GEICO and other insurance companies that handle car accident claims in DC, Maryland, and Virginia spend millions of dollars to create a friendly corporate image. All they want to do is help–if you believe the ads. It’s true, actually, but the ones they want to help are their shareholders. Insurance companies are in business to make money, and one way they do that is by trying to pay as little as possible for accident claims.
Before you sign anything—before you even talk to an insurance representative—you need to know your legal rights and how to protect yourself. A personal injury lawyer can handle communications with the insurance company for you, but if you’re not ready to hire an attorney just yet, here are three things to keep in mind to protect yourself.
You Don’t Have to Accept a Settlement Right Away
Insurance adjusters often advise accident victims to accept an offer quickly by implying or even saying outright that the offer will only be available for a limited time. They want you to sign on the dotted line before you have time to consult an attorney. Once you accept a settlement, then you cannot ask for more later if you need additional medical care or you learn that you actually should have received $100,000 for your pain and suffering rather than $10,000.
Find out what your claim is worth before you accept a settlement. You need to know about the care you might need in the future and how your injuries will impact your future earning capacity, at the very least.
Watch What You Say
For an insurance company, what would be better than paying $4,000 for a claim that’s worth $40,000? They’d rather pay nothing at all. And if they can trick you into saying something that makes it seem like you were at fault for causing your injuries in some way, then they might find a way to pay you nothing. Virginia, D.C., and Maryland, generally still follow the contributory negligence rule, which prevents you from recovering if the court finds that your behavior contributed toward the cause of an accident.
Don’t give the insurance representative grounds to deny or reduce your claim. Have an attorney speak to them on your behalf.
Watch What You Sign
People who accept settlements without seeking legal advice are often not aware of what they are giving up. They often think they are accepting a downpayment on a settlement when in actuality their acceptance creates a contract specifying that the amount they accepted is the full and final settlement for their claim and that they cannot seek additional recovery in the future, no matter how bad their condition becomes. Insurance companies take advantage of the vulnerabilities of accident victims who may be desperate for money because they are unable to work.
Often, an attorney can not only get accident victims much more for their losses, but an attorney can also negotiate with creditors to help reach an arrangement that gives accident victims additional time to pay bills.
Get the Help You Need from Jennifer Porter Law
Don’t let yourself be bullied after an accident. An insurance company is not likely to give an honest opinion about the value of your claim, but an experienced personal injury lawyer will. Call us for a free consultation and case evaluation.