Even though another driver caused your accident, you’ll likely spend more time dealing with their car insurance company than you will with them. Unsurprisingly the insurance company is not going to make things easy for you. Their job is to get you to settle your claim for as cheaply as possible. The more hoops they make you jump through, the more willing you are to quickly settle your claim to avoid the headache of it all. For that reason, adjusters will often try to find a sweet spot- an offer that you’ll accept but lower than what a jury will likely award you.
We always recommend talking to a personal injury attorney and to avoid handling a claim on your own. If you choose to DIY it, then keep the following in mind.
Car insurance companies want to get your case settled for as little as possible. Unfortunately, they like to take advantage of the precarious state you’re in immediately following a wreck. In those following weeks, you might be feeling pain, frustration and stress over how you’re going to get everything fixed. Sadly, car insurance companies know about the emotions you’re going through and they’ll try to take advantage of it.
Sometimes, adjusters will call you and offer you a number- usually a couple thousand- with strong advice to accept it. Don’t be fooled by their friendly demeanor and “aw-shucks” attitude. They’re interests are not aligned with yours – even if it’s your carrier!
Think about it, this offer is coming before any of your damages were actually realized. It often comes before you know the full extent of your injuries and what it will take to feel better! Did you go to the hospital? Do you have a sore back? What if you have nerve damage or an injured disc? What if the physical therapy doesn’t work and you need surgery? What if you’re out of work for months afterwards? The offer won’t take any of that into consideration. It’s a quick and dirty offer to get rid of you.
The trouble is that once you accept an offer – even verbally over the phone - you can’t go back and open the case again. Even if you feel tricked or you were distracted at the time you spoke with them over the phone. In Texas, a verbal acceptance is binding.
One of the lines we hear the most often is, “the adjuster told me that if I hire an attorney, I’m essentially just giving away a percentage of what they’re offering.” It actually very rarely works out that way, although this is technically true because accident attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement.
Typically, when you’re represented by a personal injury attorney, the offer that you get will more than make up for the fees that they will earn. This is because personal injury attorneys know what you’re legally entitled to and what juries are paying out for similar cases. Simply put, they’ll know how to demand what’s fair for your case. The argument that an attorney is just taking you money is a tactic to get you to accept whatever offer they’re giving, because they know that once an attorney is involved, they’ll probably have to increase their offer. In fact, they usually have your case transfer departments once an attorney gets hired, if that tells you anything!
If a car insurance company asks you for a recorded statement - be careful! Although it’s common for accidents with no attorneys to require a statement, you could be hurting your case if it has to go to trial. The reason is that they will likely try to trap you into one series of events that may not be completely true. They can ask questions that benefits their agenda and then push you into a corner that helps their case.
Just know that if you give a statement, you should be very meticulous with what you say. Don’t guess about speed, distance or anything else that you aren’t absolutely certain of. Keep in mind that the statement may come up again later.
If you feel like the car insurance company isn’t treating you fairly, you can usually involve a personal injury attorney. Don’t forget that an attorney won’t be able to do anything if you’ve accepted an offer, but if the case is still pending, it always beneficial you to have a free consultation! Located in Austin, TX, we invite you to contact us.