You have just dropped the kids off at school. Its 7:30 a.m. and you are stopped at a traffic light planning out your day. Suddenly you hear tires squeal. You glance in your rear view mirror just in time to see the SUV right on top of you. The impact violently throws you back then forward. The airbag explodes in your face in time to keep you from being thrown into the steering wheel. The only sound that you hear is a hub cap rolling across the pavement.
You have just been rear-ended. You are stunned, and confused. Pain shoots across your chest from the seat belt tightening. Immediately you have a severe headache. Your ears are ringing from the airbag explosion. Someone comes up to you and asks if you are alright. In the distance you hear a siren.
The above scenario is played out daily on our roadways. Fortunately for you, your seat belt and airbag as well as a newer model car designed to cushion impact has kept you from being critically injured or killed. You have however been injured and will require medical attention. Additionally, you will be looking for another car because yours is now a total loss.
Hopefully, the driver that struck you has insurance. If not, then hopefully you have uninsured motorist coverage. Whether it is your insurance carrier or the other driver’s company, dealing with the insurance industry when you have a claim is tricky business.
Simply stated, insurance companies are not in business to give away money. They want to minimize their financial exposure when presented with a claim. Of course you, as the injured party, want to be fairly compensated for your injury. These goals are mutually exclusive.
So how do you protect yourself in this situation? First, do not be embarrassed because you are the victim of someone else’s’ negligence. It is not your fault that you are injured. You do not have to be ashamed for expecting fair compensation. Money is the only means that we have in our society for compensating someone when they have been hurt due to the fault of another. The insurance industry has made a fortune by characterizing “whiplash” as a scam for malingerers to make money. The truth is that a rear end collision can cause serious, painful, and sometimes long lasting consequences.
Second, do not be rushed into an early settlement. The insurance adjuster knows that it may take some time for the nature of your injuries to become symptomatic. Medical treatment and the attendant cost may be necessary for a protracted period of time. Complications down the road may involve time off of work and a loss of income. When you settle your case, you will be required to sign a release that prevents you from collecting any additional money regardless of whether your injury turns out to be more serious than first diagnosed. You may end up bearing a significant financial loss that would have otherwise been borne by the responsible party if you had waited to settle your claim.
Finally, the insurance adjuster is a professional who through training and experience has the tools to make sure that his or her company keeps as much money as possible, while keeping money that you deserve out of your pocket. Get someone to fight for your right who has the skills to make sure that you are dealt with fairly. Before you speak with an insurance adjuster and say the wrong thing that may hurt your case, consult an attorney who is experienced in representing injured persons. Do your homework. Many of the “T.V. law firms” may solicit you as a client. Just because they have a clever ad campaign does not mean that they are the best choice for you. Make sure that the lawyer you hire is someone you know and trust or who has earned the trust of a friend or family member. Protect the interests of you and your family at a time when you are vulnerable by making carefully thought out decisions.