Many drivers rely on good faith and may not expect to be forced to sue their auto insurance company in order to receive payment for expenses resulting from a car accident. Typically, most just want to have their car repaired and their medical bills paid.
Unfortunately, the auto insurance attorneys of Michigan Auto Law deal with many car insurance companies on a daily basis that take advantage of their customers by cutting off their benefits without reason or notice. Some insurance companies also put people “under investigation”- the excuse for stopping payment of all medical bills and wage loss. People are being ignored, threatened, intimidated and even lied to by their insurance claims adjusters.
The following are common tactics used by many auto insurance companies to either avoid or minimize their payouts to customers. Suggestions are included on how you can protect yourself to avoid or minimize problems with your automobile insurer.
1. Many restrictions and limitations are buried in your policy’s fine print
Knowing how to read and understand the fine print of auto insurance policies is not an easy task. Auto accident lawyers have seen far too many people lose out on important benefits because they were unaware of important filing requirements buried in their policies. For example, many auto insurance policies pose strict notification requirements, such as 30 days notice for hit-and-run accidents. Many contracts have separate conditions for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage requiring very prompt notice, and insurance carriers can change their policy filing requirements at any time. When car accident victims do not respond to notification requirements on time, they can lose their coverage.
How to protect yourself:
Notify your insurance company immediately after any type of accident. Be sure you have your complete auto insurance policy, including any notification of coverage changes from year to year. This can also include pamphlets or notes that are mailed with renewal statements, reflecting any policy terms and changes. Most policies include declarations, conditions, insuring agreements and exclusions with conditions.
It’s also important to check insurance policies for any benefits that overlap with your own health and disability insurance; and to review any additional coverage (such as uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage). When receiving ongoing medical care for car accident injuries, having a solid understanding of insurance policies can help ensure that health care providers bill appropriately.
If you are confused with your auto insurance policy and have questions, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer who specializes in auto accidents – most are happy to offer advice and guidance for your protection.
2. Insurance agents don’t always recommend the best coverage
Following a car accident, there can be numerous issues and challenges navigating health insurance plans, managed care plans, retirement plans such as ERISA, and coordinated/uncoordinated policies. In addition, insurance agents may avoid mentioning important coverage options and applicable discounts due to payout losses or lower premiums that reduce their commissions.
Many people choose to carry more insurance coverage so they will not be personally liable if they cause a serious car accident. However, some people only pay the minimum insurance premium to renew their license plate each year, and then let the auto insurance lapse. Without an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy, a driver or family members severely injured by an uninsured motorist will have no source of legal recovery for their injuries other than filing a lawsuit against the uninsured driver for his or her personal assets. Most people do not have sufficient personal net worth to compensate a person that they have seriously injured.
How to protect yourself:
If you are injured in an auto accident, contact an experienced auto accident lawyer who is best qualified to provide guidance on issues of which insurance is primary, and who will pay medical expenses that are incurred after a crash.
If you carry ERISA health insurance, uncoordinated or primary coverage is the safe move. An insured person with both ERISA and coordinated insurance may end up recovering nothing for their pain and suffering in the event of an auto accident.
Check your insurance policy for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. If this type of coverage is missing, contact your insurance carrier to add it – the cost is minimal and highly recommended to protect you and your family.
Raising your deductibles to at least $500 or more can also lower your auto insurance premiums by 15 percent to 40 percent. Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, eliminating those coverages can save you money, unless you still owe money for the car. Finally, if there is any reduction in the amount of miles you drive annually, contact your insurance carrier for quotes on low mileage discounts.
3. Accident Settlement Offers Are Always Too Low
Imagine you just suffered devastating injuries from a car accident and are now recuperating at home, in pain, and worrying about how you are going to pay your bills. An insurance agent knocks on your door with a check for $100,000 for your accident. With the emotional and physical trauma following a car or truck crash, a large amount of money sounds great, and some victims rush into accepting the first settlement offer. Yet determining the value of an auto accident case goes far beyond a simple calculation of injury type, future expenses not covered by no-fault insurance and the wrongdoer’s policy limit. Offering to settle is essentially a backdoor approach by insurance companies to saving litigation costs at the expense of an accident victim’s right to a full recovery.
How to protect yourself:
It never hurts to call an auto accident lawyer and ask for advice. Many lawyers can explain accident law, what you are entitled to and make sure your own insurance company is paying everything they are supposed to – with no fee or obligation.
4. Releases and Recorded Statements Are Pushed Early On to Overwhelm Accident Victims
Many victims rush into signing adjusters’ documents without having the language reviewed by an auto accident lawyer, believing these are just basic verifications of the accident. Therefore, they may lose their right to sue a negligent driver for accident-related injuries. Claims adjusters often try to get recorded statements early, aiming to minimize the victim’s pain and injuries for later use in court. Even vehicle damage releases can contain unrelated language that can jeopardize your other claims.
How to protect yourself:
Never give statements to an accident claims adjuster and never sign a release or allow the adjuster to look at the auto damage. Simply tell the adjuster that you need to review the paperwork with your attorney and will get back to them with your response. No matter how desperate you may feel after suffering the financial burden of medical bills, lost wages and disabling pain, involving an auto accident attorney will ensure your rights are protected. Keep in mind that the claims adjuster works for the insurance company, and has its best interest in mind – not the injured victim.
5. Standard practice is to deny or delay claim payouts
Most people suffering injuries from a car accident call their auto insurance company to find out what to do next. They assume that when they follow the process, they will receive fair, timely compensation for injuries resulting from the auto accident. After all, they paid for the auto insurance for that reason – to be covered in the event of a car accident.
Yet many insurance companies engage in common delay tactics including denying claims, not returning calls, placing people on hold for extensive periods, requiring a victim to repeatedly gather records, and passing you from one adjuster to the next. Soon the financial burden of time off work and mounting medical bills drives innocent car accident victims to contact an attorney. Or worse, it makes them desperate enough to accept an extremely low settlement offer, limiting any future recovery of damages.
How to protect yourself:
If you are experiencing these typical delay tactics, contact an auto accident attorney who can assist you with getting your claim processed and the benefits you are entitled to under your state’s law.
If your auto accident involves injuries to you and/or your family (even seemingly minor injuries), consult an auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Not only will you better understand what benefits you are entitled to, but you will have the peace of mind knowing that you received the full value of benefits and compensation available to injured drivers.
To learn more about protecting yourself in an auto accident, visit the Michigan Auto Law Car Accident Legal Help and Legal Resource Center at http://www.michiganautolaw.com/caraccidents/index.php, which includes tips and advice on dealing with your car insurance company, what to do after an accident, and understanding your insurance rights. If you have any questions about your auto insurance policy or concerns about your car accident or truck accident personal injury, please contact us by visiting http://www.michiganautolaw.com or calling (800) 777-0028.
Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nations top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008.