Ten Important Consumer Tips . . .
1. Insurance companies call you immediately after a loss or injury because they are looking out for their interests. Attorneys represent your interests. Insurance companies are obligated to save money for their STOCKHOLDERS and to limit the liability of the negligent parties who caused your injuries – insurance companies do not look out for you! The attorneys at Leventis & Ransom will fight for your rights. The actions you take immediately after your loss or injury can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your case. After an accident, contact Leventis & Ransom through this Web site or call us at 803-765-2383. Acting before you obtain legal advice is the surest way to prejudice your rights.
2. Do not talk with or give a statement to an insurance adjuster after a loss or injury – your statement will only be used by the insurance company as evidence against you. Talk with an experienced lawyer first. What you say in a brief conversation to a trained insurance adjuster can easily be distorted, misquoted or taken out of context and used to obscure the truth about what happened to cause your loss or injury. Insurance companies use their enormous financial resources to hire highly trained adjusters and clever lawyers whose every statement, act and deed is professionally designed to limit, deny, delay, or reduce your claim. You need someone with experience on your side to force insurance companies and their lawyers to be fair. Bottom line: insurance companies will take advantage of you if you give them any opportunity to do so.
3. The police officer who investigates a traffic collision scene is mostly there to see if a traffic violation or other criminal offense has been committed. Significantly, the officer does not determine whether you are guilty nor does the officer determine who is at fault in causing a collision. Even though the officer does prepare a written accident report and can issue a traffic ticket, the officer’s decision is only preliminary and can be disputed before a judge and jury. Remember, however, that while officers sometimes get the facts wrong, it never pays to argue with them at the scene. Instead, always be polite and respectful to law enforcement and call Leventis & Ransom as soon as possible.
4. See a doctor as soon after a crash as possible. This is important for two primary reasons. First, your injuries could be far more serious than you initially realize. Unlike cuts and broken bones, which are usually apparent right away, many internal injuries are diagnosed only by the body’s reaction to them over time. What seems like a minor bump or bruise at the collision scene can turn out to be a major sprain, strain, rupture or tear after a few days of progressively worsening swelling, pain and stiffness. Such conditions often require active treatment to prevent them from becoming worse. Second, if you are not seen by a physician at a hospital emergency room or in a private office setting soon after the collision, an insurance company will argue that is because you are not hurt, even if you are. Don’t be stoic and try to ignore pain or discomfort, hoping it will go away. Allow a qualified physician to determine whether you are injured rather than risking your health by making that determination yourself.
5. Photograph your injuries frequently and repeatedly. Poor quality photos can always be discarded, but there is no substitute for a good, clear photograph of injuries to a person’s body. Your ability to recover compensation for an injury is strongly linked to your ability to show what that injury is. Often photographs provide information that cannot be adequately described using words alone or which must be captured and recorded before healing occurs. An insurance adjuster and ultimately a jury will be much more inclined to accept the indisputable evidence of a photograph, while a trained defense lawyer will always make you feel uncomfortable relying on the strength of your word alone. To an insurance adjuster, every claimant is a malingerer and a liar. Pictures are simply your best protection.
6. Document your losses. Take damaged property to someone who can photograph the damage and give a competent estimate of the cost to repair it. Keep track of the days when the use of your property has been lost due to damage and repairs. Pay expenses with checks, or if you must use cash, always obtain a receipt including a description of the item. If you are out-of-work, be careful to document your lost workdays and have your supervisor available to establish your salary or rate of pay. Remember that if the insurance company can dispute your claim, they probably will.
7. Secure evidence in whatever form it may exist. Obtain the names of witnesses along with their addresses and telephone numbers. Unfortunately, too often law enforcement officers who investigate a collision or loss will speak to eyewitnesses at the scene without including their names and addresses in a written report. Once those witnesses have left the scene, you may have no way of ever contacting them again. Look to see whether there is some physical characteristic of the roadway (a pothole, debris, skid marks, missing signs, standing water, low shoulder, etc.) or some damage to a vehicle that is important to understanding what happened. If that condition or evidence is at risk of changing or being altered, try to photograph it, have someone else observe it, or otherwise make a careful note of it for future reference. Many cases turn on evidence that is lost.
8. Do not sign any document or check that contains either a full or partial release of your claim. Any release document should be negotiated and reviewed by your attorney. The terms of a release and the amount of compensation offered by an insurance company in exchange for it involve complex legal and factual issues that most people need counsel to fully understand. An insurance adjuster has been professionally trained to make you think your losses are minimal and to get you to quickly accept minimal compensation that ends your claim forever. Insurance adjusters go to classes and receive detailed instruction manuals which teach them how to settle for less than you deserve. That insurance adjuster who sounds so trusting and sympathetic on the phone may well be reading to you from a carefully prepared script. Consult a lawyer to combat these tactics and make a sound and informed decision about what to do.
9. Even if the driver who causes your injuries and losses has no liability insurance, your own automobile insurance policy usually provides a source of funds to compensate you for your losses. If you have collision coverage, it will pay to repair or replace your own vehicle. If you have uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage, it will pay you when the negligent driver cannot. If you live with a family member who owns a vehicle with UM or UIM motorist coverage, you can usually make a claim against their policy without affecting the amount of their insurance premiums.
10. Most health insurance policies provide coverage for hospital and medical care following a crash or other major injury. But many people are unaware that their health insurance company is then subrogated to their rights against the negligent party. This right of subrogation means you must reimburse your heath insurance company for the payments it makes, out of the proceeds of any settlement or verdict you obtain against the negligent party. The attorneys at Leventis & Ransom know how to negotiate this subrogation lien to minimize your loss.
Let us put this and other insight to work for you today.