If you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, you’re probably feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. And if you aren’t careful, you could easily put yourself in a compromising situation by making rash decisions that undermine your leverage. You need a plan.
Tips for Protecting Your Best Interests
If you think the insurance companies exist to protect you, you’re wrong. They only care about one thing: Their own bottom line. Any bones they do throw your way also happen to help them. In other words, you’re not the priority – they are.
This can be tough to hear, especially if you’re fond of your car insurance agent or feel a deep sense of loyalty to a company that you’ve been with for years. However, it’s the cold, hard truth. Your agent might care about you, but the company that your agent works for does not. They’ll undercut and undermine you every step of the way when money is involved. (And money is always involved.)
Now that we’ve had this little reality check, let’s dig into some of the specifics of how you can protect yourself after a car accident so that the insurance companies don’t take advantage of you and your vulnerable situation.
The first tip is to remain silent. The rule of thumb is to only talk when absolutely necessary (and to use as few words as you possibly can). This includes conversations with other drivers at the scene, law enforcement offers, and insurance adjusters. As the saying goes, loose lips sink ships. Stay tight-lipped until your attorney advises you to say something.
Hire an Attorney
When hiring an attorney, look for someone who is experienced. Likewise, you want someone who specializes in car accidents (not some generic attorney who dabbles in dozens of different areas).
Working with an experienced car accident attorney lowers your risk of being taken advantage of by ruthless car insurance companies that only care about paying out the least amount of money possible. A business law attorney won’t do you much good here.
Follow the Doctor’s Orders
It’s not enough to be seen by a doctor after an accident and given a diagnosis. You also need to follow their treatment plan.
Insurance companies know that many people aren’t disciplined enough to stick with a doctor’s treatment plan for their injuries. And if they notice that you don’t follow the treatment plan, they’ll use this to discount the severity of your condition and claim that you aren’t really as hurt as you say you are.
By sticking to your doctor’s treatment plan and attending every single appointment without fail, you create a strong medical paper trail that gives you more leverage in negotiations.
Don’t Accept the First Offer
The insurance company’s goal is to pay out the least amount of money possible. That’s what they consider a “win.” If you accept their first offer, you’re falling straight into their carefully-laid trap.
“The first thing to know is that after any car accident, the insurance company’s first settlement offer is just that – the first of perhaps many,” Nolo mentions. “And it’s almost always going to be a low offer.”
In extreme cases, the first offer might be just 15 to 25 percent of what the claim is actually worth. This is why it’s a good idea to listen and then outright reject the offer. (Obviously, your attorney can give you specific advice that’s tailored to your situation.)
Negotiating and countering is where your attorney earns their pay. They’ll help you come back with a counteroffer and gradually increase the amount of money the insurance company is willing to fork over.
Stay Off Social Media
During this time, it’s best to avoid social media altogether. Insurance companies have been known to stalk profiles in pursuit of any information they can use to discount the severity of injuries and lower the value of a claim. Take a Facebook hiatus and let your attorney get to work with your case unimpeded.
Don’t Be Victimized Twice
You’ve already been victimized in a car accident. Don’t let the insurance company make you a victim two times over. Stand up for yourself, hire a good attorney, and don’t give in to the high-pressure tactics that will be wielded against you.