What NOT to Do
Amid all you’ll be juggling in the days following an injury accident involving your child, you’re likely to get a phone call—from the other party’s insurance company. In most cases, the timing of this call won’t be coincidental. The insurance company has one goal in mind: To resolve this claim as quickly as possible, by paying as little as possible—or nothing at all. One way to achieve that goal is to catch you at your busiest, most hectic moments—the time when you’re most likely to say or do something that lets the company off the hook.
Let’s be clear: This scenario is not fair. You’ve got other fish to fry right now. But if you don’t pay attention at this moment, you could possibly forfeit many thousands of dollars of settlement money, that could pay for your child’s expenses and long-term care.
If you do get this call, it’s actually not as important to know how to respond as to how not to respond. So let’s focus on some “don’ts”—what not to do on this call.
DON’T Accept an Early Settlement
Depending on the severity of the accident, your child might be looking at a long and costly recovery period. That said, the medical bills won’t be arriving tomorrow, and you have time to figure out the next steps with your attorney. The insurance company may approach you, in a very friendly manner, offering you a settlement check to resolve the matter quickly. If the agent conveys a sense of urgency or tries to press you for answers or some decision on a settlement, don’t give in to the pressure. The only one who stands to gain from a quick settlement is the insurance company. They aren’t the victims; your child is.
Time is on your side, so don’t respond to pressure to settle quickly. Politely refer them to your attorney for more information.
DON’T Sign Any Release Forms
The insurance agent of the other party may ask you to sign a medical release form for the purpose of verifying your child’s injuries. Don’t sign this release without having your attorney look it over; in fact, your attorney may advise you not to sign it at all.
Remember, no matter how friendly the agent seems on the phone, your opponent’s insurance company isn’t looking out for your child’s interests. Any information they obtain may be used to try to find reasons not to pay—or at least to pay less than the claim is worth. If asked to sign this form, once again, politely refer the insurance agent to your attorney.
DON’T Re-tell the Story
If the other party’s insurance company asks you to recount the accident in your own words, decline and refer the representative to your attorney. If you talk to insurers about the facts of the case, you give them a second verbal account—a chance to look for discrepancies in your story which ultimately can be used to discredit you.
You might have noticed a common thread here, which is the one “DO” that counteracts all the “DON’TS”: Refer the matter to your attorney. One of the biggest reasons to hire a good personal injury lawyer at this early stage is to deflect the attempts of the insurance company to engage you. Remember, insurers know this game, and you don’t. They know that if they can get you acting and speaking, you’ll almost certainly accept less than the claim is worth. Fortunately, your attorney knows how to protect you against these tactics so you can receive the full settlement your child needs.