TEN MISTAKES ACCIDENT VICTIMS MAKE

For most people, car wrecks are not an everyday event. They happen, at worst, once – maybe twice – in a lifetime. Insurance companies and hospitals, on the other hand, deal with hundreds of accident victims every day. In the accident victim – insurance company – medical provider relationship, it is the insurance company and medical providers that have the experience and know-how on its side. We have compiled a list of ten mistakes that accident victims make after an accident.

 

  1. Allowing a hospital or medical provider to control what benefits pay your bills. If you have health insurance, that coverage should typically be used to pay your bills. Do not let your medical provider submit bills to your insurance for “Med Pay” coverage. If they do, you may end up paying a higher rate for services and, therefore, not getting the full benefit of all of the insurance you paid for. Watch out for hidden ways hospitals try to get your permission, and resist giving the hospital any information about your automobile insurance until you have consulted with us.

 

  1. Assuming the police officer’s opinion is correct. Investigating officers sometimes make decisions based on incomplete information when issuing citations following an accident. If you’ve been cited, or the investigating officer told you this accident was your fault, but you do not agree, give us a call. We can help assess liability based on our experience and, if necessary, the help of experts in the field of accident reconstruction.

 

  1. Pleading guilty to a citation. If you are issued a citation in the accident, the forms often allow you to pay it without appearing in court by pleading guilty. If anything, plead no contest. However, you should consult with a lawyer before you make that decision. If you are ultimately sued for the accident, and there is some argument that you were not at fault (or not completely at fault), then your guilty plea may be admissible at trial as an admission of fault. A no contest plea, on the other hand, is not typically admissible because there you do not admit fault to make that plea.

 

  1. Not preserving evidence. Accident victims are understandably distraught after an accident. It is important, though, to take photographs, make observations about the scene, take measurements (if it’s important) and to preserve as much data and information about the scene as possible, especially if there may be a question about who is at fault. Large trucking companies know this and often send lawyers and accident reconstruction experts to the scene of an accident to collect evidence and information before vehicles are moved. Be sure, at the very least, to download and keep any pictures or data (i.e., screen shots of the time of post-accident calls or texts) related to the accident.

 

  1. Posting about the accident or injuries to social media. Be careful about posts to social media about the accident, your injuries or your physical condition. Social media posts, even if security settings are set to private, may be made available to the other side in a lawsuit. We would caution against making any public posts, generally, and especially concerning the accident, your injuries or your physical condition.

 

  1. Signing an insurer’s authorization for medical records. Insurance companies will request your written authorization that allows it to collect your medical records, once you indicate you have injuries from an accident. Many are broadly worded and permit the insurer to collect any medical records – without limitation. If you are presented with such an authorization, call us. We can help guide you through that process – while protecting the privacy of your medical records.

 

  1. Giving a statement before you are ready. Insurers will want to take your statement as soon as possible after an accident. Do not be pressured to give a statement before you are ready. West Virginia law prohibits insurers from taking statements within a certain period of time after an accident if you are in the hospital or fully or partially engage in your normal activities. If you have been asked to give a statement, and want some legal advice before you do, just give us a call.

 

  1. Relying on an insurance company’s coverage denial. If an insurance company tells you there is no coverage for your injuries or losses, ask for the decision in writing, and a certified copy of the policy, and review it for yourself. Coverage disputes are common, and you may want or need a lawyer’s help with it. If so, give us a call.

 

  1. Settling claims too soon. Sometimes, accident-related injuries may seem slight at first, but may develop into something more significant as time goes by. Be certain that you are fully recovered before you settle your claim. Do not be rushed into a settlement that may not be sufficient in the long run.
  1. Trusting an insurance agent’s advice on coverage. Some insurance agents are paid based on “loss history,” which means, in simple terms, the more claims their clients have, the less they are paid. Most agents handle claim reports properly, which is to refer you to the claims reporting center for your insurance company. If any agent tries to discourage you from reporting a claim, consider her motives and give us a call. There may be good reasons for discouraging you, but there may be bad ones as well.