You may feel overwhelmed following a Washington motorcycle accident. You are probably dealing with medical doctors regarding treatment for any injuries you sustained. You may also be dealing with your boss regarding missed work while you recover. Finally, you may also be dealing with law enforcement who came to the scene of the accident along with police reports.
This is usually around the time you get a call from an insurance adjuster to talk about your accident. Whether it is your own insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company who is calling, you always want to be careful about what you say.
The moment you were injured, the insurance industry declared war against you. In the past several decades the insurance industry has spent millions and millions of dollars on advertising that spreads false and misleading information about accident claims. The industry wants people to believe that justice system is broken and out of control with people filing frivolous lawsuits and getting millions for minor injuries. Propaganda like this has created a false perception that our justice system needs fixing.
Unfortunately, the false information spread by the insurance industry has had a hugely negative influence on juries and their verdicts here in Washington. Juries today are very skeptical of people who file lawsuits and ask for “pain and suffering” money. This can be a big obstacle to getting justice in your case, even when you’ve been severely injured, and the other driver has admitted being 100% at-fault
You need to be aware that the insurance adjuster will use any means available to pay out as little as possible, regardless of how severe the injuries are in your case. Insurance adjusters receive extensive training on how to save the company money, which often puts them directly at odds with examining the injury claim and paying a fair settlement. Most insurance companies give bonuses and promotions based on how much money an adjuster saves the company rather than on how many claims are settled. You may be asking how this is accomplished. There are several ways:
- Delay, delay, delay. The adjuster is a master of using delay tactics to wear you down. He knows people will eventually get frustrated and cave into accepting his low-ball settlement offer just to be done with the whole thing.
- Requesting more information. Another method is when the adjuster makes repeated requests for more “documented” information even if it has no relevance on the amount that will be offered in settlement. Repeated requests for more information can quickly frustrate the most patient person and wear them down so they’re more likely to take the low-ball offer.
- Questioning medical care. Criticizing or questioning your medical treatment is one way the adjuster will try to minimize the value of your claim, despite having no medical training at all! The fact that your licensed doctor may have prescribed the treatment carries little weight.
- “Nickel & Diming” your medical bills. Often the adjuster will agree to “cover” only 70, 80, or 90% of your past medical bills without any medical reason to dispute the medical care. By nickel and diming you, the well-trained adjuster knows most people will not hire an experienced injury attorney to dispute the small amount of medical bills not paid.
- Telling you NOT to hire an attorney. Sometimes the adjuster will steer you away from talking to an attorney and falsely tell you all the money will go to the attorney. Other times the adjuster may threaten to “deny” the claim if you hire a lawyer.
- Lying about insurance policy coverage. At times, the adjuster will mislead you about the amount of insurance coverage that is available. Or worse, not even tell you that the insurance coverage or certain types of benefits even exist. Again, this is used to push you to accept a lower settlement offer.
- Being overly friendly. An adjuster may try to act like your friend and appear to be worried about you and watching out for your best interests when in fact he or she is not. Sometimes the adjuster will give advice about what kind and how much medical treatment to get and then turn around and claim the treatment was excessive and refuse to pay.
Comparative negligence is yet another tactic insurance company use to minimize their covered driver’s fault. Comparative negligence allows the insurance company to discount the liability of the person who caused the accident because of factors that contributed to the accident by the victim. Here are a few examples of what an insurance company might say:
-You were going over the speed limit, so the damages were 20% greater than they would have been otherwise
-You were looking down at your navigation system at the time of the accident, so you may have been able to avoid the accident all together
Their questions may seem very unassuming, but your answers can be exploited and taken out of context to allege comparative fault. In some cases, damages from a motorcycle accident can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. This means that even at 20% assignment of fault is over $20,000.
When confronted by an insurance company it is important to be careful with what you say and how you answer their questions. You should never lie, but you should always understand the different ways in which your words can be interpreted. The best advice is to consult with an attorney before offering an insurance company any information.
Here are some things to remember when you talk with the insurance company after you have been in a motorcycle accident:
- You have a duty to cooperate with your OWN insurance agent; however, you can still consult an attorney prior to answering their questions. If your own insurance is on the hook for an accident caused by you or by an uninsured motorist and you feel uncomfortable with their questioning, you should never feel pressured to answer immediately.
- You are under no obligation to answer any questions from at-fault driver’s insurance adjusters without a subpoena. Never feel pressured into providing them an answer.
Understand the difference between “notice” and “discussion.” Putting insurance agents on notice of your name and the date and time of the accident should happen as soon as possible after the collision, but you can always call back with more details about how the accident happened and what your injuries are AFTER discussions with your attorney.
- Assume that you are being recorded…ALWAYS. Even if you are not being told that you are being recorded, many states require that only one party be aware of the recording. Choose your words carefully.
- Never write or sign a written statement without an attorney.
- Never sign a medical release without an attorney. This is because insurance adjusters will look for pre-existing conditions and invade your privacy if you give them free range of your medical records. Almost all the medical records release we see allow the insurance company to your entire lifetime of medical records. Some of your records will be relevant and others will not. An attorney can help make this distinction and when it’s appropriate to sign such a document.
- Do not try to diagnose your injuries. You are not a medical expert and may not be aware of the full extent of your injuries. Get checked out by a doctor before giving any specific details about exactly what kind of injuries you have suffered.
- Never sign a release without an attorney. If an insurance company offers you money, you never want to accept it without first reviewing the offer with an attorney. If you accept an offer that is too low, you will not be able to get more money later. An attorney can help you determine whether an offer should be accepted or if a higher amount needs to be negotiated.
If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident give us a call at 425-970-9300 for a FREE consultation. We are experienced local Washington motorcycle accident attorneys that can help review any settlement offers, communicate with insurance companies, and help you to determine the best financial recovery after your motorcycle accident.