In the aftermath of an auto accident, it’s almost certain that you will have to deal with an insurance company. We know from our decades of experience with personal injury claims that insurance companies not only want to pay out as small an amount as possible, but also prefer to avoid having an accident victim retain the services of a personal injury law firm. If you’ve been injured in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s unreasonable acts or negligence, it’s important to know how insurance companies will approach a settlement and to understand your legal rights.
The Role of Insurance Adjusters In Accident Cases
In most instances, insurance companies will assign a liability adjuster to your claim. It’s the adjuster’s responsibility to investigate the claim by gathering all of the relevant facts and details and determine what they deem a sufficient amount of compensation. An adjuster’s tasks may include interviewing you, obtaining a copy of the police report, taking photos of the damage to the vehicles involved, and getting recorded statements from any third-party witnesses. The adjuster will also seek information on your medical treatment after the accident, as well as your overall medical history to see if you were treated for similar injuries prior to the accident. They may even look into other aspects of your past for information it can use against you.
In determining an offer for a settlement amount, adjusters will take several of the same factors into consideration that an accident attorney would, including but not limited to:
- Your ability to make a living
- Income you’ve lost to date as a result of the injuries you sustained in the accident
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
The final offer may also be influenced by the overall strength of your case and the limits of the insurance policy itself. If your case does not appear to be strong, the insurance company may predict that you or your attorney may not be willing to go to trial because you may not collect any compensation.
What To Know As An Accident Victim
- The first thing to know about dealing with an insurance company that represents the driver who was responsible for the accident is one of the most important: You are not required to give any statement to an insurance adjuster or any other representative of the insurance company. (Note that accident victims will sometimes need to make a claim against their own insurance companies.) The adjuster will want you to make a recorded statement under oath. You should not agree to this before obtaining the advice of an accident attorney.
- You will likely hear from an insurance adjuster very quickly, perhaps even later on the same day your accident occurred. Even though this is, understandably, a stressful moment, you should speak calmly with the adjuster. Ask for the adjuster’s contact information, including their name, phone number and the company they represent. You are not required to offer any information beyond your own contact information or to provide details about your income or job. If the adjuster asks questions about details of the accident, you do not have to answer them. It’s best to say that you plan to consult your accident attorney first.
- If the adjuster immediately offers you a settlement amount, you can assume it’s the least amount possible. Even if it sounds like a fair settlement to you at that moment, resist the temptation to accept it.
- Your first contact with an insurance adjuster may be in person rather than over the phone (perhaps even at the accident scene if time allows). They may have forms they want you to sign, such as a release of your medical records. As with recorded statements, you are not required to sign anything prior to contacting a personal injury attorney.
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Laws
Another important thing to understand is that Florida has no-fault insurance laws that govern car accident cases. This means that if you are injured in an auto accident, your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage provides compensation for some losses, such as lost income and medical bills, regardless of who was at fault. The other driver cannot be held liable after an auto accident in the state with one exception: the accident resulted in a “serious injury,” such as a permanent injury, a significant and permanent loss of a bodily function, or significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring.
As you might expect, interpreting such laws can be a complex undertaking, and one that should be left to experienced personal injury attorneys that specialize in car accident claims. When you’re a Harrell & Harrell, P.A., client, our team of auto accident experts and lawyers will be at your side through every step in the claims process. We understand exactly how large, powerful insurance companies and their attorneys work, and we know what it takes to achieve fair compensation for our clients during settlement negotiations or in the courtroom.
What To Do After A Car Accident
If you or anyone involved in the accident was seriously injured, call 911 or have someone else at the scene do so. The other driver, particularly if they believe they were at fault, may try to talk you out of calling the police, but it’s critical to obtain an official accident report if the accident caused injuries or property damage.
Other steps you should take include:
- Seeing your primary care doctor or going to an urgent care center or emergency room. Your personal injury claim may be compromised if you delay treatment.
- Getting the other driver’s contact and insurance information as well as that of their passengers.
- Asking all witnesses on the scene for their contact information.
- Gathering your own evidence, including photos of the vehicles, the surrounding area, and your injuries.
- Taking notes on details such as the date and time, the exact location of the accident, the road and weather conditions at the time of the accident. Also write down the license plate and vehicle identification number, and the make and model of all vehicles involved in the accident.
- Declining to sign anything or admit any degree of fault.
- Notifying your own insurance company regardless of whose fault the accident was.
- Obtaining a copy of the police report as soon as possible.
- Maintaining thorough records in the days and weeks that follow, including all expenses you incur that are related to your accident.
Contact our car accident attorneys today.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in an auto accident, you don’t have to face big insurance companies alone. Call Harrell & Harrell, P.A., now at 904-251-1111 or call 800-251-1111 toll-free, or complete the form at the top of this page. We have personal injury experts available 24/7/365 to answer your questions and help you determine the strength of your case.