Speaking to your own insurance company, and the insurance company of the other
You need to get on the phone with your own insurance company right away. A lot of insurance companies have “timely notice provisions.” If you don’t call them within a reasonable amount of time, they may try to find a way to not cover your loss (by saying you didn’t cooperate with the provisions of your policy). To avoid this, you will want to call your insurance company within 72 hours of the accident.
When it comes to the amount of information you provide your insurance company, the less you say at first, the better. Why? Well, it’s still the early stages of your claim and you do not want to provide any specific information until you know the full scope of everything you had to go through. Otherwise, you could accidentally say something that could be counterproductive to your claim. However, you still have to cooperate. (Your insurance policy says that you must.) So, how do you walk that thin line?
When you first report the accident, tell the person how the accident happened and that you are hurt. Be polite, but keep it short. Calls are often recorded and you don’t want to accidentally say something you shouldn’t. The truth is, at this point you will have no idea of the nature and extent of your injuries. For that reason, just tell them that you intend to keep treating for your injuries and you will keep them posted.
Before you get off the phone with your insurance company, make sure you get the PIP Adjustor’s phone number, fax number, mailing address and claim number. You will need this information to communicate in the future and to give to your Personal Injury attorneys.
If you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) Insurance you may be making a claim in the future. That’s why you don’t want to make any statements as to how bad your injuries are at this point. The time will come when you send in your Demand Letter. That is the point where you provide all the information you can.
Speaking to your own insurance company is just the start. You will also need to notify the other person’s insurance company that you intend to make a claim for your injuries. You can find out their insurance company by looking at the police report.
Let’s say, for example, the other person has State Farm Insurance. You’re going to have to say something to them eventually, so in my opinion, your best bet is to call them first. Go online, search “State Farm Claims”, find the claims phone number and ring them up. Use the following to help guide your conversation.
A Claims Adjustor will come on the phone and ask how they can help you. Be polite, but keep your conversation very short and simple. Tell the adjustor that you were in an accident and you don’t know if their insured (i.e. the “other guy”) notified them of the accident. They will ask what happened. Again, keep it very basic. Just state the facts that are open and obvious on the police report.
Next, tell the Claims Representative that you were injured and you intend to make a claim for compensation of your injuries once you are done treating. When they ask where you are hurt, be straightforward, but not specific. Tell them, for example, that your back and neck hurts and you will provide more information down the road as it becomes available. This cannot be stressed enough: You don’t want to go into specifics here. It is very possible that you have no idea what the full extent of your injuries are at this point. You certainly don’t want to go on record as saying what you believe to be is your precise medical diagnosis and inadvertently exclude other injuries which may become apparent in the future.
The adjustor will try to get more information from you. You do not need to tell them anything more personal than your name, phone number and home address. There is no need to go into lost income, the fact that you can’t have sex anymore, or any other personal details at this point. The time will come when you will reveal all of these facts. Now is not that time. You don’t want to provide details about your case that could come back to bite you in the rear.
Be polite and treat the adjustor in a manner that you would like to be treated. It’s common courtesy. It’s very possible that at this point you are angry, depressed and want revenge. But the Claims Adjustor is not the person to take your emotions out on. They did not cause your injuries. This is a person who, with a little good will, can make your experience, and your Personal Injury claim, go a lot better. Take a deep breath and just be nice.
The adjustor may also ask you to give a “Recorded Statement.” This simply means they want you to tell them what happened while they record what you say. Tell them that you will be happy to give the basics of the accident, but that your investigation is still ongoing so you don’t want to go into any specifics yet.
The adjustor will also most likely ask you about witnesses. Be truthful. If you have any potential witnesses, tell the adjustor that fact, but that you are still working on getting all of the details. Again, you don’t want to give the adjustor too much information about any potential witnesses at this point. It could backfire. A reliable witness testimony is important to your case, however, now is not the time to go into specifics.
One other point about initial conversations with the Claims Adjustors: They may try to get you to settle the case early. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT settle your claim early. Wait until you are done treating for your injuries. That way you know exactly what all of your outstanding medical bills are. By settling early, the only person you are hurting is yourself. By waiting until the end, you will have a much better idea of what the actual value of your case is.
The Claims Adjustor may try to get you to sign forms at the beginning of your claim. Don’t do it. There is no reason for you to be signing forms at this point. They may try to slip in medical authorizations and releases. That will not help you one bit to sign them at the beginning of your claim.
Keep in mind, this is with regard to the car insurance of the person who hit you. If your car insurance asks you to sign forms, you don’t have much choice. Chances are, your policy states that you will comply with all requests. If so, comply.
The best habit to get into is to take notes whenever you speak to an adjustor. Write down the date and time, the name of the person you are speaking with, and notes of the conversation. At the end of the conversation, ask who the specific Claim Adjustor will be for your accident and what that person’s contact information is. Also make sure you get the claim number so that you can identify your case to any person at the insurance company.
Additionally, if you came to any kind of agreement with the claims adjustor over the phone, it is a good idea to send a confirmation letter. In the letter, you would simply say something along the lines of, “Based upon our phone conversation on December 1st, it is my understanding that…”
If you have been hurt because of someone else’s actions, the best thing you can do is contact an attorney. The Ticktin Law Group handles all Personal Injury cases on a contingency basis, meaning that you don't pay us anything unless we recover money for you. To see if you have a Personal Injury claim, complete our contact form or call (561) 232-222 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Personal Injury
About the Author
Attorney Grant J. Skolnick is the Director of the Personal Injury Department for The Ticktin Law Group. Grant is committed to providing each of his clients with the exceptional customer service, attention to detail, and dedication they rightfully deserve.