5 Settle Small Claims By Yourself

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Settle Small Claims By Yourself

"10 Mistakes That Wreck Your Car Accident Case"

Fifth Mistake: They Do Not Try To Settle A Small Claim With
The Insurance Company Quickly By Themselves

Although a little counterintuitive, one of the mistakes people make is they do not try to settle small cases themselves. Yes, as said in Mistake Three, do not trust the insurance company, and yes, get a good lawyer as said in Mistake Four. But, if you have a small, clear liability case and have an ER visit or an ER visit with a little primary care follow up, you likely do not need a lawyer.

Here is what you should do if you want to try to resolve your own case. Be courteous and kind to the insurance claim representative and advise them of what happened (but no recorded statement – they can take notes and it is not complicated). Tell them how you were rear-ended or the other driver violated the light signal or why the other driver is at fault. Most lawyers will tell you not to give a recorded statement and that is generally true. However, if you have a small claim, you are uninjured, you are not going to get any medical records, and you want to quickly handle it yourself - go ahead and give a simple recorded statement. It is not going to hurt you- just make sure that you tell the agent that the other person was at fault and how they were at fault. Organize your thoughts and write them down beforehand.

In trying to settle your case, provide all your medical records and bills to the insurance company. Provide to them photos and any other material that is relevant. Have them pay the full price of the medical or the reduced price that your insurance paid. Do not let the defendant’s insurance get any benefit because your health insurance paid the medical. This is a source collateral to the defendant and one that they should not get the advantage of. You are the one that paid insurance premiums, so you get that benefit. Have the insurance company pay the full price of all the medical bills that were paid--not necessarily what was billed, but what was paid--and then add a reasonable amount for your pain and suffering.

Make sure your property damage, rental car, and any other charges are paid. If you have wage loss damages from missing work, provide copies of pay stubs to show what you are making in the hours you missed. Advise them of any miscellaneous damages like a broken phone or lost property.

If the insurance company is offering a quick and fair settlement in a relatively small injury case, settle it. But make sure your entire medical treatment is completed and you are not going to get any worse or have any additional medical treatment. You do not want to settle a case and need further unknown medical care or additional uncompensated damage. I advise folks in such circumstances to add some for pain and suffering and settle their case. A lawyer like me cannot add value to that case and you will put more money in your pocket without me and my fee.

In negotiating with the insurance company, be polite. Kill them with kindness and be sweet. Be professional, non-argumentative, and direct. Send things by paper or email and document your interactions. Follow up on matters and don’t let things delay too long. Give reasonable time for claim representatives to review material, as you are not their only claim, but then follow up in a courteous manner. Establish a rapport and a goal to resolve and settle this claim with the claim representative. Don’t give outlandish monetary demands. Once you settle the claim, you can sign a release which releases your rights. But read it carefully and make sure you are not still injured and being under-compensated.

Make sure they pay your settlement. You want to make sure you are the only one on the check and they are not paying your other medical providers. You also want to make sure they are not paying any other money to med pay or any other “lien holders.” A lienholder is any person or entity that might have a legal claim or lien on the settlement monies you are getting. The cases where you should settle yourself are ones where fault is clear, you are not injured or if you were injured your injuries have healed fully and relatively soon after the accident, and the amount of the total claim is relatively low.

Remember you do not have to accept what the insurance company offers. You can negotiate higher. If the insurance company starts saying they are not going to pay you adequately or that it is your fault or playing games with you, that is the time where you want to talk to a lawyer. Never settle a claim at the scene of the accident or before you know the full extent of what your damages are. Remember that if the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you can still make an uninsured claim against your own insurance company and get fully paid.

Some other mistakes people make when trying to resolve their claim directly with the claims adjustor is getting argumentative and establishing an adversarial relationship with the claim agent. You can be firm and resolute, but be nice and kind at the same time. Claim representatives have a lot of authority and discretion in handling claims. If they like you, they might pay you more. If you are a jerk, they are not as inclined to do you a favor and may not pay you as much as they would otherwise for your property damage claim, small personal injury claim, med pay, etc.

Another thing people do is failing to provide adequate documentation. You need to provide medical bills, a medical authorization so they can verify the bills, medical records, witness statements, pictures, etc. If the claims agent refuses to pay you because they think it’s a low-speed impact, and you have photos showing tremendous property damage, provide those photos to them. If you have medical records showing severe injuries that would warrant a much higher settlement, you should provide those records. Although you would not normally want to provide anybody all of your medical records, if you are going to make a claim for personal injuries, you put your personal health at issue. So, many times you will be expected to provide medical authorizations to enable the claims representative to get all of your medical records and bills. This is normal. You can provide authorization and request copies of the records and that they will be destroyed when the claim is resolved.

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