INSURANCE CLAIMS DO’S AND DON’TS
Insurance companies have access to vast resources, including trained claims personnel who will look closely at how an injury occurred, whether you have a history of claims, and whether your injury can be tied to a pre-existing condition that can be used to try and lower the value of your case.
In fact, many adjusters receive extensive training in psychology, listening and communication skills, negotiations, claims evaluation and legal issues. They frequently have scripts and outlines that they follow when handling your claim, and rarely take action on a claim without permission from a supervisor or a claims committee. Every adjuster has strict company guidelines that he or she must follow and is required to handle your claim according to those rules.
The problem is that you will never know this. The claims adjuster is a frontline person for a sophisticated, well-organized company, and the adjuster’s job is to evaluate your claim and pay as little as possible. This can put you at a disadvantage. However, there are many ways for you to take care of yourself and your family when you’ve been hurt.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF WHEN YOU HAVE A KENTUCKY PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM
I am attorney Mike Breen, and I’d like to offer the following tips for people who have been injured in a wreck or an accident, and must deal with an insurance company:
DO call your agent as soon as the wreck or accident happens, even if you are not at fault. If you wait, you may lose some of your rights.
DO insist that the insurance company for the other driver pay for a rental car for you. If the other driver is at fault, Kentucky law requires that driver’s insurance company to immediately obtain a rental vehicle for you for as long as it takes to repair your car, or pay for your car if it is a total loss.
DO keep track of every penny you have to spend because of the injury. This includes mileage for trips to the doctor, prescription medications, payments for services that others perform for you while you are recuperating, wage loss, sick and vacation days used while recovering from your injury, medical bills and anything else that is an extra expense. These are important because they are part of the damages claim you have for the other person’s negligence.
DON’T give any sort of a statement to an insurance adjuster without first checking with a lawyer. Insurance adjusters are trained to take statements, and an adjuster for the insurance company for the person who harmed you may attempt to get you to say something that will hurt your case. This may be a question that tries to show that you are at fault for the accident, or it may be a question that tries to show that your injuries aren’t related to or pre-existed the accident. You have no obligation to give a statement to an adjuster, although many will tell you that they cannot consider your claim unless you do. This is false and may be a violation of Kentucky law. If an adjuster says this to you, it is a flag that the adjuster is not shooting straight with you.
DO take photographs of your injuries. Don’t wait. Some people are embarrassed by photos of when they look their worst, but nothing tells a story like a photograph.
DO contact an experienced personal injury lawyer if you have received a serious or catastrophic injury. It is important to have your case investigated and documented immediately. Witnesses must be interviewed, and injuries and accident scenes need to be photographed while memories are fresh, and before the weather and traffic conditions change important evidence. It may also be important to contact governmental agencies to have them investigate regulatory violations that may have contributed to the accident.
DON’T sign any sort of a release that gives up your rights. Many people cost themselves thousands of dollars by accepting a small cash payment early in their case in exchange for a release of all their claims. Insurance companies call these “first call settlements,” and the releases are binding under Kentucky law. People often do not know the extent of their injuries right after they have been hurt, and if they sign a release they give up their rights to adequate compensation, even if their injuries later turn out to be serious.
DON’T give the insurance company a medical authorization. This allows them to talk to your doctors and get all of your medical records, even records that may have nothing to do with the injuries you received in the accident. You are not required to give a medical authorization to any insurance company but your own.
DON’T let the insurance company take control of your claim. Insurance companies often try to “control the claim” by giving the injured person wrong information or telling them that they do not need a lawyer. The adjuster who starts telling you what you can and cannot do, what your rights are, and what you are owed is trying to control the claim and usually does not have your best interests in mind.
DO look at your car insurance policy at least once a year. It is important that you have adequate insurance coverage. We have seen too many cases during our many years of experience where our clients have not had enough insurance to compensate them for their injuries. Additional coverage can frequently be bought for a very small amount over and above what your company charges for “full coverage.” Many agents tell their customers that they have “full coverage” when in fact they are selling nothing more than the minimum amounts required by Kentucky law. In other words, insurance agents may be selling only what the law requires them to sell, and may not be writing the coverages that you actually need. It costs nothing for your agent to quote the additional coverages for you.
WHAT ARE ADEQUATE AMOUNTS OF CAR INSURANCE FOR KENTUCKY DRIVERS?
I recommend that you have at least the following amounts of coverage:
Liability – $100,000
Property Damage – $25,000
No-fault / Personal Injury Protection – $30,000
Uninsured motorist coverage – $100,000
Underinsured motorist coverage – $100,000
No-fault or personal injury protection is collected from your own insurance company and pays medical bills and wage loss. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if the other driver has no insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage protects you if the other driver does not have enough insurance to compensate you for your injuries.
It will surprise you how little these valuable extra coverages cost, and they are vital to protect you and your family in the unfortunate event of a serious injury. If you have any questions about this, you should contact your agent, or you can call us for a free telephone consultation.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY ISN’T TREATING ME FAIRLY?
Insurance companies can use pressure tactics, or try and lure you into saying something that can hurt your case. They may make demands for information they are not entitled to or insist that their insured did nothing wrong when accident reports and other investigations say otherwise. Many times they refuse to pay what is owed and try to cut corners. At other times insurance companies are just slow to pay.
I’m attorney Mike Breen, and I began studying insurance companies while I was in law school, and wrote a book on insurance company claims misconduct in Kentucky. I have also taught at dozens of legal seminars that have been attended by lawyers, judges and insurance company representatives.
During my nearly 30 years of experience, I have learned how insurance companies evaluate claims, and many of the tricks they use to try and pay less than they owe to people who have been hurt or injured, or had a loss to their home from a fire or a storm. I have also developed highly effective techniques for getting insurance companies to pay full and adequate compensation on claims under Kentucky law.
There is never a substitute for an attorney who understands how insurance works, and I, attorney Mike Breen, am always available to answer questions about Kentucky personal injury claims. Our policy is that we do not charge a fee unless we win your claim and you collect. Contact Kentucky personal injury attorney Mike Breen today for a free consultation.