Interviewer: What tactics have you seen insurance companies use? What do you do if they're really getting aggressive with you?
Guy S. DiMartino: What I've seen and what auto accident claimants hear is, “I want to take your statement so I can get you paid”, and then a client will say, “Well, I'm really uncomfortable with that. I want to go ahead and hire a lawyer”, and then the insurance adjuster will say, “You can go and hire a lawyer all you want. Your offer is not going to get increased because you're hiring a lawyer. So, you don't need to hire a lawyer”. How would an insurance adjuster know 3 or 4 days after the accident, when she doesn't have all the facts and circumstances of the accident or the nature and extent of somebody's injuries to know whether the offer is going to increase later on?
The Insurance Adjuster May Offer Financial Assistance but Will Require the Injured Person to Provide A Medical Authorization
I've seen folks pushed by insurance adjusters this way, the adjuster will say, “Oh, I understand you don't have money. We'll advance you some money to pay for your medical bills”, and they sort of trap them that way. But in order to do that, in order for us to pay your medical bills, we need you to sign the medical authorization. So, they will send the injured person a medical authorization. When you look at the authorization, it is the broadest authorization that you could see out there. The authorization is not limited in time or to a particular doctor. If the injured person signs the authorization, the insurance company will go and get all the injured person's medical record, most of which are not related to the accident, irrelevant, and contain confidential information that the adjuster has no business knowing.
Let me give you case in point. Say you have a client that suffered depression, 4 years before the accident. They go ahead and they get this information and learn that one of the client's triggers to depression is confrontation. Now, the insurance adjuster knows that injured person has problems with depression that can be triggered by confrontation. They can use this information to negotiate a quick settlement with the injured person. All the insurance adjuster would need to do is would take that information and start taking a confrontational tone with the injured person. I can see it now, the adjuster will start calling the car accident victim every third day and question why she is still treating and why isn't see better, in an effort to make the process as difficult as possible.
Your Responsibility to Your Insurance Company is Different than Your Responsibility to the Other Driver's Insurance Company
The responsibility you owe to your insurance company is different than the responsibility you owe to the other driver's insurance company. If you're involved in a Florida car accident, you are required to give a statement to your insurance company. This can become tricky if both you and other driver are insured by the same insurance. If Betty calls you and says, “I'm from Zebra Insurance”, you don't know if she's the other driver's adjuster or your adjuster.
So, if you start telling the adjuster all of your thoughts not realizing that it is the adjuster who is representing the other driver, the information can be used against you. It's not sinister; this is just the process of dealing with insurance companies. This situation can be trap for the unwary because, most people come from the position that other people have their best interest at heart but, you know, this is business to the insurance company and the business is not having the injured person's best interest at heart. The injured person is just a number and nothing else to the Insurance Company.
Failing to Mention Prior Injuries in a Florida Car Accident Case Will Impact Your Credibility in Court
Finally, the biggest mistake car accident victims make is failing to tell your lawyer or your doctors about prior accidents and injuries. In a car accident case, your doctor is the most important person because he has to make that link between the accident and your injury. The doctor has to provide an opinion that the accident caused the patient's injury. One of the things that the doctor does to make that determination is rule out that you did not have the medical issue on the day of the accident or in the past. If the doctor asks you if you had any neck problems before the accident and you say, “No”, and based on your answer, the doctor gives an opinion that the accident caused the injures. The doctor is relying on your truthfulness. If a medical record shows up later on documenting a prior neck problem your doctor's testimony is worthless and your credibility is shot.