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Legally Speaking

Facts You Need to Know About Auto Insurance, Part 3

02/01/2008 - 8) Stay on top of the "we will work with you" approach to handling your claim.

Not all insurance companies are out to do you wrong. Some claims adjustors are actually trying to work with you. Be aware, however, that insurance companies are large, service-oriented companies and have done studies, polling, and focus groups to decide what is best to minimize their exposure. Thus, insurance companies have learned that the best way to approach you is with promises of fairness and compromise. Studies indicate claims settled by individuals settle for 3 times less than claims handled by an attorney. Thus, it is no surprise that an insurance company will communicate that it is "willing to work with you". It would much rather not have attorneys involved.

9) Stay sensitive to a change in attitude by the adverse party's insurance company.

If you are handling your claim on your own, there is a chance that the adverse party's insurance company has been paying some of your medical bills and gently and consistently assuring you that they will work with you. But, as the bills continue to mount, they may put up more resistance. It is my experience that the insurance company realizes that people begin to get stressed about how they will pay their bills. When this stress is high, the insurance company may make a lowball offer to settle. Many people are just relieved to get their bills paid and put the matter put behind them. But, be careful here. Once you settle there is no coming back for further compensation, even if you later find out you were more injured than you or your doctors first knew.

10) When is the right time to settle?

This is so complex we cannot begin to address it in this Alert. In the end, it depends on you, your injuries, and your prognosis. A couple of things to remember are that first, you need to know the full extent of your injuries before you settle your claim. Once you sign a release of the claim, there is no coming back against the insurance company. This is true even if you later find out that your injuries are more extensive than you thought.

Second, remember that there are time limitations, or what lawyers call "statutes of limitations," which provide a deadline by when you must settle your claim or file a lawsuit. This requires you to consult with a lawyer knowledgeable in the law and your type of injury. So, while you want to wait until you know the full extent of your injuries before you settle, you do not want to wait so long that you give up the right to have your issue addressed in the judicial system.

11) Be an informed consumer.

An immediate fix is just that, and it does not solve the long term problem. You must understand the extent of your injuries and what future medical care you may need, because once you sign a release, there is no coming back even if you later find out that your injuries are much more substantial.

Every case is different with specific circumstances that should be addressed individually. Should you have a legal question, speak to an attorney who is qualified to answer your specific question.

R. Michael Shickich has a regional injury law practice.

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