One car accident in Texas cost a family over a million dollars. Who has that kind of money to pay for medical bills, vehicle repairs or replacement, and lost wages from work? Not most people, and certainly not you.
That’s why insurance companies are relied on to cover auto accident-related damages. If you’re suffering from a car wreck that wasn’t your fault, our Houston car accident attorneys can help you file an insurance claim and recover the ultimate settlement you deserve.
5 tips about the insurance business when it comes to accident claims
Below are five things to know about how the car insurance business operates:
- The insurance company is not your friend.
- Insurance company employees are skilled negotiators.
- The insurance company’s goal is to settle your claim quickly and for as little money as possible, then move on to the next claim so they can meet a business goal (close 5 claims per day).
- A “win” is when the insurance company sends you a low offer and you accept it.
- The insurance company will use all types of information and investigation against you.
Because of how this industry works, insurance employees have no problem taking advantage of you. They are sneaky. They play to win and won’t give you a fair shot.
Insurance companies will use dirty tactics like hiring a private investigator to snoop through your social media profiles.
Next, they will get you on the phone, when you are still vulnerable from the accident. They’ll act like they care so you can talk about the accident, your injuries, and your feelings.
Finally, they will try to trap you into accepting a low settlement offer, because they don’t want to risk you contacting an experienced Houston car accident attorney to fight for you. They know that without an aggressive attorney from Johnson Garcia LLP, you will say yes to their low offer.
The role of insurance adjusters and how they handle injury claims
Adjusters play a part in the development and final result of the accident claims process.
These professionals are also known as claims specialists, claim representatives, or auto claims adjusters. They are responsible for evaluating your claim to determine if the insurance company can deny your claim or how much money they should offer you.
Insurance adjusters use your insurance policy to decide how much your accident claim is worth and to figure out what damages the insurance company may or may not be responsible for covering.
Their main purpose? To minimize the amount of money the insurance company pays you. An insurance adjuster has one job: to save the insurance company money.
When you file an insurance claim, the process begins with assigning an insurance adjuster to your claim.
Some insurance companies may have their own in-house claims adjusters. In situations like this, you may speak with one person. If you are filing a claim against the government for a car accident, the process would be similar, involving a government claims adjuster.
Other times, a third-party or outside insurance company may handle your claim.
If so, third-party insurance companies can complicate the claims process. You might talk to three people. You can struggle with this alone, or you can let a Houston car accident lawyer deal with the insurance company for you.
The insurance adjuster will do one of the following:
- Declare your car a total loss.
- Deny your insurance claim.
- Send you a (low) settlement offer.
Your vehicle may be totaled if you can’t drive the car, it cannot be repaired, or if the repairs will cost more than what the car is worth.
Your claim could be denied if your medical records don’t indicate you were injured because of the accident or if they show pre-existing medical conditions.
Another reason for denying a claim is waiting too long to file the claim. You may ask, “How long do I have to file a personal injury claim in Texas?”
Under Texas law, you have two years to file a personal injury claim. If you wait too long and file your claim later, the insurance adjuster will say your injuries are unrelated to the accident.
If everything looks legit, the claims representative will send you an offer, hoping to close your claim quickly. It’s best to review this offer with an experienced attorney. Always remember, you are not obligated to accept an insurance company’s first offer.
Also remember that you hold more knowledge when negotiating with insurance companies after an accident. You were at the scene of the accident, not the insurance adjuster. You know how the accident happened, who the witnesses are, and what the cars looked like. Hopefully you followed the do’s of a car accident like gathering photos, video surveillance, and being immediately evaluated by a medical professional.
However, you should be careful with what details you share with the insurance company.
Communicating with insurance companies after an accident injury
Getting an offer starts with communication with the insurance company. If you’ve heard it once, you’ll hear it again: anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
The insurance adjuster will disguise himself as being helpful. Please be careful when communicating verbally or in writing with the insurance company. The adjuster will try to use your words to deny your claim.
We all know the things you shouldn’t say after a car accident. The same advice applies when dealing with insurance companies.
If you do any of the below, an insurance adjuster may deny your claim, prove that you’re not injured, or offer you a low settlement offer. Don’t:
- Say phrases that make you sound guilty, like “I’m sorry”.
- Post, tweet, snap or share anything about the accident on social media.
- Don’t underestimate your injuries because serious hidden injuries can appear days later.
To protect yourself, here’s what you should do during your conversations with the insurance company:
- Collect the adjuster’s contact information.
- Remain calm.
- Only give limited personal information: name, address, and phone number.
- Don’t give identifying details about the accident.
- Always use phrases like “maybe”, “I don’t know” or “I will let you know at a later time”.
- Don’t describe your injuries; you’re not a medical professional.
Don’t destroy your claim before it starts. These tips will keep you from saying something wrong out of anger, or giving incorrect details, that may be used against you. For example, you may make a mistake and say it was raining on the day of the accident, but the weather report shows it was sunny.
If you’re asked for your medical records as proof of your injuries, do not provide them. You may be giving too much information. The claims specialist can misinterpret them and offer you little to nothing for your claim. Instead, trust your attorney to share your medical records the right way.
Also, keep a journal or written record of your conversations with the insurance company. Include who you spoke to, the time, date, and the length of the conversation.
Why? Because your attorney will review these records. If your lawyer finds the insurance company was using tricky and unethical insurance tactics, this can land the insurance company in trouble.
Insurance company settlement tactics to watch out for
Keep your eyes and ears open for dirty settlement tactics that insurance companies use to trick accident victims into accepting pennies for their damages.
To avoid stress from the insurance company, call an experienced Houston car accident lawyer before:
- Signing medical authorizations or claim releases.
- Writing a formal statement.
- Letting the insurance adjuster record your conversations.
- Accepting the first offer you receive from the insurance company.
If you fall into any of these traps, you’ll basically close the claim and give up your rights to demand a higher settlement offer.
The insurance company counts on your lack of experience to do what they say, without legal advice.
Also, the insurance company may be engaging in bad faith practices, governed by Chapter 541 of the Texas Insurance Code. Texas does not tolerate bad faith from insurance companies. Insurance claims must be handled fairly. If not, insurance companies face fines up to $10,000.
Here’s what bad faith insurance practices look like so you can identify them:
- Refusing to cover damages that your accident qualifies for.
- Undervaluing your insurance claim.
- Failing to explain the reason for denying your claim.
- Failing to deny your claim in a timely manner.
- Failing to do a thorough investigation of your accident.
- Pressuring you to not hire a lawyer.
Once you submit your claim, the insurance company has 15 days to acknowledge it and request documents from you. These include photos, videos, and police reports for the investigation. If the insurance company accepts your claim, it has five days to pay you.
If the insurance company fails to handle your claim fairly, speak with your attorney. Proving bad faith is another part of a lawsuit that should be tackled by legal professionals.
Gain the advantage against insurance companies after an accident
Handling the big insurance company on your own can lead to getting less than what your damages are worth. This can ruin the rest of your life and make your physical recovery that much harder.
The aggressive Houston car accident attorneys at Johnson Garcia LLP have over 30 years of combined legal experience that you can rely on to fight for you. Give yourself the advantage over the tricky insurance companies and contact us for genuine personal injury expertise. Your first consultation is free, and you pay nothing unless we win.