One of the biggest mistakes car accident victims make is to believe they can trust or outsmart the insurance company. Insurance companies work to fool you into believing that your best interests are their main consideration when it’s really saving money for the insurance company.
People may be hesitant about hiring a lawyer. They incorrectly fear they will have to pay a lot of money up front. We’ve also heard people say they didn’t hire a lawyer because it’s not about the money, and that they’re “not that type of person.”
However if you decide to handle your injury claim, or whatever your motives, it boils down to being treated fairly and getting justice. After reading the information below, you’ll have serious doubts about whether you’ll be treated (or paid) fairly by an insurance company without the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Dirty Trick #1: The car insurance company will offer to pay only your health insurance copays and disregard write-offs.
In Virginia, you are entitled to payment for all reasonable medical bills related to the injury. This means you are entitled to payment for the actual charge made by the hospital or healthcare provider. The at-fault driver’s insurer does not get to pay less for the medical bills where you have health insurance. We are aware of at least one instance in which an insurance company made a lowball offer and had the nerve to ask the injured person to ask his own doctors to lower their bills so it could get off cheaper. An experienced personal injury lawyer will insist upon full payment of the bills. Most auto insurance companies don’t even attempt this dirty trick on experienced injury lawyers because we know the rules.
Dirty Trick #2: The insurance company wants to be done with you, and can’t be bothered to worry about your future health and obligations.
The insurance company may make a settlement offer to a victim not telling them it is in exchange for a full release- i.e., the case is closed and the insurance company will never pay you more.
The settlement may, however, not entirely belong to the client as others may be entitled to part of the money. Some health insurance plans are entitled to be repaid out of personal injury settlements. The insurance company may not mention that the injured person’s health insurance company could request reimbursement after-the-fact. If the health insurance is owed part of the settlement, then the settlement can actually be a lot less, which is of no concern to the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
The liability insurance company is usually careful to admit that it does not know if the client’s health insurance has a right to repayment from the settlement, but shamefully nudges them toward accepting the settlement by suggesting that “they would have notified you” by now since months have passed since the accident happened. This is simply not true, and the suggestion otherwise is dishonest. It is true that some health insurances are not entitled to reimbursement, and sometimes a health insurance plan that is entitled to repayment never seeks it. However, the health insurance plan can pursue a person for violating the terms, including cutting you off from future benefits.
The safest and best practice is to have an experienced personal injury law firm proactively contact your health insurance company to determine if it has reimbursement or subrogation rights. If there are no reimbursement rights, then you will have peace of mind in knowing that you won’t get a big bill after-the-fact. If your health insurance does have reimbursement rights, then it can be handled on the front end, and the amount owed possibly negotiated to allow you to pocket a larger portion of the settlement.
Dirty Trick #3: The insurance company “admitting fault” or “accepting liability” does not mean you’ll be paid fairly.
Even if the insurance company “admits fault” or “accepts liability” it does not mean you will be paid fairly. It simply means that for the purposes of settlement discussion, the insurance company is not disputing that its driver was at fault.
They will still attempt to negotiate as low of a settlement as you will allow. Also, they can change their mind at any time, and in many instances if the case ends up in court the lawyers for the insurance company will dispute fault.
Dirty Trick #4: If you happen to be dealing with your own insurance company, it doesn’t mean you will be treated more fairly.
Sometimes, coincidently, the at-fault driver happens to have the same insurance company as you. There are also occasions where an uninsured motorist injuries you, so you’ll have to negotiate with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage. Don’t be lulled into thinking you will be taken care of simply because you are a loyal customer of the company and always make your payments on time. Your own insurance company will fight you just as hard as anyone else to pay you as little as possible.
Dirty Trick #5: Not hearing from the insurance company and delay as deadlines approach and evidence goes stale.
In Virginia, the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit is typically two years from the date of the accident. Often someone injured in an accident thinks they have plenty of time to attempt to handle the case themselves. They believe they can always hire a lawyer later. They feel confident because the insurance adjuster seemed sympathetic and caring, and “accepted responsibility.”
It is not uncommon for our law firm to receive calls from people 20+ months after the accident panicked that they can’t get the insurance company to call them back. Or upset that they waited all this time just to have the insurance company request five years of pre-accident medical records, so it can argue that your problems are from a pre-existing condition. Meanwhile, you have lost touch with key witnesses.
If you’ve reached this late state without an attorney, the insurance company has all the leverage. Some lawyers are often hesitant to undertake an injury case very close to the deadline to file a lawsuit, and insurance companies know this. An insurance company can then offer you an unfair settlement. Without a lawyer involved, you are simply not viewed as a legitimate threat to file a lawsuit to insist upon fair payment.
An Attorney Can Help You Avoid The Dirty Tricks Car Insurance Companies Use
These are just a few examples of dirty tricks insurance companies use to avoid paying unrepresented people fairly. These techniques are how they continue to take advantage of people for profit. While every case is different, and not all cases necessarily require the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. Don’t let the insurance company take advantage of you.