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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.