Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How Secret Insurance Company Databases Are Used (And Misused) Against Personal Injury Victims...And The Key That Allows Them Access

Just the other day I was negotiating an auto accident claim with an insurance company adjuster. The conversation went something like this:
     Adjuster (Adj): Your client had a previous injury to his foot.

     Me: No he didn't.

     Adj: Says right here in our ISO database that he had some sort of injury or claim involving his foot before the crash.

     Me: I'm pretty sure I'm right but if it's true I need to know about it. What info do you have in your database? What date are you referring to?

     Adj: (gives date of "previous foot injury").

     Me: Ah, well that date was ONE DAY AFTER THE CRASH WITH YOUR INSURED, so it's wrong! There was no prior injury to his foot!

     Adj: OK, well, I'll make a note that there was no previous injury.

And there lies the problem. Insurance companies have access to gigantic databases of information that they love to scour in an effort to see if auto accident victims have made any sort of previous claims of injury in past auto accidents, falls, or even workers' comp claims. In theory, no problem: if you've had a previous injury or problem with a body part that's been injured in a crash, that's fair game for everyone--your lawyer and the insurance company--to know.

But who knows what garbage is entered into those databases? In my client's case, the information in the database shared by the adjuster over the phone was dead wrong. What's more, insurance companies can access your credit and debt history, including any bankruptcies. Unless your Donald Trump, insurance companies view your past bankruptcy as a stain on your character, and more likely to file an exaggerated or "trumped up" (pardon the pun) claim.

What's the key that unlocks their access to this database? Your Social Security Number. In my client's case, he dealt with the insurance company on his own before he hired me. He disclosed his SS No to them as part of their "routine procedures" early on in the claims process.

Do NOT give the at fault driver's insurance company your Social Security Number! Despite what they may tell you at the outset of your claim, they do not have to have your SS Number to process your claim. I NEVER give out my clients' SS Numbers, even when told by the adjuster that "we have to have it." No, they don't. They may need it when the claim settles in order to verify whether the claimant was receiving Medicare benefits, but that can be done after a settlement is reached.

But they do WANT it as soon as possible--to make a trip to their database to snoop and sniff. It can often influence their settlement offer, and in a bad way. And as my recent experience points out, who knows if the data is correct or garbage.