Attorney Eric Hageman represents clients involved in accidents throughout the United States. He understands the challenges that people face after accidents and works to make sure his clients get the care and compensation they deserve.
10 Things Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know
1. You can hire a lawyer to represent you right after your crash.
You don’t need to wait until claims adjusters or insurance agents contact you to hire a lawyer. You can hire a lawyer right after your crash. After you call your agent to report the crash, make your next call to a lawyer who can defend your rights and protect your case.
2. Insurance companies may try to low-ball your settlement.
You may have the right to more money than you realize under the terms of your policy. Insurance companies may not provide this information to you. If you hire our lawyers, they will carefully read your auto policy to make sure you get all of the money available to you.
If you got your auto policy in a no-fault state, you may have the right to money for medical expenses, cost of care, and loss of income. There are usually minimum levels of coverage required under the law, but you may have purchased more coverage. We will work to get you all of the money available to you.
3. The insurance company of the other driver is not your friend.
After an accident, you will probably get a phone call from a claims adjuster who represents the other driver’s insurance company. Don’t be fooled by the friendly sounding voice of the claims adjuster. Their goal is to get information from you to protect themselves and limit the amount of money the company will have to pay you.
If the other driver’s insurance adjuster asks you how you are doing or any other questions about your crash, don’t respond. Ask them for their phone number and tell them that your attorney will be contacting them. If you have already hired an attorney, give them your attorney’s name and phone number. Once you have an accident lawyer for your personal injury claim, they are not supposed to contact you again.
4. If your insurance company denies your claim, you can fight back.
When you signed your insurance policy, you entered into a contract with your insurance provider. Your contract requires that the insurance company act in “good faith.” If your insurance company wrongly denies your claim or doesn’t pay for the benefits you are supposed to receive, they are acting in “bad faith” and are violating that contract. Our lawyers can file a “bad faith” lawsuit on your behalf to make the insurance company pay you the money you deserve.
5. Insurance companies may try get you to sign away your rights.
You should not sign anything pertaining to the accident without first consulting a lawyer. You could unknowingly sign your rights away.
6. You might have a case even if you were at fault.
Even if you were at fault, you may be able to recover some money if another driver was more than 50 percent at fault. This is called “comparative fault.” For example, Driver A was speeding through a green light when Driver B, who was also speeding, ran a red light and crashed into Driver A. Let’s say that a jury found that Driver B was 70 percent at fault and that the verdict was $100,000 in favor of Driver A. Because of the partial fault, Driver A would only get $70,000 of that.
7. You can have a second examination after your “adverse exam.”
If a company tells you that in order to get benefits you need to go to a doctor chosen by the company, you will have to be examined by the doctor. This called an “adverse exam” because you have no say in selecting the doctor. The doctor is working for and paid by the insurance company, and the purpose of the exam is not to help you get better. If you refuse to go to the exam, the company will be allowed to cut off your benefits. Before you go to the exam, contact your lawyer.
Just because you go see the insurance company’s doctor doesn’t mean you can’t visit another doctor who cares about your recovery. Our lawyers have a network of trusted doctors who care about the well being and recovery of their patients. When these doctors examine you, they will provide a fair assessment of your injuries and recommend a course of action. We use these exams as evidence of injuries and work to get our clients the care and compensation they need.
8. Your case might be worth more than what the insurance adjuster says.
Unless you are an insurance adjuster or personal injury lawyer, it can be very hard to know how much money your accident is worth.
For example, if you were in a car accident, you might have a few bruises, some scrapes, and a herniated disk. You might feel that these injuries are not too serious, and you might want to just take the money the insurance company is offering. We recommend against this. If your minor injuries don’t go away, you might need invasive surgeries or more extensive medical care. In some cases, your minor injuries might be masking a more serious injury.
If you have accepted a settlement before the extent of your injuries are known, you can’t get a second settlement to cover any new costs you have. Our lawyers understand this, and can take into account possible risks or complications when getting settlements for our clients.
9. An investigation by a lawyer can often determine who caused an accident.
If it is not clear which driver was at fault, you may still have a case. Our lawyers have helped people find answers and get compensation when the investigation by the police or sheriff could not determine fault. Our lawyers independently investigate accidents. They hire experts who can investigate accident scenes, inspect vehicles, and use technology to reconstruct the accident. These reconstructions help our lawyers build winning cases.
10. You have rights after an accident, no matter what.
The best thing you can do after a crash is take action. Evidence can be lost, and if you wait too long, your right to sue for pain and suffering and other damages can be lost. Protect your rights by hiring a lawyer.
No-Fault Insurance and Personal Injury
To date, 12 states have “no-fault” laws. These laws require insurance companies to pay a limited amount of compensation to every driver who is involved in an accident, regardless of fault. The key here is “limited” compensation. In cases where there are serious injuries or wrongful death, this limited compensation from no-fault insurance is not adequate.
Here is an example. Driver A, a 30–year-old wife and mother, is hit at an intersection by Driver B, who was driving a company car. The accident happened in October. Driver A is an elementary school teacher who makes $50,000 per year. One leg was crushed in the accident. After several surgeries, she has to have her leg amputated. Driver A has not been able to go back to work since the accident, but she is planning on starting in the fall, after a summer of rehabilitation.
Driver A has basic no-fault insurance that pays her the maximum amount under the policy: $40,000 for medical expenses and $20,000 for lost income. These amounts do not cover her medical expenses and the cost of her prosthetic leg, nor do they cover the amount of income she lost because she could not work. In addition, she is unable to collect any money for pain and suffering from her no-fault policy.
If Driver A is at fault, she can’t sue Driver B and the company that owned the car. If there is evidence that Driver B is at fault, Driver A can sue for all of her medical expenses and lost income, including expected future expenses and losses. She can also sue for pain and suffering, which includes amounts for disability, disfigurement, and loss of quality of life. In states without a pain and suffering limit, amputation cases are generally multimillion-dollar cases.
Determining who is at fault is critically important. Our lawyers have won cases where the initial investigation by the police or state patrol stated our client was at fault. After digging through boxes of corporate documents and conducting dozens of interviews, they found evidence that our clients were not 100% at fault. This work allowed our clients to get compensation.
No-Fault and Wrongful Death
Here is an example of a wrongful death case. Driver A is driving a semi truck. He does not slow down enough in a construction zone and rear ends a car driven by Driver B, who is killed in the accident. Driver B is a husband and father of 3 who is a dermatologist making $400,000.00 per year. Basic no fault insurance will pay the family $20,000 or less. This is not enough money to compensate his wife, children, and other family members for their loss.
To get enough compensation, the family will need to file a wrongful death suit against the truck driver, owners of the truck, owners of the freight that was being hauled, and possibly others. This can only be done if there is evidence establishing the fault of the truck driver.
If there is sufficient evidence of fault for the family to win a settlement or verdict, compensation could include a significant amount for lost income. Let’s say Driver B is 45 and that he would have been able to work until he was 65. That is 20 years of income (at least $8,000,000.00) the family will not have because of the carelessness of the truck driver. The family will seek compensation for all of this lost income. No fault insurance generally only pays for $20,000 or less for lost income.