Over the past 20-plus years as a car accident lawyer, I have successfully helped hundreds of individuals and families with their accident injury claims. Often times after an accident an insurance company will appear to be friendly and helpful. Keep in mind, however, that insurance companies are in business of making money and the less they payout on claims, the more profitable they will be. This means that it is profitable for an insurance company to make unfair, low ball offers when you are seeking fair compensation for your injuries. As an car accident lawyer, my only job is to represent you, the injured party. I will fight to make sure your rights are protected and that you receive maximum compensation under the law.
We’ve all heard that “…what you say can and will be used against you…” Remember this when dealing with an insurance company. While you should always be truthful when dealing with an insurance company, you should carefully consider what information you provide. What should you say? Should you even talk to the other driver’s insurance company? What information do they really need? Do I have to cooperate with them? Since the information you provide can seriously impact your ability to receive fair compensation for your injuries it is critical to understand the claim process and what your obligations are. If you have any questions at all, or are just not sure what to do, contact GKT and talk to a car accident lawyer today. We offer free consultations and there’s never a fee until we win your claim. Contact us today at (304) 845-9750.
As a car accident lawyer, here are some of the more common questions I get from people dealing with an insurance company following an accident.
The insurance company is calling, should I speak to them?
First, your interests are not aligned with the other driver’s insurance company. While it’s important to recognize that the insurance company needs to investigate the accident to determine who’s at fault and whether anyone was injured, they are motivated to resolve your claim as quickly and for as little money as possible. This is not in your best interest. Nevertheless, you will need to speak with them and your cooperation will help speed up their investigation and expedite the opening of your personal injury and property damage claims. However, since the insurance company is always working against you, I recommend that you proceed with caution.
It’s perfectly fine to provide them with your name, address, phone number and to confirm that you were involved in the accident. It is very important to write down the name, address and phone number of each person with whom you speak. Also include the date and time of the call, the claim number and what was discussed. Let them inspect your car if it was damaged and, if applicable, tell them you were injured, that you sought or will seek medical care and that you are off work. At this early stage I would be reluctant to provide much more than this.
Be careful. Injuries from car accidents can take months to resolve and it will come back to haunt you if you tell the insurance company early on that you “feel fine.”
Should I give a (recorded) statement to the other driver’s insurance company?
As part of their investigation, the insurance company will ask you for a statement. The statement will consist of them asking you questions about the accident and your injuries. You are never required to give a statement and should not feel pressured or rushed to do so. I never agree to statements unless it helps my client’s claim. You should contact a car accident lawyer before agreeing to give a statement so that your rights are protected. If you feel it’s absolutely necessary, here are some ground rules:
- Do not let it be recorded. The insurance company will use your statement against you if it can.
- Say as little as possible and keep your answers short, concise and on point.
- If applicable, tell them that you’re currently treating for your injuries which, as of yet, are undetermined and that you are not comfortable discussing them further.
- In return for your statement ask them to provide you with a copy of any statement they have taken from the at-fault driver or any witnesses (the insurance company rarely agrees to this).
- If you don’t already have it, ask them to provide you with a copy of the police report in advance so that you can review it prior to answering their questions.
- If the statement is to be recorded, have them agree, on the record, to provide you with a copy of it.
- When they ask about the accident, refer them to your statement given to the investigating police officer and contained within the police report.
- Feel free to stop at any time you feel the questions are inappropriate or if you sense that the insurance company is working against you.
Should I give the insurance company my Social Security number?
No. You are almost never required to give your social security number to an insurance company when making a personal injury claim. The insurance company will almost certainly tell you that they are required to obtain your social security number to comply with federal and state laws and to combat insurance fraud. While it is true that the insurance company does have some reporting requirements, they generally do not need your social security number in order to comply. Most often I have found that the “requirement” they refer to is solely an internal policy of the insurance company.
Your social security number is confidential and easily used for identity theft. Once given to the insurance company you’ve lost your ability to control how it will be used. The insurance company will permanently enter it into their systems where it will be prone to data breeches and inadvertent disclosure. Moreover, the insurance company may decide to share it with third party reporting agencies where it is compiled into databases for the ostensible purpose of combating fraud. In reality, insurance companies use these databases to track your claim history in order to defeat your claims. You should always consult with a car accident lawyer before turning over your social security number to an insurance company.
Do I need to let my insurance company know about the accident?
Yes. Your insurance company will want to know that you were involved in an accident. Most likely you have coverages under your own policy that might apply to your accident. For example, you may have purchased medial payments, underinsured or uninsured motorist or collision coverage. All of these coverages can help tremendously if the at-fault driver has too little or no insurance. If you plan to rely on any of these coverage, then it is important to place your insurance company on notice so that they can investigate the claim. Unlike the insurance company for the at-fault driver, you probably do have an obligation to cooperate with your insurance company’s investigation. For example, they may require a statement from you. Before you agree to do this, contact our office at (304) 845-9750 for a free consultation. We will be happy to go over your insurance policy to see what coverages may apply to your claim and what your obligations are.
Should I Sign A Medical Release For The Insurance Company?
If you were injured in an accident, the insurance company has an obligation to investigate your claim and pay for your damages. The value of your claim depends on the amount of your medical bills, the severity and duration of your injuries and the amount of your lost wages. In order to assess these things the insurance company wants to review copies of your medical bills, treatment, wage and income records and, sometimes, your medical history records. The easiest way for the insurance company to obtain this information is for you to sign a medical/legal authorization permitting them access. I never agree to these because the insurance company cannot be trusted to use them responsibly.
First, if you take a moment to read the authorization you will find that it is written very broadly, giving the insurance company unlimited access to your entire medical history. This includes not only records from your treating doctors but also hospital, specialists, mental health and counseling records going as far back as possible. Imagine letting a complete stranger go through your entire medical history regardless of whether it’s relevant to your claim.
Second, once you sign the authorization you are giving up all privacy in the disclosed records. The insurance company is free to retain these records indefinitely in their databases. Some authorizations even permit the insurance company to share these records with third parties. Nothing positive can come from giving this type of authority to an insurance company.
Lastly, depending on the language of the authorization, the insurance company can use the authorization to not only verify your employment but also obtain your wage records, tax returns, worker’s compensation claim files and social security records.
Never sign anything with an insurance company until you fully understand what it is and what rights you are giving up. Always consult with an attorney before signing any authorizations or releases with the insurance company. At GKT we always work to protect our clients’ privacy and never agree to provide unlimited authorizations. We collect the necessary records and only submit to the insurance company those records it needs to evaluate your claim. We also review the documents beforehand and remove any personal information, such as social security numbers, that is not relevant to the claim. By doing so, you can be assured that everything is being done to protect your rights and your privacy.
Do I need to hire an attorney to handle my claim?
Yes, you should hire an attorney to ensure that your rights are being protected, your best interests are being served, and to obtain the maximum recovery under the law. At GKT, you can talk to us at no expense to you. We will answer your questions and provide you with the legal advice and information so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.
As you can see, the claims process is quite complicated and contains many pitfalls. The insurance companies have teams of attorneys, investigators, medical professionals and adjusters working to minimize and defeat your claim. You need a law firm with the knowledge and experience to fight for you. For more than 45 years GKT has been a local car accident law firm right here in the Ohio Valley with a proven track record of fighting for our clients and defending their rights. Contact our office today at (304) 845-9750. We are licensed to practice in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.