4 Things Not to Do in the Days and Weeks after a Crash
1. “I THINK I’LL SIGN THAT MEDICAL RELEASE”
Your medical records are private and should not be shared.
Your medical records are private and protected from unauthorized disclosure. You are under no obligation to allow the adverse insurance company to see those private materials, and it is almost always against your interest to do so.
Insurance companies for the other side typically send injured people an authorization to obtain their medical records, and act as though it is routine or even required to do so. The typical records release does not limit the insurance company to seeing just the records of treatment for the collision. Instead, they are broadly drafted to allow the insurance company to obtain virtually any records about you from any time in your life. Furthermore, once the insurance company has those records, they are free to keep them permanently and to share them with other insurance companies.
Many people have private information in their medical records that they justifiably do not want others to learn about. Once that private information is no longer private, they run the risk that embarrassing information may be disclosed, which gives the insurance company an unfair bargaining advantage.
The other side’s insurance company’s job is to spend as little money as possible on your claim, often by delaying, denying, or diminishing the claim. Its interests are completely adverse to yours. Before signing anything, it’s best to have an attorney on your side look things over to make sure your interests are protected.
2. “I THINK I’LL GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT TO THAT INSURANCE ADJUSTER”
You are under no obligation to help the other insurance company build its case against you.
Insurance adjusters are taught to try to get a statement as quickly as possible, and are under no enforceable obligation to take a fair statement. An injured person has no obligation to give a statement to the adverse insurance company before legal proceedings are started, and it is almost always against the best interests of the injured person to give such a statement.
Insurance claims people know how to take statements that appear to minimize the person’s injuries. Statements are often requested before the person has full medical evaluations and knows the nature and extent of all their injuries.
The one-sided nature of insurance adjuster statements is illustrated by decades of our experience: when the other side asks for a statement, we sometimes offer to exchange statements, and that offer has almost always been rejected by the adverse insurance company.
3.“I’LL POST THIS ON FACEBOOK .”
Social media is the adverse insurance company’s best friend.
People who use social media often do not stop to think how their posts and communications will be used against them after a collision. Even “private” postings and messages can later on be obtained by the insurance defense lawyers. People typically try to put on their most positive face in their social media presence, which can give a skewed and unfair picture of what is happening in real life. Posts about what their attorney, physician, or even their spouse said can cause important legal privileges to be lost.
An insurance defense lawyer once told us that social media has been the best development in their career for defending against injury claims. While no social media posts or messages (or even texts or emails) should be deleted, none should be added after a collision that have to do with the collision, health, medical treatment, insurance, legal matters, or mental or emotional conditions.
4.“THE INSURANCE GUY WAS SO NICE AND OFFERED A QUICK SETTLEMENT.”
DO NOT accept any offer until you talk with an attorney who knows how to protect your rights.
With medical bills and household expenses growing and little or no income coming in, it’s tempting to accept an insurance company’s offer just to get quick help. This could fall far short of what you will need. Whether to settle your case or pursue it further is a decision that depends on many factors, including the degree of fault of the other driver, the assets available to satisfy a judgment (including all the available insurance coverage), the nature and permanency of injuries, and the impact of those injuries on one’s life. If the insurance company makes an offer, never make a counteroffer or tell them your “bottom line” before first getting legal advice. The other side has professional on its side; why shouldn’t you?
If the insurance company cannot get a quick, cheap settlement, they sometimes delay claims until the deadline for filing a lawsuit runs out. These deadlines may vary depending upon whether the injured party is an adult or a minor, whether the defendant is a government entity, and other factors.