How to Avoid Insurance Company Beatings

Insurance companies evaluate cases based on "red flags." Appearance is everything to insurance companies. So for example, waiting to go to the doctor raises a red flag. You become a "malingerer" and the insurance companies will fight you are every turn. What you think is manly, Alaskan stoicism, is viewed by insurance companies as "faking an injury." Think about it. Here are our suggestions for being treated fairly after a wreck:

1. Get Immediate Medical Care: Go to the doctor. Get a check-up, even if you think you feel “OK.” Many people with neck/back problems don’t even know it until a week or more after the wreck. Their bodies go into shock, lock up, and they don’t feel pain until locked up joints start moving again... in about a week. By then, going to the doctor makes you look like a phony. The insurance company will argue: “You didn’t even go to the doctor for a week, you must not be hurt.” Incredibly, insurance companies know full-well that many neck/back problems don’t arise for days, even weeks - until after a person's neck joints start moving again. Yet, they take advantage of today’s distrustful jury climate (brought to us mainly by AM radio morons like Rush and O'Riley), arguing to judges/juries that you “couldn’t possibly have been hurt because you didn’t go to the doctor right away…”

Furthermore, remember that God didn't design us to get smeared in motor vehicle wrecks. God designed us (wonderfully) to run at about 10 MPH on the desert, chasing a Yak with a stick. He didn’t design us to get hit by 4500 lbs. of steel at 55 MPH. Be careful out there. Respect the beating you took in this wreck. Get a full check-up by a real doctor ASAP.

2. Give No Statements: It is really stupid to talk to an insurance adjuster immediately after your wreck. They are very well-trained professionals who will ask you questions that are designed (tested, and proven) to make the wreck look like your fault. You, on the other hand, have just been smeared - and are likely still a bit loopy. Don’t talk to insurance adjusters. It's not a fair match.

Instead, simply tell any calling insurance adjuster: “Thank you for calling. I’m seeking medical care and will call you back when I’m better.” Then, nicely hang up. Remember, the stress you are under immediately after a wreck makes you vulnerable to being manipulated by insurance adjusters.

Oh yeah, this advice goes for “your” adjuster as well. Understand that if the other driver is not insured (very common), you will have to seek payment from “your” insurer - as an Uninsured Motorist (UM) claim. That means your own insurer has an incentive to beat you down - making the wreck look like your fault. And, while most insurance policies require you to give a statement to your own insurer after a wreck, it is smart to postpone your statement until after you are fully back on-your-feet. Frankly, you should speak with an attorney, before talking with any insurance adjuster. Many attorneys will walk you through the statement process for free, no obligation.

Finally, this advice goes for talking with friends, and posting comments on Facebook, Myspace, and all other Internet sites. Don't do it. Anything you say to friends and on the Internet will be twisted and used against you. It’s a dangerous world out there. Be smart - be silent until you're thinking straight.

3. Get Photos: Photograph your vehicle and all injuries you sustained. All bruising should be photographed up front. Also, if you take photos the way I take them, get somebody else to do the shooting. Good photos are a must.

4. Get Your Vehicle Fixed: If you have “collision” insurance, get your vehicle to a repair facility ASAP. Sometimes, insurance companies will help with getting your car repaired. Let them help. Don’t worry about your own insurance company paying to repair your car when it was “the other guy’s fault.” Trust me, your insurance company will do all in its power to get the “other guy’s” insurer to pay them back. Insurance companies are smart. They give away nothing.

VERY IMPORTANT: Alaskan law requires the “at fault” party, or his/her insurer, pay the fair market value for your vehicle, or the cost of repair, whichever is lower. Don’t take the insurance company’s word for your car’s value. Go to three used car lots and find out how much they would charge to sell your pre-wreck car to you. [Be sure you don’t ask “what is my car worth?” because they hear: “How much will I have to give this person for this car… a much lower number than how much they will “sell” you the same car.] Remember, the insurance companies have to pay you retail, with all the same options.

5. Attend All Doctor Appointments: If your doctor tells you to do it, do it. The first time you miss a medical appointment, the insurance companies will argue: “If you can’t even bother to go to the doctor, you must not be that badly hurt.” Don’t tempt fate. Go to all Doctor / Chiropractor / Physical Therapy appointments, every time. This is very important. Getting healthy is far more imortant than any insurance claim.

6. Get Multiple Care Providers: If you can afford it, we always recommend that a person injured in a motor vehicle wreck get “as many smart people looking at you as possible.” This is just good advice. Fairbanks has some very qualified Doctors, Chiropractors and Physical Therapists. Get one of each to look at you, test you, and help you heal up. One might catch what another misses… Remember, the goal is getting better for the rest of your life. Forget about insurance claims for now. Just focus on getting better. If you have another 20, 30 or 40 years in that body, it would be a shame to hurt the whole time. Living well is the best revenge.

7. Keep Prescription Containers: The insurance company will force you to “prove” your injuries. One of the best ways to is to show how many bottles of medicine you consumed. Keep old prescription containers for this purpose. Just get a bag and throw empty containers in it. Give the bag to your lawyer, or rattle it at the insurance adjuster on your own.

8. Keep An Eye On The Statute of Limitations (SOL): In Alaska, you only have two years to either: (1) settle your personal injury claims; or (2) file a lawsuit to resolve your personal injury claims. AS 09.10.70. This is VERY important. After the Statute of Limitations expires, you will stripped of your rights. It is smart to get nervous about the SOL when you’re about a year after your wreck. Lawyers get irritated when an injured person calls them the week before their SOL expires… asking the Lawyer to drop everything and jump on this case. Plan in advance to have a good relationship with your lawyer.