Written by attorney Gordon Ralph Levinson

How to Get a Fair Settlement Out of Your Bodily-Injury Claim

If you have been injured by someone else's negligence and you plan to make an insurance claim for compensation, believe it or not, you alone hold the key to getting a fair settlement. From the first moment that you were injured, until the time that you are holding a settlement check in your hand, your conduct has a significant influence on the size of that check.

This report will help you understand what you can do to increase the odds of getting a better insurance settlement. The key is to understand how insurance companies think, and what they are looking for when evaluating your claim.

Key #1: Go to the Emergency Room

First, if you were injured: Go to the Emergency Room. This is a good idea for many reasons. Obviously, if you have been in a car accident or other type of injury-producing event (such as a fall, a dog attack, etc.) you need medical attention to rule out or treat serious injuries. Your safety and well-being are therefore reasons enough to seek out medical attention.

But additionally, going to the emergency room on the date of your incident actually adds value to your insurance claim. Why? Because the way insurance companies see it, reasonable people go to the hospital if they believe that they may be injured.

So the first key to increasing the size of your settlement is to promptly seek out and obtain medical attention; either at the emergency room or an urgent care clinic. Do this as soon as possible after an accident or other injury-producing event.

Key #2: Follow Your Doctor's Orders

The second key is to: Follow Your Doctor's Orders. If the doctor recommends chiropractic care or physical therapy, do it. If she orders an MRI, get one.

The same reasons apply. First of all, you should always follow your doctor's orders when you are injured in the best interests of your health. But second of all, doing so will actually increase the value of your settlement.

Why? Because insurance companies are trying to detect fraud. And people who are sincerely injured will show signs of being committed to their treatment regimen, and will follow up on all of their doctor's recommendations. On the other hand, people who are not sincerely injured may wait months before treating with a chiropractor or physical therapist in the hopes of manufacturing some medical bills, so that they can settle with the insurance company.

Key #3: Hire a Lawyer

The third key is to: Get Legal Representation as Quickly as Possible After Your Incident. Statistics show that insurance claims settle for far greater amounts when an attorney is involved.

Richard A. Derrig and Herbert I. Weisberg concluded in their scholarly article Determinants of Total Compensation for Auto Bodily Injury Liability Under No Fault; Investigation, Negotiation and the Suspicion of Fraud, published in Insurance and Risk Management, volume 71, January 2004, at pages 633 through 662, that claims asserted by attorneys settle for an average of fifty percent higher than claims asserted by the claimants themselves.

Some matters are best left to professionals. For instance, if you are not mechanically inclined, you probably should not attempt to repair your car's engine. Likewise, if you are not an attorney, it is a smart idea to get counsel regarding your bodily-injury claim instead of asserting it yourself.

Key #4: Review Your Insurance Coverage

The fourth key is to: Review Your Insurance Coverage. Even though the other person's insurance company will pay your settlement, your own insurance policy may have coverage that adds to your total settlement, without increasing your premiums. The California Insurance Code prohibits an insurer from retaliating against you by increasing your premiums, or canceling your policy, as a result of paying you policy benefits when the accident was not your fault.

Therefore, you might be better off allowing your own insurance company to pay for the damage done to your vehicle out of your "collision" coverage, and to pay for some of your medical bills out of your "medpay" coverage. Remember, each case is different, and your best bet is to have a lawyer advise you about these matters. The key here is that knowing and understanding your own insurance policy will likely help you to get a better overall settlement in the end.

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