Myth 1: You need a lawyer for every accident.
TRUTH: Absolutely not. Many accidents do not require a lawyer at all. You may end up with more money in your pocket if you settle the case yourself. But only if you understand the process.
If you’ve done some negotiating before (and almost everyone has) use those skills here. You should use whatever negotiating tactic has worked for you in the past. For some people, that’ll mean being nice and sweet and trying to connect with the insurance adjuster on a personal level– don’t be afraid to ask about their children or their hobbies. But if you’re more comfortable being businesslike, then do that. The key in negotiating is to do it in a way that you’re comfortable with. Because working in a way that makes you comfortable will help you project confidence, which is always helpful in these situations.
We also recommend writing down your key points ahead of time, so that you can refer to them when you talk to the adjuster. In negotiation, it always pays to prepare as thoroughly as possible.
Adjusters have supervisors. If you’re not making headway with your adjuster, ask to speak to their supervisor. Don’t be rude about it, because most supervisors will start out wanting to protect their adjuster– you’ll have to be able to explain to the supervisor why it wasn’t working out with the adjuster.
Myth 2: You have just hit the jackpot by getting injured. This is the “lawsuit lottery!” You will be buying a new car and a Hawaiian vacation with the money you get from the insurance company.
TRUTH: The purpose of the legal system is to compensate a person who was injured by someone else’s carelessness. The purpose is not to make an injured person rich. This happens very rarely–if ever. Most of the multimillion-dollar cases you read about either (a) are not entirely true (b) had the verdicts radically reduced by the judge, or (c) the amount of money awarded was the amount actually needed by the injured person. (You know how much medical care costs; if a person has been paralyzed and now requires round-the-clock care for lifetime, $5 million probably will not cover it).
If someone has injured you, then his or her insurance company should pay the amount of money necessary to make up for what you have lost. But the law does not entitle you to more than that. If you are looking to get rich quick, you will be sorely disappointed. If you are looking for fairness and justice, you might, with a lot of hard work, get what you deserve. Remember, the adjusters will look at medical records and property damages and other finite numbers when making an offer– you cannot make unreasonable demands without the adjusters realizing they are unreasonable.
Myth 3: You should call your insurance company right away after an accident and tell them everything.
TRUTH: Although you should call your insurance company to report the accident, there are things you should not say to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Remember, this is an adversarial process. The insurance company is not going to tell you anything that will help you. You should not tell them anything that will help them to pay you less money than you deserve. You may not lie to them! But that does not mean that you have to volunteer information that doesn’t help you. And it doesn’t mean you have to answer every question they ask. If the other driver (the one who cause the crash) hasn’t answered all the questions asked by your representative (or by you), then why would you answer all the questions asked by that person’s representative?