Talking to Your Own Insurance Company About Wrongful Death
Once you have a timeline of what happened and your documentation in order, it’s time to give your insurance company a call to inform them of your claim. But keep one thing in mind – insurance companies are not your friend. You may think that they’re there to help you. But the cold, hard truth is that they are a business that, like any business, is in business to make money.
The less they pay, the more they profit. This does not make them criminal or shady, but it means that you should conduct yourself carefully when making a claim. Luckily, you are not at the mercy of your insurance company. If you act prudently and you know your rights, you should be treated fairly. In addition to the information here, we’ve also written a resource guide on how to file an insurance claim. You should consult with legal counsel because each case is different.
Things to Do When Dealing with Your Insurance Company
- Beware of “juggling.” The practice of “juggling” is assigning the separate tasks of dealing with a claim to multiple agents in order to put you on a wild goose chase to get anything done. Hopefully, this is not a practice employed by your insurance provider; however, you should be prepared.
- Go above your agent’s head when necessary. If you’re not getting anywhere, talking to your agent’s superiors might spur a change in behavior. Although insurance companies are not technically on your side, they are businesses whose success depends in part on customer satisfaction. If this fails, you can also go to your state’s insurance department to report mistreatment.
- Have your documentation in order. You want to have as much documentation on hand as possible before you begin conferring with your insurance providers. Keep a list of the names and contact information of the drivers, witnesses, and emergency respondents involved in the accident, the make and model of the vehicles involved, injuries, damages, and objective facts on hand. This will make your calls go more smoothly and reduce the risks of misspeaking.
- Keep yourself in check. Watch what you say: The most casual statement can be used against you. Stick to the facts of the case without straying from relevant information or offering commentary.
- Get your own damage estimates. Whether to prepare for a denial of your claim or to determine whether the settlement you are being offered is adequate for your needs, you should know how much you should recover financially from a wrongful death.
- Get an attorney. Because a wrongful death obliges an insurance company to pay a significant sum to the insured, you need a wrongful death attorney to negotiate directly. This saves you the trouble of working through the knots on your own and increases your chances of getting a better settlement.
Things Not to Do When Dealing with Your Insurance Company
- Give a recorded statement. Unless you’re required, you should avoid making a statement at all costs— anything you say in a recorded statement can be used against you. Even when a reasonable person could see what you meant, in a wrongful death case, minutiae matter. When you must give a recorded statement, speak to an attorney first—they can help you avoid the pitfalls of recorded statements.
- Sign a medical release. Your medical records are private. They should be kept that way. If you release them to an insurance company, they can use unrelated events of a person’s medical history to downplay the seriousness of their injuries or the degree to which the accident contributed to their harm. All your insurance company needs to know is what harm was sustained because of the accident. Giving them extra information only leaves them with loopholes.
- Use the wrong buzzwords. Insure.com warns against using words like “experimental,” “investigational,” and “clinical trial” in reference to medical treatment. They may come across as unnecessary luxury expenses and may not be covered on that basis. “In my opinion” is also a forbidden phrase. When filing a claim, you should state only objective facts and state them with certainty. Lastly, “sorry” should be avoided at all costs.
- Incriminate yourself. Even a reflexive apology when offering condolences can be read as admissions of fault. Giving any hint that you (or the deceased) were even partially at fault or could have prevented the accident by behaving differently is a serious mistake. Don’t undermine your own case by implying fault or offering apologies.
- Offer guesstimates. If you’re not sure, don’t guess. Say that you don’t know or that you will get back to them. Don’t give information that could be incorrect. If the information you give them is wrong, an insurance company could deny your claim.
- Make small talk. Small talk is one way for insurance agents to make their clients feel comfortable enough to slip up. While building a rapport with your insurer is important, this should not be done when you are in the midst of a high-cost claims process. Stay on-topic.
- Settle right away. At the beginning of the claims process, you may or may not know just how much the accident costs. You can make projections based on the information you have, but more may arise later. If your insurance company offers you a settlement quickly, there is probably more to your case than meets the eye. Weigh your options, look at your case from every angle, and talk to a wrongful death attorney. Whatever you do, don’t make any snap decisions.