Who Should I Talk To First After A Car Accident – A Lawyer Or The Insurance Adjuster?
It can happen in a minute. You’re heading down the road without a care in the world. Then, suddenly, CRASH! Or worse, the sound of screeching metal and then darkness, after which you wake up in a hospital’s intensive care unit.
Car accidents injure 2 million people every year in the United States. It can mean pain, hospitalization, surgery, and physical therapy from injuries if one happens to you. Not only that but you could be permanently affected by your injuries.
Who should you call first after a car accident
like this, a lawyer or an insurance adjuster? If this were a quiz, many people would say unhesitatingly that the answer is insurance adjuster. After all, insurance is supposed to cover you in the case of accidents. That’s why you pay premiums year after year. On the other hand, lawyers are not part of most people’s daily life or bills. Lawyers are perceived as intimidating or even frightening because of it.
Unfortunately, this answer is wrong. It’s a sad fact, but the insurance company you have been paying thousands of dollars in premiums to is not on your side.
Let’s review the standard insurance company business model. Insurance premiums get paid premiums. In return, they offer insurance coverage. They pay out claims if the people with their insurance are in an accident.
But claims come out of the insurance company’s bottom line
. The more claims they pay out, the less profit they make. As a result, they have every incentive to deny your claim or minimize it as much as possible. The insurance adjuster is not your friend! Many of them are specifically trained in how to deny or minimize claims.
If you are injured in a car wreck, talk to a lawyer before you call the insurance company. It’s vital to receiving a just settlement for your claim.
Wait, How Can They Deny a Claim?
You might think, “How can they deny a claim? Aren’t insurance adjusters
in the business of paying out claims?”
Insurance adjusters not only have multiple ways of denying or minimizing claims, they learn techniques to get you to help them do it.
Getting Data From You That Could Harm Your Case
Insurance adjusters may seem very sympathetic when you get them on the phone. But, trust us, they are calculating from the first minute. Don’t ever say anything that could be used to construe you as causing the accident or admitting fault. We’re talking seemingly innocent phrases like “I just glanced to the left for a minute” or “I hate that curve.” Or even “I’m so sorry.”
You may feel sorry for an accident and not have had anything to do with its cause, but an adjuster can construe “I’m sorry” as an admission of fault.
Questioning Who’s at Fault
Many insurance companies pay out claims only if their insured was at fault for the accident. So the insurance adjuster’s first line of defense is to question who’s at fault for the accident. They don’t have to pay you if their insured isn’t at fault.
You need evidence to prove who’s at fault for any car accident. Sometimes, you may not already have evidence or be able to recall what happened.
Plus, the fault for some accidents may only be apparent with an investigation. The driver who hit you may say you ran a red light—whether that’s true or not. You can stand to lose thousands of dollars to treat your injuries
because someone isn’t telling the truth or honestly doesn’t remember correctly.
This is why an attorney is essential to ensuring you have the evidence necessary to prove your claim and avoid the insurance adjuster’s tactics
to try and shift the fault to you.
Questioning Your Injuries
In general, insurance company claims are paid out to treat injuries caused by the car accident and the consequences of injuries, such as injuries that make it impossible to work at your job anymore.
Another favorite adjuster technique is to question the injuries themselves. Under the rules of personal injury law
, insurance companies will only reimburse for injuries specifically caused by the car accident—not for injuries caused by some other source.
In other words, if you broke your wrist the day before the accident, you may have doctor’s bills from a broken wrist, but the insurance company wouldn’t pay those. But if you suffered a fractured rib because of the car wreck caused by another party, they will reimburse you for that.
So, insurance adjusters will check to see that the medical and other bills you’re submitting are related to the accident specifically. They may say or imply that the injuries aren’t
related to the accident so that they won’t have to pay out a claim.
They may also question the severity of your injuries. Many car accident injuries require multiple doctor trips and hospital visits
—the more serious they are, the more medical attention you’re likely to need. But insurance adjusters are masters at questioning whether your injuries are as severe as you say.
If you are in a car wreck, always get your injuries checked out at an emergency room or by your doctor as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel injured. Many injuries don’t feel like anything initially, especially with the adrenaline from the accident. The safest court is to have a doctor decide whether or not you’re injured.
In terms of insurance strategies, they will often try to use a delay in seeking medical attention as evidence that you weren’t injured by the wreck itself or as bad as you say. Protect yourself from this particular strategy by making sure you get a medical evaluation and treatment.
Beware of insurance adjusters who lowball a claim. “Lowballing” is a term used within the industry, meaning they will pay a claim but for an amount far less than that claim is worth. You likely don’t know what the standard treatment for your injuries costs or how long the average time off work is. They know that most folks don’t know what fair compensation is for injuries without the advice of an attorney and take advantage of it.
That’s especially true if people are having a hard time paying their medical bills or making it if they can’t work due to injuries. You may feel emotionally and financially pressured to accept an unfair lowball claim to get some money more quickly.
On the other hand, a lawyer is experienced in identifying a reasonable claim payout for specific injuries. They can immediately spot a lowball attempt. A reasonable claim payout should cover not only the doctor’s bills but all the associated costs, such as transportation, medication, physical therapy, loss of ability to work, and long-term treatment and impacts to life.
How a Lawyer Can Help
The first phone call after an accident should be 911 to get emergency medical services to address any injuries at the scene. Your second call should be to an experienced lawyer. A good car accident lawyer can help in many ways, including the following.
Investigating the Causes of an Accident
You need evidence to establish who or what is at fault for an accident. The following are potential sources of evidence about what caused an accident.
You should always report a car accident to law enforcement as soon as possible. The officer will issue a police report with a preliminary statement of what occurred, where, when, and how. Get a copy of this report before leaving the accident scene. While this report may not be used as evidence, it provides important information for your attorney when beginning to compile your claim.
If you had to be taken to the emergency room and weren’t able to get a copy of the report, your lawyer can get it for you.
Pictures, Videos, and Surveillance Footage
Photos, videos, and surveillance footage can help establish how an accident happened and what occurred, so they’re great sources of evidence. Shops and local security camera footage is often deleted relatively quickly. If you contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident, they will have a better chance of preserving that evidence for your claim.
If you can, take pictures and video of the accident scene and your injuries with your phone. Accidents are usually cleaned up quickly, and important evidence could disappear with it. If you cannot collect this evidence after the accident, your attorney can perform an investigation.
Investigating Accident Scenes
An investigation of the accident scenes may be needed to determine what caused the accident. Lawyers work with accident scene investigators and forensic analysts to carefully review the accident site plus other relevant data, such as weather and traffic patterns, to establish the cause of the accident. The reports of investigators and forensic settlements are evidence to establish fault.
Medical Reports and Diagnoses
If you are taken to an emergency room or doctor’s office, keep ALL records of those visits, including diagnoses, x-rays, and other diagnostic tests, prescriptions, and advice for follow-up. Those are the sources of evidence that can counter any adjuster’s attempts to minimize or challenge your injuries.
If you don’t have these records, a lawyer can help you track them.
If you can, try to get contact information for any eyewitnesses. Their statements can corroborate your claim. Lawyers can interview eyewitnesses about what they saw.
Your best protection against a lowball offer from the insurance company is a lawyer to negotiate the dollar value of your claim. Lawyers are highly experienced in knowing how much it will cost to treat specific injuries, and they can spot a lowball and negotiate to increase it.
They will also factor in costs from injuries down the road. Will your injuries need further treatment, for instance? Additional surgery or physical therapy? Do your injuries impact what you can do for a living? If so, compensation for wages and lost earnings may be part of getting justice for you. In addition, lawyers will help you track down medical and related bills, so you have a complete medical and related care record.
Going to Court
Your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company to reach a just settlement. But insurance companies are not always fair and reasonable. A car accident attorney can take them to court if they’re not.
Civil courts preside over car accident suits. Insurance companies know judges and juries are often much more sympathetic to injured folks than insurance companies. Insurers usually don’t like going to court and risk the uncertain outcome. So the prospect of going to court is often enough to get them to settle fairly. If it’s not, then an experienced attorney will be ready to commence the lawsuit.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get a Lawyer
Many folks fear contacting a lawyer, thinking they are costly and intimidating.
Car accident lawyers work on a contingency basis, so you do not pay them directly to work for you. The payment is a percentage of your eventual payout or settlement, meaning you only pay if they recover compensation for your claim. As a result, they offer free consultations to discuss your case.
When you initially call a lawyer, they will set up a meeting. Come prepared to discuss your case fully. If you have evidence, such as pictures, a police report, or medical notes, you should bring them. At the end of this first meeting, the lawyer will be able to candidly tell you whether they can help you or not. If they can, they will immediately begin working on your case since they don’t require any upfront payment.
Respectable lawyers are community members who will treat you with dignity, respect, and sympathy. They might throw around fancy legal terms, but a good lawyer should always be able to explain matters to you in a way you feel comfortable with and understand.
Your claim will only benefit from consulting a lawyer rather than the insurance company after a car accident. They can handle your case from start to finish, gathering and sifting through evidence, negotiating with the insurers, investigating, and going to court if necessary. Contact
a car accident lawyer to answer your questions and fight for justice for your losses.