WASHINGTON, D.C., August 15, 2012 - The following is a chapter in Mr. Samakow’s upcoming book, due out in early 2013, dealing with handling automobile collisions.
If you believe everything you hear, ultimately you are going to have problems in your life. When it comes to dealing with issues related to automobile accidents, there are those who know things, those who do not, and those who have an agenda.
It is natural to tell our circle of family and friends about things. We talk to each other, and we talk to the so-called self proclaimed “experts,” people such as the barber or the butcher, and we then rely on a great deal of really bad advice. Insurance company representatives and the companies they work for are not your friends. Do not talk to or rely upon insurance agents or claims representatives.
A gentleman came to see me on a Monday morning, telling me his accident was one week earlier and that the other person’s insurer would not accept responsibility, despite the fact that he was hit from behind while stopped at a red light. He needed a rental car and he needed to get his car fixed. The reason for the insurer’s behavior? The insurer told him they needed to talk to their insured before they could do anything. I called the insurer and they acknowledged that they had not even called their insured yet. Within two hours my new client was in a rental car, the other person’s insurer was paying for it, and they were on their way to pick up my client’s car to begin repairs. These things happened because I know how to address the ridiculous things insurers say when they are in their stall or delay modes.
Here are some common misunderstandings, or myths, about how things work right after an accident, and the truth, so you know what to do.
1. I will be honest, they will be fair.
Because you are honest, because you are not trying to take advantage, and because you just want what is fair, does not mean the insurance company is going to be fair or reasonable with you. The insurance industry spends a gazillion dollars advertising to get you to use them, and thus pay premiums to them; the flip side is that every single penny they pay in claims because their valued insureds screw up reduces their bottom line profit. Please do not believe they want to pay you or that they will be fair. Stall, delay, stall, lie, delay, and always pay less…. these are the golden mantras of today’s insurance representatives.
2. I must talk to the insurers right away to get things done.
You do not have to talk to the insurance company NOW in order to preserve your rights, despite ANYTHING their representatives may tell you to the contrary. You do not have to consent to a recorded statement. Anything that can be done today can also be done tomorrow, or three days from now.
3. They were at fault, they have to pay me.
The other person’s insurance company does NOT have to pay you. They do not HAVE to do anything until you sue them and win, but normally in clear cases they will agree to fix you car, pay for a rental car, then later they will agree tp negotiate and pay something for your injury claim, which includes paying for medical bills, lost wages, and an additional amount for the disruption of your life, pain, inconvenience, aggravation, suffering, and potentially more. Of course, how much they pay for these things will most probably be less than what you believe is fair.
4. They have to fix my car.
See Number 3, above.
4. (a) They have to use new parts when they fix my car.
A body shop or car dealership is allowed to use after-market, or used parts, to repair your car, as long as those parts do not in any way hinder the functionality of the vehicle and as long as they do not change the appearance of your car.
5. They have to pay my medical bills as I get treatment.
You may not have money to pay for your medical bills, and you may not have health insurance. Following number 3, above, however, you must understand that the other person’s insurer does not have to pay your medical bills as you go along, nor do they have to pay your wages as you miss time from your job. As they do not have to do these things, you can count on them not doing so. They will not do so, because, they believe you will exaggerate your need for care and extend the treatment beyond what they consider reasonable, and with that misguided belief, they will then refuse to “fund” your claim by paying for your bills as you go along.
6. My Insurance Premiums Will Go Up If I Use My Insurance.
No, they will not. Think about it. Does your health insurance premium increase if you get sick and go to the doctor and use your insurance? Using insurance benefits does not cause premiums to increase. Recurrent claims against you will cause an increase. Turning a certain age may cause changes in premiums, but not using benefits.
Clients tell me often they are concerned about this potential increase. What if they do go up? What if I am wrong here? (I am not wrong, your premiums WILL NOT increase). But assume they do go up. It is still better to use your insurance. Follow these examples:
Situation #1: You use your benefits, get $3,000 in benefits now, and your premium increases by $15 for a six month period… thus, $30 per year, x 10 years = $300 you pay in increases, or 100 years to “break even”… You likely will not have the same insurer in ten years, and you will always be “ahead” because you will not be alive 100 years from now…
Situation #2: You do not use your benefits, you get nothing, but you save $30 per year for the next 100 years…
6.(a) My Insurance Will Be Cancelled If I Use It.
No, it will not.
6. (b) It Was Not My Fault, I Should Not Have To Use My Insurance.
First, re-read #6 (a) and (b), and then ask, why did you buy insurance? It is a protection that is there for you if something bad happens. Use it. Why have no car for weeks when you could have yours repaired already by using your coverage? Your insurer will get it’s money back from the other person’s company.
7. Because I Was injured I Will Recover Compensation.
Not always true my friend. If you were at fault, then of course, you get nothing. Compensation laws in all states require that you prove that the other guy did something wrong before he (or his insurance company) pay you. If you are partially at fault, where the accident occurred will govern if you get something. In “contributory negligence” states, you will recover nothing. Tough case for you then if you live in Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. Most states have a rule called comparative negligence. In these states, by example, if you are considered to be ten percent at fault, and your claim is worth ten thousand dollars, you will get nine thousand dollars (the ten percent you were at fault translates here into one thousand dollars and is subtracted from the value of your case). In contributory negligence states, if you are considered even one percent at fault, you get zero! Yes, you read correctly, zero.
8. Talking To An Attorney Will Cost Me and It Will Delay Getting Things Done.
Wrong. Please re-read the second paragraph in this chapter. That is a true and typical scenario. Attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, which means they take a percentage of the settlement they obtain for you, at the end of the case. They do not charge a consultation fee or send you a bill based on an hourly charge for just talking to you. Quite to your liking, I am sure, the attorney will spend considerable time with you and will answer questions, give you advice, and if he or she is good, they will invite you in to their office for a more in depth meeting, again at no charge to you. Talking to an attorney at the beginning of your case will not slow things down, but often will speed them up. Insurers usually respond better to the type of directed pressure that an attorney knows how to apply. They will know who to talk to, and what to say when calling the insurrer. If you are getting the proverbial “run-a-round’, talking to an attorney will help put an end to that on purpose delay tactic.
Bottom line here: Consider who is giving you information and consider their motives. Friends and family certainly are well meaning, but most often they have no clue about these types of matters, and the way they relate, remember or translate their personal stories and experiences are not always accurate. Insurance representatives are not there to help you and they will tell you anything to facilitate tactics of stalling, delaying or flat out denying your claim.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, on the Andy Parks show, on Wednesdays at 5:15 P.M., and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.
His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.
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