What do I need to know about dealing with insurance companies. What Act or Statues should I read or know? Any advice would help.
Although you are seeking advice on how to deal with insurance companies on your own, I highly suggest contacting an attorney in your area that litigates personal injury matters for several reasons:
First, and most importantly, there are critical time deadlines in which a victim must notify their insurance company of an accident, as well as time deadlines to file a claim against the wrong-doer and/or the wrong-doer’s insurance company. Failure to meet a time deadline will result in a victim being forever barred in pursuing a claim for damages.
Second, and just as important as the first, victims must take extreme caution when communicating with insurance companies. Insurance companies hire trained adjusters and seasoned attorneys to limit their liability in having to compensate a victim, sometimes even denying a claim in its entirety. Insurance adjusters may force the victim to make a recorded statement (or complete a claims form) describing the events that have transpired, and the injuries/damages sustained. Unfortunately, although the insurance companies sound like they are trying to help, any statements made can and will be used against the victim by the insurance company in an attempt to limit their liability of having to compensate a victim. This is why attorneys will stress the fact to not talk to any insurance companies or discuss the matter with anyone not authorized by the attorney.
Third, unlike experienced personal injury attorneys that have experience valuing a personal injury claim and knowledge of how other similar matters have settled, laypersons sometimes undervalue their claim, and may think a settlement offer is reasonable, when in fact, it may be much too small. Many laypersons also fail to realize that not only can a victim pursue a claim to recover costs for past medical treatment and pain and suffering, victims may potentially be able to recover the costs for future medial treatment, lost wages, property damage, and other expenses. These additional claims, and their values, can be difficult for a layperson to determine.
Fourth, insurance adjusters will also force a victim to sign a release in exchange for the settlement funds. Once signed, this release will prevent any additional claims not previously raised from being raised in the future.
Assuming a victim is forced to trial as a result of the insurance company being unwilling to settle, the victim must be able to property and timely file a complaint in the correct court, and pursue extensive, multistage litigation. Unlike attorneys, laypersons may have no knowledge of strict procedural rules and rules of evidence, and being a pro se litigant will be no excuse.
To specifically answer your questions, it is impossible for anyone to give you a "crash course" on how to handle an accident on your own. There are many issues and factors involved when dealing with a personal injury matter as described above.
There are a multitude of Georgia code sections that may become relevant to a claim against someone for an auto accident. These include statutes governing the Rules of the Road, minimum insurance requirements, uninsured motorist coverage, the statutes of limitation, and the Tort Claims Act just to name a few. I would urge you, as others have, to contact an experienced attorney in your area. Just as you would ask a medical doctor to diagnose a disease, you should hire an attorney to represent you.
Depending upon your situation, you may in fact not need an attorney. But I highly encourage you to speak with an attorney sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, your question can only be answered by sharing the truth: only lawyers should handle automobile accident cases. This is assuming there were injuries caused by the accident. To maxamize one's recovery, an experienced personal injury attorney with the resources and know-how should be retained.
That said, there are plenty of car accidents that result in property damage alone, where the claimant is insured. In those cases, a lay person can handle the claim with their insurer. But, if there is ever any question about receiving fair value for your claim, an experienced attorney should be consulted.
If you want to sabotage your case and recover either no money or a tiny sum, handle the case yourself. If you want to get the maximum possible compensation available under the law, get a lawyer to represent you, one with a low contingency fee, less than 30%, so you are left with the lion's share of the settlement. Good luck.
The best advice I can give you is the fact that you do not know what statutes even apply is one of many reasons that is a huge mistake and completely foolish to do this on your own.
Study after study shows that insurers are more likely to deny claims to unrepresented people, and that when they do pay, the proceeds tend to be less than when a lawyer is used to a point where you save even AFTER the lawyer gets paid out of your share.
If after knowing that you want to make a very expensive and foolish mistake you should plan to devote at least a few hundred hours to research. You need to not only read numerous tort and insurance statutes covering hundreds of pages, but also the leading treatises and key court decisions from the appellate courts. Even with all that you will be the equivilent of a gunfighter in the wild west showing up for a gunfight without a gun (the insurer will be using their lawyers).
You can find information on how to handle accidents on your own at the same place you can find out how to do your own surgery. The statutes, rules of court, case law, administrative regulations and bad faith law are more than just books to attorneys, they are the framework we have studied for years and which we use to approach each case.
The do-it-yourselfer's real problem is that the insurance companies all have a battalion of their own attorneys who already know all of this and use it to the insurance company's advantage to delay, deny and defend each claim. This is not my opinion, it is the well documented observation of insurance insiders.
In the context of legal matters, sometimes it appears like it is just a pile of paper. However, just because it is not so obvious, there are many reasons why a personal injury claim requires expertise from an experienced personal injury attorney. Here are a few:
(1) The insurance industry's own statistics confirm that once an attorney is brought in to a claim, the value goes up.
(2) Your own attorney has a duty to fully inform you of all potential elements of recovery which the insurance company claims adjuster will not take time to tell you about.
(3) Settlements are forever. This means that if you decide to accept a settlement, this is the final disposition of the case forever. Should you later need additional treatment or discover an outstanding charge you did not know about, it is too late to go back.
My office handles personal injury and accident cases in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. And despite the procedural and legal differences between our states, the insurance standards and case valuation aspects of this topic are relatively universal across the U.S.
Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers
North Andover, MA — Derry, NH
CLICK HERE: HOW PERSONAL INJURY CASES ARE EVALUATED:
Yours is a curious question. Attorneys go to law school for years in order to be able to successfully handle the type of action you are talking about. If you needed brain surgery for a tumor, would you plan on doing your surgery yourself at home on your kitchen table with a mirror? I think you get my point.
You should obtain needed medical care and treatment immediately and follow the doctor's advice. Do not give any statement to the adverse party or insurance company nor grant them access to any medical records. Photograph the injuries and the damage done to any property. Contact a personal injury attorney in your area as soon as possible so that you can protect your rights. You may also find it helpful to review the Legal Guides I have published on Avvo.com dealing with many of the issues you are now facing.
If this information has been helpful, please indicate below.
Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
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