I had a client today actually, which is why I did the video, and he was wondering whether he should settle with the insurance company or what to do in terms of dealing with an insurance company, because a lot of folks don’t want the injury lawyers. They want to try to deal with it as efficiently as they can, but sometimes insurance companies aren’t fair with you. So, what do you do? What questions do you ask? Can insurance companies just settle your case?
Good question, Gary. I actually wrote a book about it on my website, www.burgerlaw.com. You can click on it. You can get the book for free. Essential Questions to Ask Before You Settle Your Case. So, there are some good insurance companies and good adjusters out there, but at the same time I told a client just a little while ago, “Insurance companies who aren’t treating you fairly are often my best source of business.”
Here’s a case that I settled recently where the claims adjuster sent me two letters saying that, “No negligence on the part of our insured. Are you going to drop this claim?” We settled the case for $125,000. So, what do you ask before you settle a case with the insurance company? Is the insurance company looking out for you or for itself? You really need to look at that. If they’re just trying to look out for itself, then you don’t want to necessarily trust them.
Two, are you completely done with your medical treatment? Have you reached your maximum medical improvement? You do not want to settle a case and then need more medical. I tell my clients, “The last thing I want to do is settle your case and then call me the next week and say you need back surgery.”
Next, are you settling the case because you need the money or because it’s truly the full value of your claim? Do not settle your case if you’re getting 50 cents on the dollar unless you have a reason to.
Do you know how to negotiate? How should you negotiate? You want to take your medical bills. You want to get your damages for your medical expenses. You want to get damages for your wage loss damages, and you want some damages for your disability and pain and suffering. If it’s a smaller personal injury case, those are sometimes cases you can settle on your own, and you don’t need a lawyer. But then you also want to make sure, “What is the insurance company doing to try to negotiate you down?” If they’re saying you are partly at fault and you weren’t, don’t buy that. If they’re saying that we’re only paying for medical for six weeks because you should have been done treating by then and you have a surgery or PT or injections or stuff after that, don’t buy that. Those are your damages, and many people do treat for longer than six weeks.
If you’re rear-ended, it isn’t your fault typically, all right? If it is a premises liability case and they say you should have been looking out for yourself and therefore you’re partly at fault. Say, “I was looking out for myself, but I didn’t see the hole on the ground,” or, “I was at a store. I didn’t see the water on the floor that’s been sitting there,” or, “The guy was mopping, and there was no wet floor sign, and I fell, and I knew there was water after I fell because I fell in it but I didn’t know then,” or they’re saying that they only have to pay some medical bills. “We don’t have to pay the medical bills that were paid by your insurance company.” Not true. “We don’t have to pay you wage loss damages because you have sick vacation or some other short-term disability from your employer.” Not true. That’s a collateral source. They still got to pay you.
And, there’s a host of other things that claim agents can do to try to lower your injury claim or try to get you to take less money or go away. Don’t believe them. Call another lawyer to vet it with us to make sure that they’re not full of it, that they’re being candid and fair with you.
So, here are some of my other questions. Are they only saying those things about that because they want to lower your recovery or they’re being truthful? Are they saying your car is worth less than it is? They always do that on property damage claims. Are they pushing you to settle the case quickly to try to get you to make a spur-of-the-moment choice rather than having a real evaluation of your case? They want you to settle your case because they don’t want to have to pay for the more medical down the road. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that happen, wherein a claims adjuster offers a couple of grand in a case, and your client ends up needing neck surgery and has a $100,000 in medical. That’s why they’re pushing to settle it quickly. That’s why they’re using strong pushing techniques that salesmen use to try to do that.
Next, do you know the full limits of their insurance? We only got 25 grand here, we only got ten grand here, so that’s all we can pay. I know your damages are a bunch more than that. Okay, I’ll take it. Well, have they given you anything in writing? Have they given you a copy of the policy? We can’t give you that. Well, you can give me that, and you should give me that. There are rules both in Missouri and in Illinois about proper claims adjusting practices. There are statutes, and there are code of state regulations, and they get violated all the time. I write letters to claims adjusters or sue them, saying, “Listen, this is what you violated,” and there are rules against them because those are the effective things that claims adjusters use that are improper tactics. They have to tell you the policy limits. They have to give you copies of the policy. They have to timely adjust the claim. They have to respond to demands within the policy limits, claim demands within the policy limits. There are all kinds of stuff like that out there.
So, do you know the full limits of the insurance? Is it true? Are there homeowners? Are there other policies? Have you consulted with a legal expert before you sign a release, so you fully know your rights in a potential recovery you have? I consult for free to folks who have a release and want to know, “Should I sign it or should I not?” I won’t charge you. I’ll read the release, and I’ll say, “Just to let you know, this release is all of your claims. I know you have a claim against them for one part of your claim, but do you know by signing this you’re not only releasing your property claim, you’re not only releasing your medical bill claim, you’re not only releasing part of your claim, but this is a general global release, and you’re releasing everything no matter what. You’ll never recover again. What’s the hurry here? Why don’t you wait and get that MRI and see if you need that back surgery? Why don’t you wait and see how that broken leg heals before you settle that claim because you may need PT, you may need a screw taken out, you may need other things.” So, do you know some of the false statements that insurance agents make to try to settle your injury case on the cheap? That’s my last question I have.
I have an appendix here at the back of my book to give you a short quick printable off-version of questions to ask. I also talked about in detail in the book about different techniques and different ways that insurance companies try to do. I have those in other videos as well.
So, these are some of the things you want to question the insurance company before you settle your case. If you want to talk to me or one of my personal injury lawyers or folks about it, call me at 314-542-2222. Go to www.burgerlaw.com. Look at my blogs. Look at my book. We’re happy to provide you this information or call me. Thank you.