appeal decisions. A majority of these issues come directly from the superior court. As with the Federal Supreme Court is the highest court in the Federal court system, the State Supreme Court is the highest court in the Arizona court system.

Superior Court judges serving in counties with a population greater than 250,000, are appointed by the governor after they have been screened and nominated by the Commissions on Appellate and Trial Court Appointments. Voters approach the retention of Superior Court Judges once every four years.

 

Learning About Auto Insurance with Hastings & Hastings

Here at Hastings & Hastings, our highly qualified team of accident lawyers works diligently handling accident cases, allowing you to focus on the process of healing and putting your life back together. The moment you choose to retain Hastings & Hastings as your accident lawyers, you can rest easy knowing you have secured the highest level of representation. With nearly four decades of experience handling accident cases in Arizona, our reputation as aggressive but fair negotiators precedes us. It allows us to achieve excellent results in a timely fashion.

As personal injury lawyers, we work closely with insurance companies on a daily basis. Other than the individuals who work within the insurance industry, we may be some of the most knowledgeable people around regarding the industry’s inner workings. To people on the outside, the insurance world looks like a complex, completely incomprehensible place. A perception which is quite close to the truth. Understanding how the complicated machinery of the car insurance world functions takes a lot of work.

Today, on the Hastings & Hastings blog, we are going to share our expertise regarding the insurance industry. We are going to take a close look at the role insurance plays when you get in an accident. We are going to offer advice for interacting with your insurance providers. And finally, we are going to cover ways to make sure you are getting the best deal when shopping for insurance, saving you money each and every month. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.

Behind Closed Doors – A Look Inside the Industry

First, we are going to ask a series of questions related to the function of the insurance industry. How does the industry work? How do they make money? How do they determine things like premiums and deductibles? Is the insurance industry regulated? If so, how are they regulated, and who performs the regulation?

In short, insurance companies function by managing and pooling risk. Individuals purchase insurance because they are inherently at risk. At risk of being involved in a car accident. At risk of getting sick or developing a health condition. At risk of being struck by a natural disaster. These are all risks that cannot be fully mitigated or prevented. These risk also pose major financial consequences, the likes of which most individuals are entirely unprepared to meet on their own. And this is why insurance exists.

Essentially, the chances of these risks occurring are relatively small. The chances of being struck by lightning sometime during your life are just 1 in 12,000. The odds of being in a fatal car accident are just 1 in 18,000. The lifetime odds of being in severely hurt in an earthquake are approximately 1 in 20,000, or about equal to the odds of being shot and killed by a toddler. Yes, these incidents do happen. Otherwise, the odds would be zero, but the chances of them happening to any one individuals are slim, which is the primary principle behind the insurance industry.

Insurance companies require buy-in from a large number of people to function properly. Once this has happened, they function by redistributing risk and liability. Essentially, not everyone covered by insurance is going to require the support of the insurance company.

How the Money Flows

Let’s talk about money. After all, money is what makes the world go around. It’s what allows the insurance industry to function as well.

First, we need to define a few terms:

Premium: An insurance premium is the amount of money an individual pays to a company to retain their services.

Deductible: A deductible is pre-agreed upon amount which an individual must pay following a loss or an incident. Once this amount is paid, the insurance company will cover all other costs up to established limits.

Premiums and deductibles are the two primary forces working in the insurance industry. They allow it to live and breathe. They allow insurance companies to make money! And to pay out money to customers in need. To distill the issue down into one clear point, premiums are the spring from which the flow of money originates within an insurance company.

A basic outline of the system works like this. A large group of people makes small individuals payments (premiums) to an insurance company. These individuals do so to protect themselves should a major accident ever occur. For most of them, this will never happen. However, a small percentage will experience an accident or an incident at some point during their lifetime. Usually, these incidents incur major financial costs. Costs which, under normal circumstances, individuals would be unable to afford. But, because they have insurance, they are going to be okay. The insurance company pays them out for their damages up to a prearranged limit. What would have been an insurmountable financial burden is taken care of by the insurance company.

Complicated Math

“Well,” you may be thinking to yourself, “That sounds great and all. Like a tidy little ecosystem. But how do insurance companies decide what to charge us? Do we all get charged the same amount? What if I am less likely to be involved in an accident than another person? Do I get charged the same?”

Basically, there is complicated math working behind the scenes of every decision that happens at an insurance company. An insurance policy, or the contract between you and the insurance company, has many variables which interact with each other to determine the overall structure of the policy. What you pay on a monthly basis (your premium) depends on the limits of your policy, the size of your deductible, additional coverage, and a long list of outside factors. Many of these factors are yours to control. If you would like to have a smaller deductible, you can choose to pay a larger premium. If you want to hold rental insurance or uninsured motorist coverage, your premium will be higher. However, there are many factors beyond the structure of your policy which may influence your premium.

When it comes to auto insurance, one of the primary factors insurance companies will use in determining your premium is your driving record. Past behavior is one of the clearest indicators of future liability. If you have an extensive record of accidents, tickets, and other traffic incidents, the insurance company is assuming a high level of risk by covering you. Therefore, you will have to pay more for coverage. Other factors include the make/model of your car, your age, gender, and marital status, where you live, your credit rating, and your driving habits (how often/far you drive).

In Conclusion

As you can tell, insurance a complex industry which is nearly impossible to understand in its entirety. It is a legal necessity to maintain an auto insurance policy as a driver. In order for insurance to function properly, everyone must participate in the system. Insurance exists to protect you in the event of an accident. However, insurance companies will usually not have your best interest in mind. Their goal is to close an insurance claim as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

If you have been involved in an accident, you should explore your legal options and schedule a free legal consultation with Hastings & Hastings.

Call (480)267-9227 to schedule your free legal consultation today.