Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What To Do If "The Insurance Adjuster Is Coming To My House To Offer Me A Settlement."

Dallas, Texas Attorney Jeff Rasansky hit the nail on the head recently in his post about insurance companies' recent amped up tactics to immediately cash out auto accident victims' injury claims with "offers" of settlements within days of a crash.

This tactic is not limited to Texas and has infiltrated into Ohio for quite some time now. In fact, let me share a similar experience on an Ohio auto collision/personal injury case I am handling that proves this is becoming an all too familiar tactic.

A few moths ago, a client calls me. She is a mother of three children, including a nine month old child. She's taking her two children to elementary school, along with two neighbor kids and her nine month old child. She's rear ended at a high rate of speed while attempting to turn into the school lot. All the children are taken to the ER to be evaluated. She declines treatment because she's concerned about getting all the kids evaluated (imagine the chaos of having your three kids in the ER along with the neighbor kids).

The next day, an adjuster shows up at Mom's house and writes checks for $250 for each kid and her. She leaves some "releases" for Mom to sign, meaning that by accepting the checks and signing the releasee, the claim will be over and closed. She eventually cashes the checks, but does not sign the releases. In the meantime, she starts to develop neck and back pain and calls a chiropractor to get checked out.

She informs the adjuster the next that she's seeing a chiropractor to be evaluated. The adjuster informs her that her claim is over and therefore they will not honor or pay for any medical bills. Mom tells friendly adjuster that she did not even have a chance to be seen for her injuries in the ER and that she did not sign any release. Too bad, says the adjuster: claim over since Mom cashed the checks. Mom returns the checks and writes a letter to the adjuster indicating that she had no intention of closing out her claim. The letter is ignored.

After hiring me, I write the friendly adjuster and ask that the claim be re-opened. I'm told in no uncertain terms to pound salt. The next day, a lawsuit is filed. Eventually, I get a call from an attorney for the insurance company, informing me that the insurance company is now backing off and honoring the claim.

It took a lawsuit to expose and nullify this strong arm tactic. Here's the insurance company's playbook: get to auto accident victims as soon as possible, throw an immediate, small amount of money at these folks in a bad economy, and play the "you settled your claim" card if the person seeks medical treatment even a few days after the collision. This tactic is a well organized scheme to pray on folks who are vulnerable or innocently ignorant about how the claims process works.

So what's the solution here? Simple. Decline the friendly adjuster's invitation to come to the house and "talk" about your claim. You should tell them that if they want to send somebody to appraise your car, that's OK, but you should never discuss any potential personal injury claim with them immediately after the collision. It's simply not in your best interests to do so. Between these shenanigans and all the other "routine paperwork" thay may ask you to sign (like a blank medical authorization giving them a license to fish around in your medical history), you may well sign your rights away and be stuck down the road if you develop a medical problem down the road.

Bottom line: they are not coming to your house to be "fair" to you. They're coming to cash you out and cut off their potential losses and liability. That's all you really need to remember...

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