Insurance companies make money by taking in premium payments and paying as little as possible on claims. Sometimes they even dispute the validity of claims and refuse to pay anything at all. Remember that you have the burden of proving your claim. Consider doing the following things to support its validity.
Call the Police
Don’t get talked out of calling the police under any circumstances. The investigating officer will complete his or her written report of the accident, and a copy will be available to you by payment of a nominal fee. The report may detail:
- The version of events from the respective drivers.
- The version of events from any witnesses.
- Whether fault was admitted and by whom.
- The location of damage to the respective vehicles.
- Whether anybody was injured.
- Whether any tickets were issued.
The information contained in these reports can assist insurance companies if they conduct a thorough investigation into how the accident occurred. Without a police report, your claim may be disputed.
Don’t Delay Treatment
You should get treatment immediately for any injuries that you suffered. A 72-hour delay in treatment is likely to raise questions about a claim’s validity because the assumption is that the injury must not be serious. Medical bills, records, and proof of lost time from work as a result of an accident still aren’t enough. You’ll have to prove that the person who you’re making your injury claim against was negligent. In order to show negligence, you’re required to prove the following elements:
- A duty of care was owed to you by the person who you’re making your claim against.
- He or she breached that duty of care.
- The breach of duty caused an accident.
- The accident was the proximate cause of your injuries.
- You suffered legally recognized damages as a result of your injury.
What Not to Do
Never give an opposing insurer a written or recorded statement as to how an accident occurred. They will only try to use your own words against you in the future. Don’t give them a signed medical authorization, either. With access to your previous medical records, they might try to blame your current condition on an old injury that healed years ago. No law requires you to give that statement or medical authorization.
Sometimes a claimant might be partially at fault for an accident. You might experience allegations of comparative negligence against you. If you’re found to be comparatively negligent, the percentage of fault attributable to you is deducted from your gross award. Depending on what state you live in, you might be able to make a successful claim, even if you were 75 or 80 percent at fault. These states are known as pure comparative negligence states. In other states, you might be barred from an award if you’re found to be 50 or 51 percent negligent. Those are known as modified comparative negligence states.
Expect the opposing insurance company to use every viable legal defense available in order to mitigate its financial exposure on your claim. Contact an experienced attorney, like a Milwaukee personal injury lawyer with experience and know-how, to represent you when dealing with the opposing insurer. Your lawyer can work with them to negotiate a fair settlement, and take them to court if necessary.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hickey & Turim S.C. for their insight into personal injury claims.