Top 5 Secrets Your Car Insurance Company Doesn’t Want You To Know After An Accident

A look at how car accident victims can protect themselves against insurance policy traps, captive agents, pushy adjusters, and low-ball settlement offers

Most individuals who’ve been involved in a car accident simply want their auto insurance company to do what they promised them they would do — cover vehicle repair costs,  medical expenses when a physician visit was needed, and reimbursement for the lost wages they missed as a result of injuries preventing a prompt return to work following the accident. But unfortunately, as soon as someone is involved in an accident, insurance companies are quick to look for ways to break their contractual promises.

Below are the Top 5 most frequent tactics that are used by numerous auto insurance companies and insurance claims adjusters to avoid paying valid claims. Attorney Steve Gursten has given us his input on how you can protect yourself and protect your legal rights if this occurs to you.

Top 5 Secrets Your Car Insurance Company Doesn’t Want You To Know After An Accident

Captive car insurance company agents look out for themselves, not for you, and don’t recommend the best car insurance coverage to protect you and your loved ones if you’re badly injured in an accident

The best advice is to always talk to an independent insurance agent. This is a good idea because an agent that only sells for one insurance company (i.e., a “captive agent”) will not always disclose better coverages that can protect you if his/her insurance company doesn’t provide it.

Attorney Steve Gursten says the saddest example he sees over and over again as an auto accident lawyer “involves captive agents who never disclose to their customers what uninsured/underinsured motorist policy is — because they don’t offer it. These customers sit down and tell the agent they want to protect themselves and their family. The agent will sell them a million dollars of RBI (residual bodily injury coverage) to protect some stranger if they (the customer) cause an auto accident, but then sell them 20,000 dollars in UM/UIM if they are catastrophically injured or killed because of someone else.”

This is ludicrous!

But it happens and individuals never find out until it’s too late. The explanation for this being so important is that you and your loved ones will have no basis of legal recovery for your own bodily injuries without uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. You are absolutely dependent on whatever the policy limits are of the individual who caused the car crash. Just as an example, in Michigan, the minimum insurance policy limit is $20,000 and that’s what most drivers have opted for. Or you can be hurt in a car crash in Flint or Detroit, where nearly 50% of the city population doesn’t have any auto insurance, in which case you would recover absolutely nothing for your injuries or pain and suffering if the driver who hit you didn’t have insurance and you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage.

That million dollars of RBI insurance you purchased in case you cause an accident doesn’t do anything to protect you and your loved ones if you’re the innocent victim and are injured by another negligent driver.

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Yes, you can hire an attorney and sue the other driver for his/her personal assets, but most people do not have enough assets to compensate the individual that he/she has critically injured – and unless drugs or alcohol are involved, the other driver can always file for personal bankruptcy at the end of the case to avoid paying you regardless.

Here’s how Attorney Gursten suggests you protect yourself:

  • “Check your own auto insurance policy to verify that you uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. I recommend at least $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. For most people, this is the price of buying two movie tickets and a bag of popcorn.”
  • “If this critical type of insurance coverage is missing, because your own insurance company doesn’t offer it, drop your auto insurance like a hot potato and contact an independent insurance agent to get quotes from many insurance companies that do offer it so you can get the best coverage at the lowest price.”

What’s in the policy fine print can hurt you

A lot of restrictions and limitations are hidden in your auto insurance policy’s fine print. In particular, your policy’s fine print may state:

  • A 30-day notice condition in uninsured motorist policies for hit-and-run accidents.
  • A “set-off” stipulation that may reduce your uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits by the amount that was paid in medical bills and wage loss benefits, or the amount you’ve recovered from an at-fault driver.
  • A shortened-filing limitation period.

Far too often individuals miss out on important insurance benefits because they simply didn’t know of important filing requirements buried in their policies.

Here’s how Attorney Gursten suggests you protect yourself:

  • Contact your insurance company immediately after any type of auto accident, especially one involving a hit-and-run driver.
  • Check insurance policies for any set-offs that can be used to deduct benefits that you’ve paid for. These include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and any overlap with your own health and disability insurance.
  • Make sure your medical providers are sending bills to your No-Fault insurer.
  • Consider calling an experienced auto accident attorney, who can quickly review with you what you are entitled to under your state’s auto law. Do not presume your adjuster has your best interests and telling you everything you’re entitled to under your policy.

Don’t let car insurance company adjusters intimidate you into accepting a low-ball settlement offer

Envision that you’ve been injured in a car accident. You’re now recovering at home, in pain, and distressed about how you are going to afford your bills.

A car insurance company adjuster rings your doorbell (yes, they actually come to your house). The adjuster represents the individual or the company that caused your crash. They have a check they can give you for $10,000 for your wreck. All you have to do is simply sign a release.

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They do this for a reason. For many individuals, especially to those who are hurting and under stress, $10,000 sounds like quite a lot of money.  Often, many people immediately accept the first settlement offer they get without ever consulting a lawyer.

Huge mistake.

Accepting to settle immediately for a fraction of what a qualified auto accident attorney can recover for you is beneficial for the car insurance company, but not so beneficial for you. A study by the insurance industry found that an auto accident victim who is represented by an experienced auto accident attorney recovered approximately 4 times more than if that individual is unrepresented.

That’s why the adjuster for the reckless driver that just hit you is knocking at your door or calling you at home!

Here’s how to protect yourself:

  • Find out what your case is really worth by checking out Michigan Auto Law’s “What Is Your Auto Accident Case Worth?” tool.
  • Get a free consultation with an auto accident lawyer. As I wrote above, research indicates that auto accident injury claims settle for approximately four times more when you’re represented by an experienced attorney. Arguably, the number is even higher now as the insurance industry uses claims processing software that now evaluates who that attorney is.

Be wary of insurance adjusters demanding recorded statements and medical records from car crash victims

As with the low-ball settlement offers discussed above, insurance companies carry on these practices because it works with often overwhelmed, injured and vulnerable auto accident victims.

Claims adjusters repeatedly try to get recorded statements early on. In Michigan, this can often be your own car insurance company that is looking to minimize your future personal injury lawsuit by asking you questions that they have no right to ask, such as detailed questions about how the crash happened. Keep in mind, if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and you are seriously injured, your own insurance company may have a clear conflict of interest and may be undermining your medical care or future injury lawsuit because they are looking to minimize what they may later have to pay you.

Even seemingly innocuous vehicle damage releases can contain completely unrelated language that can jeopardize your other unrelated claims,

Here’s how Attorney Steve Gursten suggests you protect yourself:

  • If you are ever asked to sign a release, such as a mini tort release, you need to make sure it is not a release of any other claim other than the one you are releasing. Be careful, this happens all the time. If you see any language regarding “all claims,” or “known or unknown” you should stop and contact an experienced attorney to review the release. You may be signing away a half million dollar injury claim for a few thousand dollars!

If you were injured in a car collision, attorney Steve Gursten also suggests to never give statements to an adverse auto accident claims adjuster or a third-party adjusting service that may be hired. Do not sign a release for an adverse party to evaluate your medical records. I understand why this happens, but regardless of how desperate you may feel or how much anxiety you may be feeling about the burden of medical bills, lost wages and disabling pain, resist the lure to “cooperate” with the claims adjuster who is making vague promises that they’ll “take care of everything” and are dangling an early settlement with you without telling you what that amount will be.

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Watch out for stone-walling. Many states have very strict statute of limitations, which is the time you have to file a lawsuit. Claims adjusters always seem to wish for “one more thing” before they will pay your claim. Some statute of limitations can contractually shortened even further depending on what type of auto accident you had (such as if you were injured in a hit and run). Once a statute is blown, it’s blown forever. There are very few exceptions to this.

It’s not you — insurance companies deny and delay auto claims payouts to nearly everyone

Many individuals who have been hurt in an auto accident will call their car insurance company to find out what to do next.

Sounds rational. They assume that just like the commercials on TV shows, the claim will be paid promptly and fairly. They imagine they are “in good hands” and will be treated “like a good neighbor.”

However, multiple insurance companies have been repeatedly sued and fined for the conscious and typical practice to delay, deny, and then to defend valid auto accident claims. This includes the “good hands” folks at Allstate, and the “good neighbor” at State Farm.

The delay part is particularly risky with auto No-Fault claims. It happens too many times where claims adjusters ignore submitted claims, don’t return phone calls, pass victims from one adjuster to the next, put claims “under investigation” — often without any reason given, and then demand that victims submit to a string of seemingly endless IME (misleadingly called “independent” medical exams) by “hired gun” insurance-company physicians.

Here’s how Attorney Steve Gursten suggests you protect yourself:

  • If you are experiencing these typical delay, deny, and aggressively defend tactics, your only choice is to hire an auto accident attorney who can assist you with getting your claim paid and the insurance benefits you are entitled to by law.

Some additional tips

  • Consider raising your deductibles to at least $500 or more as this can considerably lower your auto insurance premiums by 15% to 40%.
  • Consider eliminating collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, dropping those coverages can save you money, unless you still owe money for the vehicle.

Post Author: Johnny R

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