Usually, after an accident, while you are receiving treatment for your injuries, the party at fault in the accident will notify their insurance company. You also may contact your own insurance company in order to take advantage of any coverage they will need to provide, including the uninsured motorist protection (UM/UIM) and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage mentioned previously. The adjusters and investigators for the insurance company have lots of experience and they understand the importance of immediately investigating and processing accident claims.
Understand that the other person's insurance company has no obligation to inform you of your legal rights. All insurance companies employ very experienced defense attorneys, who sole responsibility is to protect the financial interests of the insurance company. Insurance companies are mainly in business to make money, not to pay claims. The less they pay out in accident claims, the greater their profit.
Insurance adjusters are trained to take advantage of the lack of knowledge most claimants have about their legal rights and the value of their accident claim. The adjuster may seem like a nice person who is friendly and pleasant over the phone and seems concerned with your welfare. In fact, they might actually be a nice person. However, never forget that their primary job is to protect the insurance company. The way they protect the insurance company is by finding a way to not give you any money, or if they have to pay you money they want to make sure they pay you as little as possible in order to resolve the matter and make it go away.
When you talk to the adjuster, he or she may try to get you to minimize the impact or extent of your injuries, or to get you to accept some responsibility for the accident that was really not your fault. They may also tell you how difficult would be it would be for you win your case in court. These are all standard tricks of the insurance adjuster, and ones that an experienced attorney can help you avoid.
Recently, the American Bar Association published an article that shows that one large insurance company started a new program for training insurance adjusters. In this program, adjusters are encouraged to do whatever they can to speak to victims before they hire lawyers, including listening to police radios and visiting accident scenes.
So, knowing all this, when you have been injured in an accident, what should you do?
First, do not let anyone pressure you, threaten you, or intimidate you into making a quick decision or signing any type of document. It is very common for insurance adjuster to try to get you to sign away your rights quickly. If you do this, you will regret it later.
Second, document your injuries and the accident itself. Gather all medical records, accident reports, witness statements and contact information in a folder. Take photographs of the accident scene and your injuries as soon as possible and keep them with your file. As the old saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words", documenting your claim with photographs is worth thousands of dollars in helping you win a fair settlement or verdict for your accident.
Third, get as much information as you can about the personal injury claim process. Reading this book is an excellent start. Discussing your case with an attorney that handles personal injury matters on a regular basis and getting a "no obligation" evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your claim is also important.