Before you can settle your claim, you need to know what it’s worth. Before you can know what it’s worth, you need to know how the injuries affect your life, how long your treatment lasts, and how much your bills are. Although there’s no way to know those things until your treatment is finished, the liability insurer (the defendant’s insurance company) will want to speak to you right away, and it will possibly offer you a settlement, before your treatment has concluded.
The fact is that you don’t have to speak to the liability insurer, but it doesn’t want you to know that. A claimant who doesn’t know his rights can be more easily manipulated and taken advantage of. The following story illustrates the tactics that insurance companies will use to avoid paying fair settlements:
Alex Bland was crossing the street. Although it was a four-lane street and he was crossing mid-block, he had looked both ways and no traffic was approaching in either direction. As he was crossing, a pickup truck pulled out of a parking lot and turned left onto the roadway. The driver of the truck never looked to his left and drove right into Alex.
Alex was thrown from the impact. He used his arms to brace himself, and he suffered torn shoulders and a crushed lower leg. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to reduce the swelling in his leg, which was cutting off circulation to his foot.
The next day, the claims adjuster called the hospital room, wanting to take a recorded statement. Alex was in extreme pain and was on high doses of narcotics, but the insurance company had no reservations about questioning him regarding the facts of the accident, his injuries, and his treatment.
Fortunately, Alex’s wife, who was there with him at the time, had the sense to call me first. I advised her that he was under no obligation to give a statement at any time, but that he certainly should not speak to the insurance company under those circumstances. Alex’s wife informed the adjuster that he was hiring me as his attorney. I advised the insurance company that I would make Alex available for a statement at an appropriate time. Two months later, once his recovery was well underway, I let the adjuster ask Alex questions about the accident.
A few weeks later, the insurance company offered its policy limits to settle Alex’s claim. This was the best possible outcome. Alex accepted the policy limits and proceeded to make a claim against his own underinsured motorist policy.
It is possible that no harm would have come from Alex giving a recorded statement to the claims adjuster from his hospital bed while on pain medication, but you can be sure the insurance company wanted to blame the accident on him. If he had been pressured into giving a statement while woozy and disoriented, who knows what he might have said and how the adjuster could have used it against him?
You have NO OBLIGATION to speak to the liability insurance company until you are ready. If its representative tells you such a statement is required, that person is lying. If he threatens to “close the case,” let him. It can be reopened at any time.
When you know your rights and obligations, you are far less likely to be manipulated by the insurance company.
Your treatment continues until you and your doctors agree that you are recovered, or that you have reached a state of “maximum medical improvement.” Nobody else can decide when your treatment is finished – not the insurance company and not your lawyer.
Once you have completed the treatment phase, you are ready to move the case forward.