Your car insurance company isn’t a charity. You aren’t donating money every month with no expectation of returned service. Policy holders pay so that if they get into an accident, the insurance company will step in and help cover the expenses. But what if there are complications in your claim process and you are denied?
Here are six common mistakes to avoid when filing a claim after a car accident:
Don’t Wait to File a Claim
In the state of Texas, the statute of limitations (or deadline for filing a claim) is two years. Any claim for injury filed by a driver, passenger, bicyclist or pedestrian must file within two years of the date of the accident.
Auto insurance policies stipulate that you should report accidents “promptly,” which is vague but means you should report an accident as soon as you can. To find out how long your specific insurance actually gives you to report, check your policy or contact your provider directly.
In many car accidents, substantial evidence will need to be gathered to determine the responsible party or break down the percentage of responsibility each party bears. “One of the most important things is to be prompt in filing a claim. Your memory of the accident can fade over time and so can the memories of any witnesses,” Brad says.
Don’t Say Too Much
Brad says, “It doesn’t matter how friendly the insurance adjustor may seem, they are not your friend. Stick to the facts and don't offer too much information. Many people don’t realize that claims handlers are trained to ask loaded questions. The questions might seem routine or mundane to the policyholder, but the answers they elicit can have serious consequences, including denial of the claim."
Also...don’t admit liability. When an accident occurs in which someone else is injured or their property is damaged, the cause of the accident may be different from what you think. It may involve factors that weren't apparent when the incident occurred. An admission of fault might constitute a breach of the insurance contract, which could be grounds for the insurer to deny coverage for the claim.
Don’t Decline Medical Treatment
Declining medical treatment at the scene is one of the most common mistakes made. If there is even the slightest chance of injury, go to the hospital and get checked out. After a traumatic car accident, it may take a while for the pain to cut through the confusion. You could also have injuries that develop slowly and may take days to manifest. Treatment is most effective when it’s early, and insurance companies will use any delay in seeking medical attention against you. It’s important that patients follow the doctor’s orders too. Failing to do so could lead to your claim being denied.
Don’t Accept the First Settlement Offer
Brad says, “The first settlement offer made by the insurance company is rarely a fair one.” Your car insurance company isn't interested in making sure you get full compensation for losses caused by your accident. The insurance company’s goal is to resolve your claim as quickly as it can and in the most cost-effective way possible.
It’s imperative that you and your attorney have a full understanding of the extent of your injuries, the medical treatment you’ll require in the future and the anticipated cost for care in the long term. Only then can you begin settlement talks.
Don’t Sign Anything
“Don’t ever sign anything from the insurance company after an accident without speaking to an attorney,” Brad says.
In a car accident claim, a person who signs a release gives up the right to sue certain individuals or entities as they relate to the specific accident. This means, if you sign a release from the other driver’s car insurance company, you will shield the insurer and its driver from any further legal action arising from the accident. If you sign a medical authorization release it gives the insurance company access to your ENTIRE medical history, past and present, and that can mean you're putting your claim at risk.
Brad says, “Oftentimes I see the insurance company attempt to relate a client’s existing injuries to information they uncover in your past medical history. For instance, if the accident caused a dislocated knee, the adjuster may find that years prior to the accident the client once visited their doctor and mentioned they had knee pain.”
Don't lie. Don't embellish the facts, omit relevant facts or downplay important ones. If the insurance adjuster finds out, your claim could be denied. They could also cancel your policy. That being said, you don’t have to give unsolicited details. Sticking just to the facts is your best bet.
At Parker Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.