Just about anyone who has ever been involved in an accident can tell you that it can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. You may not know what to do or who to reach out to. You may have injuries that need to be dealt with, property damage that needs to be repaired, and a general need to get on with your life. But knowing how to do that in the right way is often difficult for people have never experienced an automobile wreck.
One very confusing aspect of the accident claims process is knowing how to deal with insurance companies. If you’ve been in a crash caused by another insured driver you may be surprised at just how fast the company makes contact with you. It isn’t uncommon for them to try and get you to a make a recorded statement about the accident and can then push to have you accept and sign for a check within a matter of days. I have even had clients that received calls from the insurance company while still in the hospital. But should you do it, take money from an insurance company before running it by a lawyer? That is a personal decision but please consider the following.
When it doesn’t make sense to take the money:
In almost all cases it is not a good idea to take money from an insurance company before running it past an experienced personal injury attorney. The way the insurance companies typically handle this is by pushing to get a check cut quickly, often for far less money than your case may actually be worth. The strategy that the insurance company takes is that the faster a case is settled the less money the company usually ends up paying out. It’s the cases that drag on that usually result in the big payments. To help save money, claims agents are trained to strongly encourage victims to sign a release and get that quick check.
There are two problems with accepting payments from an insurance company that lawyers are trained to detect. The first is that the check itself is may be for far less than the claim is worth. Insurance companies may send a check to cover the property damage and include a small amount to compensate for any bodily injuries associated with the claim. A skilled lawyer would recognize immediately the danger in this and realize that the amount may be woefully undersized.
Beyond undervaluing claims, the real problem with accepting money from an insurance company after an accident is that you have then up waived your claims for more money down the road. Before you can cash the check, most insurance companies will ask you to sign a piece of paper, glossing over the fact that the paper acts as a waiver for the company and prevents you from bringing future claims. Before you know it you could have accepted a check for a fraction of the total value of your case and signed away your rights to pursue fair compensation to cover your loss wages and medical bills.
When should I accept payment from an insurance company?
In my opinion someone involved in an accident should always at minimum consult with an attorney before settling their case. However, what is most important is that a person complete any and all medical treatment prior to settling a claim. It is vital that any injuries that have resulted from the accident are resolved through the proper medical care before accepting any settlement. Always remember once a check is cashed the insurance company is no longer liable for any future medical expenses or injuries regardless of if they are a result of the accident.
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