Eight to ten times a week I will get a call from a person who was injured in an auto or truck accident. The accident will have just happened, but they tell me that they aren't sure they need a lawyer because the insurance company has already contacted them and offered a settlement. I take no satisfaction in explaining to these poor people that probably more than anyone I speak to all day, they need legal counsel.
If you settle on an injury claim within the first month, you are compromising substantially the full value of your injury claim. In our line of work, we call it leaving money on the table.
The AMA Guides to Medical Impairment instructs medical doctors that in order to fully evaluate whether a patient has permanent physical injury the doctor must follow the patient for SIX months post accident. Often insurance companies will place calls to injured people within days of the accident in an effort to reach an agreement and have the victim sign his rights away. Usually, those agreements are for a fraction of what the case is actually worth. If care is rushed, it is very possible that not only is the prospect of understanding the permanent injury compromised but so is the ability to determine what the future medical needs are. Some injuries require follow up care ranging from of one year up to a lifetime.
Once a doctor has an understanding of the extent of your injury, she is better able to assess what your future medical needs are in your particular case and what your expected time horizon for that care should be. Settlement talks should commence only after the full picture of your treatment needs are fully understood. But the insurance company will try to sell you short and get you to leave money on the table by settling with you early. Make no mistake, in these tough economic times, the insurance company's number one priority is not you-it is their bottom line.
WHAT IS THE INSURANCE COMPANY'S MOTIVATION?
A. Un-Divulged Coverage Limits:
When you are injured by a negligent driver with liability insurance, the level of coverage needs to be explored. Minimum coverage is $25,000. However, maximum coverage can be millions of dollars. Insurance companies love to talk settlement without divulging their limits of coverage. This move lowers your expectations and therefore the amount of money you willingly take. No good attorney would ever "talk turkey" with an insurance company without knowing the limits of coverage and neither should you.
B. Quick Settlements mean Less Money:
No insurance company is motivated by anything other than sound business decisions that benefit the company. They know that if they can settle a majority of their injury exposure cases quickly they will save money. They win. You lose!
C. They Will Even Break The Law:
Under Colorado law, insurance companies are prevented from engaging in settlement talks with injury victims for one month after the at-issue accident. In reality, it should be six months and even that is the minimum time necessary for a good treatment provider to make a determination about what the future holds for his patient.
Despite the very minimum level of protection that our Colorado state laws provides, I am constantly shocked how freely and often the insurance companies tread all over injury victim's rights in complete violation of Colorado law. Not surprisingly, it is these same insurance adjusters who are breaking the law who also tell victims that they don't need a lawyer.
As a general rule, if the insurance company tells you don't need a lawyer-YOU NEED A LAWYER. Every victim injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident should understand that the insurance company they are dealing with has hired very bright attorneys to work very hard to protect their bottom line. We believe you deserve the same.
At ANDERSON, HEMMAT & McQUINN, we provide a free consultation. We will happily review your situation with you and tell you if we feel the insurance company is treating you fairly or not.