When you’re injured in a car accident in Denver, it’s stressful enough dealing with the mounting medical bills and the long healing process. Sometimes you have to miss days of work. Other times, you might even be forced to quit your job. Even worse, all the red tape and hoops you have to jump through when dealing with insurance claims just adds insult to injury. But it’s important to make sure you receive all the money you’re entitled to. After years of responsibly paying your insurance premiums, you deserve to recoup every dollar you are owed from your coverage!
However, I’m sorry to say that insurance companies are not on your side. Even if you like your insurance agent personally, the company behind that agent will likely do everything in its power to limit the amount they have to pay you after an accident.
For example, an insurance adjuster’s sole purpose is to investigate claims to determine whether you should be paid for your injuries and, if so, how much money you should receive. However, if they want to be considered “good” at their job by their employer, they have to save the insurance company as much money as possible. This means they often use somewhat sneaky tactics to avoid paying victims as much money as they deserve.
Insurance companies make their money by receiving premium payments from their customers, so they will try to persuade you not to file a claim, or they will come up with as many reasons as they can for why you don’t qualify for payment. This way, insurance companies don’t lose money. (This is also why you need a good Colorado personal injury attorney on your side, but that’s fodder for another article.)
Here are the Top 5 Ways Insurance Companies Cheat You After a Crash
1. Asking for a Recorded Statement
Most everyone is familiar with the Miranda Warning that says, “Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.” This is also true for recorded statements that an insurance company may request from you after you’re injured. Insurance adjusters want to find out what your story is and how they can twist your words to make you look bad, thus making you ineligible for your claim. No matter what you say to any representative at an insurance company, whether informally or formally, will be used and dissected thoroughly to see if there’s anything they can use against your case.
Please remember: When it comes to car accidents, there is no law in Colorado or any other state that says you must provide a recorded statement to the insurance company of the driver who hit you. Giving a recorded statement never helps you, and victims who provide such statements typically end up getting low-balled in their settlement offer or their claim may be refused outright. If an insurance company representative is asking you to make a recorded statement, hang up and call a car accident attorney immediately.
2. Pushing for a Quick Settlement
Dealing with insurance companies and legal battles can be an extremely stressful experience. But no matter how badly you want to wash your hands of the entire thing and just get it over with, you should never fall into the trap of accepting a quick settlement from your insurance company.
Insurance companies use this tactic because it saves them a lot of time and money, and it almost always guarantees that car accident victims accept a much smaller amount before fully understanding their injuries and how much their claim is really worth. Until you have investigated your situation extensively and until you have fully recovered from your injuries, you won’t have an idea of how much your settlement should be.
Remember: insurance companies are not on your side – even your OWN insurance company. Their goal is to hang onto their money; not give it away to you. Therefore, limit the amount of time you speak with the insurance company on the phone and set strict guidelines up front as to when you will speak with them. When you do speak with them, be sure to give very limited information. (Again, I cannot stress enough that a qualified Colorado personal injury attorney can make this entire process easier for you while they also get more money out of the insurance company for your medical and personal needs.)
3. Asking for a Signed Medical Release
If you’re in a car accident, an insurance adjuster may try to convince you that you absolutely have to sign medical release forms, giving them access to all of your medical records, both past and present. They may tell you they cannot process your claim without you signing the forms, or that it’s just a routine practice and nothing to worry about. If you do sign these forms, the insurance company will have access to all of your medical information—not just the information pertaining to your accident.
Why is this bad? I have seen insurance companies go far back into a victim’s health history and deny payment based on previous experiences that have nothing to do with the accident and the victim’s current condition. They can use anything they find in your past medical history against you, even going so far as to say the injuries you’re claiming from this accident are from a previous incident, thus denying your claim.
4. Causing Confusion
When it comes to the average individual, insurance jargon and contracts are tedious, time-consuming and confusing. Insurance companies often rely on a victim’s confusion (and the many other issues they may be facing, such as medical concerns) to push inadequate settlements or even to get victims to sign away their own rights! Consider this alarming story from a recent American Association for Justice report titled, Tricks of the Trade – How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse:
Your house sustains heavy damage from wind and rain during a hurricane. The storm surge floods the lower level of your home three hours later. Despite the destruction, you are consoled by the fact you purchased hurricane insurance as part of your homeowner’s policy. Your home sustains hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, but you are confident it will be covered.
You’re wrong. The insurance company points to the “anti-concurrent” clause in your policy. “I had hurricane insurance,” you counter. But it does not matter. The flood negates the coverage. How could you have known that hurricane damage would not be covered, even by hurricane insurance, if there was a flood? “You should have read your policy,” says the insurance company, and points to some incomprehensible legalese headlined as an “anti-concurrent” clause in your policy.
When filing a claim, sign NOTHING until you hire an attorney to go over the documents so you know your rights.
5. Refusing to Renew
Although you shouldn’t rush the process and settle right away, be sure not to waste too much time filing a claim if you decide that’s the route you want to take, especially if you’ve already contacted your insurance company with an inquiry. Many insurance companies will drop your coverage and refuse to renew a policy if they get a whiff that you may be considering a claim. If you make a phone call to the insurance company even inquiring about the possibility of filing a claim, and you decide not to, they have documented your phone call. Be 100 percent sure that you are going to file a claim before contacting your insurance company.