So, you’ve been involved in an accident and (this time) it wasn’t your fault. You’ve filed an incident report, collected insurance and witness information, and taken photos. Most importantly, you have gone to the E.R. and followed up with your own doctor. All things being equal, you’ve done well. You should be proud of yourself for being clear headed and effective during the crucial “first 48” hours after this traumatic event.
In fact, the battle has just begun… right away, you begin to get calls from an insurance adjuster who wants to take a recorded statement and get you to sign a stack of medical releases authorizing the insurance company to get all your medical records. The adjuster makes promises about how he/she will make sure you are “taken care of,” all the while demanding more and more documentation and compliance from you. You are hurt and should be able to recover, yet it seems that you are working harder than ever just to dig out from this hole.
Unfortunately, it looks like you have been pretty seriously hurt. Truth be told, your doctor says you are going to be off work for a while. Without your usual income, disability is simply not going to cover what you need every month. What’s more, your health insurance is requiring a significant amount of money out of your pocket for treatments such as Physical Therapy, x-rays, MRI, CT, and prescription medications.
Will an insurance company ever tell an injured person that they are entitled to recover past lost earnings, as well as future lost earnings? Of course not. Will an insurance company ever tell an injured person that they are entitled to recover the cost of future medical care, such as therapy, prescription drugs, hardware, or even surgery? Of course not.
Nevertheless, in an attempt to put this stressful ordeal behind them, an injured person may be tempted to settle with insurance company for a dollar amount that represents only a small fraction of the damage actually suffered. In fact, most injured people give up the majority of their potential recovery without even knowing it.
For example, a small business owner who is seriously injured cannot just take the month off. When the buck stops with you, there are no “sick days.” However, if you are physically unable to work as a result of injury, there can be dire consequences. You’ve lost your livelihood and you are entitled to recover your past and future lost earnings!
Similarly, if you need to undergo surgery, there is no guarantee that your recovery will go smoothly. If you recover well, great! If not, it is important to understand the effect on the rest of your life. If an injured person accepts the first offer from an insurance company, recovery based on future medical treatment is “out the window.” The future is uncertain enough as it is. By taking the insurance company’s first offer, an injured person is only making that future more uncertain.
If you continue to suffer from injury-related symptoms, and a doctor says there is nothing more he/she can do to help, you also must consider the reality that your life has been permanently and irrevocably changed – and not for the better. How much should the wrongdoer pay you for each day of pain, suffering, and lack of mobility? Would payment of medical bills alone really make things right? For any person who has truly experienced the daily trauma of a serious injury, the answer is unequivocally – NO.
However, an insurance adjuster will never advise you of these issues. Only an experienced attorney who practices in the field of serious injury can properly advise you of these issues. Believe it or not, the areas of law governing your rights to recovery are actually quite complex. Without professional guidance, an injured person will almost certainly be overwhelmed.
It is important to understand that an adjuster’s job is to save the insurance company money – period. Many years of training and millions of dollars have gone into forming a well-oiled machine for the purpose of saving the insurance company money. The adjuster is simply playing out his/her role as a cog in that machine.
How does an insurance company makemoney? By paying less to you in claims… then taking all the money it didn’t pay you for your injury and re-investing it for their own profit. Recently, it has become clear that much of that money was funneled into funding high risk or toxic loans (read AIG). Now that’s some good use of your money!
Don’t stand by and watch that happen. If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s wrongdoing, that person or his/her insurance company needs to make things right. Since we know that this does not always happen in the real world, it is important to protect your future and the future of your family. One way you can do that is to immediately seek counsel from an experienced attorney.
In the next installment, we will discuss important (but little known) factors that an injured person should ALWAYS investigate before hiring an injury attorney. Stay tuned.
For more information, visit www.orangecountyinjury.com.