Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Cashing Out" Injury Victims--Not So Progressive?

The other day I received a call from a potential client, who was broadsided at an intersection by a driver who left the scene, and apparently was later found in possession of drugs. Within 3 days, a Progressive adjuster sent the caller a check for a couple thousand dollars, and told him that unless the check was cashed, the claim would be "closed out." He returned the check--good move.

The second good thing he did was not return the scads of calls from chiropractors who've been calling him offering their "services" after getting ahold of his accident report (something to avoid at all costs in my humble opinion as I explained in a previous post). He asked me: "Can they just close my claim since I didn't accept the check?" Answer: No. In Ohio, you have two years to pursue a claim against the negligent party. More importantly, it raises the question: what should people do in this situation? I discuss this in "Your Ohio Accident...And How To level Your Playing Field." Below is an excerpt of the book...

Short answer: probably, but not always. Sometimes, we will advise potential clients that they can do just as well handling their own claim as we could do for them if we represented them. But this rule is the exception, and not the norm. Below is an example of practically the ONLY circumstance where you can handle your claim on your own.
EXAMPLE: You were rear ended. You went to the local ER (always a good medical idea as a precautionary measure), got treated and released, and waited a few days to see how you felt. You might have been stiff and sore for a few days or a week. You might have even seen your family doctor (also a good idea) just to be checked out. You may have missed a day or two from work, but eventually, you returned to work, and generally got better. No physical therapy, no series of diagnostic tests, or other treatments or bills – a happy ending to an initial nightmare.

If this is your accident scenario, a couple rules come into play. First, you have a limited claim. You’ll eventually be offered your medical bills plus a minimal amount for your pain and aggravation. Some insurance companies even have a name for this: an “inconvenience fee” (notice how your pain has been labeled just an “inconvenience”). Basically, the insurance company is looking to “cash you out.” Definition: in exchange for the small figure they’ve offered you, you sign a “Full Release,” which means your claim is over. If you have any further treatment or bills after you sign, forget it. Signed release = claim is over, unless you were fraudulently tricked into signing it.


The same is not true, however, if your injuries require anything more than a simple doctor’s visit, such as a couple of doctor or chiropractor visits, physical therapy, tests, or injuries like fractures or injuries requiring surgery. And this brings into play RULE NO. 4 OF THIS BOOK: THERE ARE MANY WAYS YOU CAN RUIN OR JEOPARDIZE YOUR CLAIM WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING IT, so you should consider hiring a competent attorney to assist you in leveling your playing field against the insurance company.
Some of these sins are minor, and others will kill your claim. Many of the minor ones occur before the injured person ever calls us, and some can be minimized or repaired, but in no particular order they are:
(To read more, click here for a FREE copy of the book...)

I have no idea whether this caller has a limited claim he can handle on his own or one that I can help him with. Every injury is different. Some people recover quickly with little to no need for medical help, and other injuries get worse over time and need medical intervention and time to heal. But the surest way to kill your claim is to sign the "cash out" check and the release. Insurance companies have the right to follow a business model to cash you out as soon as possible and cut off their exposure. And you have the right, and the time, to decline.

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