Only five were chosen because I wanted to be brief; honestly, there are tons of ways insurance companies mislead, defraud, and trick people. I know because I spent several years working as an insurance defense attorney before I started representing people.
These five ways are generally applicable to any third party personal injury or property damage claim. And most of these tricks are done before a personal injury attorney was hired (that’s because a personal injury attorney would warn his clients).
In no particular order:
Take Your Statement
People assume that when an insurance company asks to take their statement it’s for a good reason. Wrong. Time and again insurance companies take statements for the sole reason to catch you saying something which could be used against you. Statements are not taken to further investigation; they are taken to deny liability or minimize injuries.
As a policy, I never allow clients to give a statement to an insurance company. I’ve never seen it help a claim, but I’ve seen it hurt a claim.
Sign A Medical Authorization
Insurance companies regularly ask people to sign a medical authorization. They claim a need to obtain and review all medical records. What they don’t tell you is that in most cases the authorization is not limited in time and scope. What that means is that your signed authorization allows the insurance company to obtain old medical records and records unrelated to the accident. It’s a fishing expedition.
Insurance companies then take those records and use them to deny your claim. For example, they can argue that your back pain was preexisting before the car accident, and therefore your new complaint of back pain is fake.
Excessively Rely On Contributory Fault
Contributory fault means how much at fault you are for the accident. In California, your contributory negligence reduces your recovery. For example, if you’re 20% contributorily at fault, then your recovery is only 80%. Of course insurance companies love this. But I see them excessively rely on contributory fault. In one of my first cases I represented a minor pedestrian hit by a car. The car driver’s insurance company decided my minor client was 50% at fault, which was ridiculous. Eventually, they dropped that argument and agreed the driver was 100% at fault.
Watch out for insurance companies and contributory fault. They love it.
Argue No Injury Was Reported At The Scene
Insurance companies like to argue that because you didn’t report your injury at the scene then you weren’t really injured. Insurance companies conveniently forget to mention that symptoms can develop after the initial shock of an accident wears off. They like to bully people and insist that because you didn’t report an injury at the scene then you weren’t really hurt.
Making Insurance Policies Extremely Hard To Understand
This last reason isn’t talked about a lot, but it may be the worse. Most property damage claims I handle involve extensive reviews of insurance policies. Even after practicing law for almost a decade I still find most insurance policies hard to understand. It’s unreasonable to expect people to completely understand an insurance policy. And I see insurance companies use all of the loops, exclusions, and requirements in these policies to deny claims.
Watch out for these five ways insurance companies mislead you, and keep in mind it’s always best to talk to an attorney first.
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