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Tips for Dealing with the Insurance Company - Accident Lawyer


By Prev Info - March 01, 2022

companyAre you frustrated with the insurance company? You’re not alone?they can be very difficult to deal with. As car accident lawyers, we can only shake our heads at the delays, ineptitude and indifference among most adjusters. The process is more difficult when it’s your own case?when you are trying to heal from a vehicle collision, when you need to get a rental car, when you need to get your car repaired and when you are trying to explain how the accident changed your life. The question is, when should you handle your claim on your own and when do you need a lawyer? Here are some tips for dealing with the insurance company.



DEALING WITH YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY


There are three situations where you will have to deal with your insurance company:


-when you are trying to work out the personal injury protection (PIP) to pay for lost wages or medical expenses

-when you need your insurance company to take care of your car’s damage

-when you need to use your uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist protection


Personal Injury Protection


Personal Injury Protection is insurance that you carry on your automobile policy to help quickly pay for lost wages and medical expenses after an accident. It is no-fault, which means that this is insurance to help you regardless of whether the accident is your fault or another driver’s fault. Most people have $2,500 in PIP insurance, though it can go as high as $10,000.


In order to make a PIP claim, you must request an application form from your insurance company (or the insurance company of the car that you were riding in). That application must be submitted within one year of the accident, and you can collect for lost wages or expenses incurred within three years of the accident. Just keep good track of your health care providers, and submit bills to the insurance company.


Do you need a lawyer to handle PIP? Not usually. It’s typically straightforward. Here are situations where you should get a lawyer’s assistance in recovering PIP:


The insurance company wants an Examination Under Oath (EUO). This is code for ?we don’t believe your claim, we plan to deny it, and we want to get a recorded statement from you so we can use your words against you in court.? This is frequently used when you are simultaneously making an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, or when your PIP limits are above $2,500.


The insurance company wants you to submit to what they call and Independent Medical Exam (IME). There’s nothing independent about it?this is likely to lead to them denying your claim on the grounds that ?you don’t really need the medical treatment.?

The insurance company wants prior medical records. Again, this is the insurance company fishing around to find ways to deny your claim. It may be a good idea to give them some records, but it might not be something you should share. A lawyer can help you to make the distinction.


Collision/Rental


If your car is damaged in Maryland automobile accident, there are three situations where you might go through your insurance instead of the negligent driver’s policy:


-you can’t wait for the negligent driver’s insurance company to make a decision about whether they will pay for your car

-the negligent driver’s insurance company has denied your property damage claim

-the negligent driver was uninsured or cannot be found


You should be able to handle almost every collision or rental situation on your own. The beauty of using your own insurance when the other side is investigating liability or has denied liability is that your insurance company may enter into arbitration to recoup their property damage expenses. If they win, they will reimburse your deductible (usually $250 or $500).


Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage


Uninsured and Underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage is insurance you carry to protect you from the negligence of other drivers with too little insurance, no insurance, or who cannot be found after an accident. This is where your insurance company is supposed to step in and help you. After all, you pay all those premiums, and you’ve been a loyal customer for years, right?


That’s what should happen. The reality is that once you make a UM/UIM claim, you become your own insurance company’s mortal enemy.


We’d like to say that most people can handle their own UM/UIM claims. Sometimes it happens that your insurance company will treat you fairly. In smaller soft-tissue cases, with medical bills under $2,500 or $3,000 and no permanent injury, it may be manageable (see here for some tips and tricks). But, the higher the medical expenses, the more likely it is that your insurance company is going to give you ridiculously low offers.


It goes without saying that if your insurance company completely denies your UM/UIM claim, you will probably need a lawyer. You might be able to handle a small claims case (under $5,000) on your own, but rest assured that it will take a lot of work and there are some very technical hurdles that you will have jump.


DEALING WITH THE NEGLIGENT DRIVER’S INSURANCE COMPANY


In general, we think that most people can handle their own Maryland automobile accident settlements in some situations. For some people and some cases, it is better, and more profitable, than hiring a lawyer.


Property Damage


Typically, you can handle property damage in almost any case. There’s no real magic to calculating the fair market value of a car or determining whether repairs are possible. If you have a newer car, under about two or three years old, you may have a claim for diminished value. These can be tougher to settle on your own, so you may need to file a lawsuit. In order to be successful, you’re probably going to need an expert.


Liability Denial


If the insurance company denies your claim, you’re going to have to file a lawsuit to get anywhere. The question you must ask yourself is whether filing a lawsuit on your own is worth the hassle and the risk. It’s not recommended that you file a lawsuit for a case with a value more than $5,000 (a small claims case), because more complicated court rules apply and there is a heightened risk of making a mistake that could cost you the case.


Low Damages


If the insurance company is willing to concede liability for the purposes of a settlement, you may have a shot at resolving the case on your own. For some cases, it may be worth it to do just that. Let’s crunch some numbers:


Pretend your claim is worth $5,000. If you handle your claim by yourself, and the insurance company is going to lowball you because you are not represented and they are trying to save money, you might settle it for $3,000. On the other hand, if you went to a lawyer who got you every penny you deserved, he would take his 33.33% (one-third) fee (not even including expenses, which would probably measure between $30 and $100), which means that you would end up with $3,333.33 (assuming all of your medical expenses are paid). That’s not a big difference to your bottom line. And, you probably get the money quicker than if you hire a lawyer.


Of course, you’re probably thinking that the numbers are even more significant when dealing with larger values. If you can settle your claim for $15,000, your lawyer would have to negotiate a settlement of about $22,500 in order to get you the same amount. If you can settle your claim for $100,000, your lawyer would have to settle for $150,000 to get you the same amount. The reality here is that, as the case value gets higher, the likelihood is that it will be harder for a layperson to know the true value of a case. You might think the case is worth $150,000, when in reality it could be worth two or three times that. Insurance companies know they are dealing with unrepresented people, and they will take advantage of that fact.


WHEN SHOULD I IMMEDIATELY HIRE A LAWYER?


These are the types of cases that you should always hire a lawyer for:


Case Value Over $5,000: If your cases is worth more than $5,000 (somewhere around $2,500 or $3,000 in medical expenses and no permanent injury), we think you will be better served by hiring a lawyer.


Permanent or Unresolved Injury: If you have extensive injuries that do not resolve, the insurance companies are not likely to give you full value of your claim if you are unrepresented. Furthermore, you may not be able to collect the important information from medical experts, economic experts or others who can place your case in its proper light.


Medical Malpractice Cases: if your claim is for medical malpractice, you should never try to file a lawsuit on your own. There are too many traps that even experienced Maryland lawyers fall into, and it is very likely impossible for someone without training. Likewise, most medical malpractice claims involve serious injury?if you are unrepresented, it may be difficult for you to know the actual value of your claim. If the insurance company is willing to settle it with you, you may be demanding too little.


Statute of Limitations/Notice: One trick used by the insurance company is to delay settlements. They know that most people are busy. After your accident you are trying to deal with the fallout of your injuries, medical treatment, bills and transportation. At some point, you go back to work. It’s hard to keep calling the insurance company, and before long, the time to make a claim is almost over. Insurance companies know that if they stall your claim long enough, you will lose it completely and they won’t have to pay a penny. For automobile accidents, we recommend that if you get within one year of the filing deadline or notice deadline, you hire a lawyer immediately. These cases can take time to investigate, and many competent lawyers will not take a case at the last minute.


WHAT VALUE DOES A LAWYER BRING TO MY CLAIM?


As we’ve mentioned, the presence of a lawyer typically increases the insurance company’s offers. Why?


First, they know that lawyers know the law. They can’t fool us with lies about Maryland’s collateral source rule, as one example.


Second, they know that lawyers don’t have to take a settlement offer if it is too low. We can file a lawsuit (though, the insurance companies keep track of which lawyers take cases to trial, and which lawyers would rather settle a case?the trial lawyers get higher offers).


Third, lawyers are experienced at knowing what to include in a claim. We know, for example, that a visit to the ER generates a hospital bill, an emergency room physicians’ bill, and sometimes even separate radiology bills. Those are all part of the demand.


Most importantly, an experienced trial lawyer understands the pros and cons of a case and how to value the legal claim. We understand the effect of location on the value of a case, the impact of property damage, the importance of damages witnesses, and how similar cases have been decided in the past, along with many other factors. This is especially important for cases with permanent injury or serious injury, where your lawyer will be able to value the case and properly make your case in front of a jury, if necessary.


THE USUAL DISCLAIMER


Of course, we’re talking generalities here. There are exceptions to every rule (and these are not even rules, but there are plenty exceptions). The most difficult thing about knowing whether or not you need a lawyer is that, unless you are a lawyer, you don’t know what you don’t know. For example, you might think that you have three years from the date of the accident to resolve your case. However, if the defendant is a governmental employee, you might lose your claim if you don’t provide notice within 180 days of the accident. You might not know if it is a governmental employee. So, when handling your own case without seeking advice from a lawyer about your specific case, there are risks that you could make a mistake.


The ultimate question to ask yourself is this: If I made a mistake and totally lost my claim, would that be okay? If not, the safest course is to hire a lawyer. If you had minor injuries that fully resolved, your medical bills were all paid for, and it was just a small soft-tissue claim, the benefits may outweigh the risks. If you had medical bills over about $3,000, you have any amount of permanent injury, or you have any outstanding medical expenses or lost wages, we recommend that you hire a car accident lawyer.






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