By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
Insurance companies like all businesses have a bottom line, which is to increase profits at all costs. That bottom line often precludes any real consideration for the severity of someone’s injuries, and therefore leads to an array of miserly tricks aimed at reducing the value of a claim, or even fully denying a claim.
Given that insurance companies deal with these matters day in and day out, it’s imperative that you level the playing field and arm yourself against their deviousness. A personal injury lawyer is exactly the kind of person you want on your side when taking on these big insurance companies. Your lawyer will advocate for you and do the tedious work of organizing and communicating evidence, investigating claims, derailing efforts to obstruct the process, and more. He or she will do all of this work in your name and your lawyer only gets paid when you receive your settlement or award.
Even with a personal injury lawyer it is helpful to educate yourself. There are several underhanded stratagems that you can expect from the insurance company when filing a claim.
- First of all, the insurance company knows that you are mentally frayed by the experience of being injured and having to file a claim. The adjuster will use this as a weapon against you. He may pretend to be your friend in this trying time, telling you there’s no need to get a lawyer, and that the insurance company will even pay the medical bill. But when that bill comes the adjuster’s tune changes, saying that the insurance company can no longer cover the full amount. Now that the process is already under way and you are effectively steeped in debt, they take full advantage of you.
- They may attempt to strong-arm you into a quick settlement. They’ll come to your home or where you work and ask you to sign on the dotted line, ensuring that you get a small sum of money, but that you can never sue them in the future. If they do this early enough (i.e. before you get the bill), you could be prevented from getting more money in the event that your medical bill exceeds the amount of the settlement.
- In order to pressure you into making a settlement, they may set a meaningless deadline, so as to force you into a deal before you can figure out the total sum of your medical bills and other expenses. Know that this deadline is an illusion and that you are in no way obligated to comply.
- They may try to show that your injury is related to a previous injury. In order to do this they will ask you to sign a form that gives them access to your medical records. Don’t do this. You are not required to hand over your medical records to the insurance company.
- Similarly, they try to make the argument that your injuries are actually not that bad. This tactic is ubiquitously used in personal injury cases. In order to prove this, they might try to get a statement from you. They’re looking for you to say something that they can manipulate to show that your injuries aren’t severe enough to warrant a claim. It could be something as trivial as a response to a simple question like, “How have you been?”
- They also obstruct the process by delaying your claim for as long as possible so as to push you further into a stressful state. They know that in such a state you are more likely to settle for less money. They also know that if they can delay the process beyond the statute of limitations (two years in many states), then by law you will no longer be allowed to sue them, which means they can deny your claim.
- Knowing that you are not fluent in legalese, they tell you that your insurance plan doesn’t cover your injuries. They know that you will be pressured to take them on their word. This is another reason to get a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can look over your plan and figure out whether or not you are actually covered.
- And finally, in order to avoid liability, they blame you (at least partially) or a third party.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Is Your Best Bet
Dealing with all of these sneaky insurance company maneuvers is not something you want to do all by your lonesome. The best partner you can have is a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will know in advance all of the tactics listed above and what’s more, he or she will be able to deflect and subvert their efforts.