Start to Talk to Your Own Insurance Company

Once you have your narrative and a reasonable amount of documentation in order, it’s time to give your insurance company a call to inform them of your claim. Before you get started; however, keep one thing in mind:  insurance companies are not your friend.  You may think that they’re in business 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 to their clients, 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 and not trust them to behave totally ethically without your watchful eye. Luckily, you are not at the mercy of your insurance company.  If you act prudently and know your rights, you should be treated fairly. In addition to the information here, we’ve also written a guide on how to file an insurance claim for added benefit. As with everything on our website, this information is provided as a resource, and you should consult your own legal counsel because each case is different. Tips to help you get the best possible settlement are listed below:

7 Things to Do When Dealing with Your Insurance Company

1.  Beware of “juggling.”

The practice of “juggling” involves assigning the separate tasks of dealing with a claim to multiple agents in order to obligate the insured to embark on a wild goose chase to get anything done.  Hopefully, this is not a practice employed by your insurance provider; however, you should not rule out the possibility that you could be so treated.

2.  Go above your agent’s head when necessary.

If it seems to you that your claim is being “juggled” or otherwise mishandled, 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 and the credibility that entails.  If this fails, you can also go to your state’s insurance department to find out how you can move the process along (or to report your mistreatment.)

3.  Have your documentation in order.

You will want to have as much documentation on hand as possible before you begin conferring with your insurance providers.  When giving your account to your insurer, you should keep a list of the names and contact information of the drivers, witnesses, and emergency respondents involved in the accident, makes and models of the vehicles, injuries, damages, and objective facts on hand.  This will make your calls go more smoothly and reduce the risks of misspeaking.

4.  Keep yourself in check.

Watch what you say:  The most casual statement can be used to lend credence to a statement you didn’t know you were making.  Stick to the facts of the case without straying from relevant information or offering commentary of any kind.

5.  Get your own damage estimates.

For many practical reasons, this makes sense.  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’ll need to recover financially from a wrongful death.

6.  Get an attorney if your efforts aren’t working.

Because a wrongful death obliges an insurance company to pay a significant sum to the insured (and because they aren’t designed to do this eagerly), you may well need a wrongful death attorney to negotiate with them directly.  This both saves you the trouble of working through the knots on your own and increases your chances of getting a better settlement in good time.

7 Things Not to Do When Dealing with Your Insurance Company

1.  Give a recorded statement.

In some cases, you will be required to give an official, recorded statement.  Otherwise, you should avoid this at all costs – anything you say in a recorded statement can be used against you; and you shouldn’t assume that it won’t.  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.

2.  Sign a medical release.

Your medical records are private and 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.

3.  Use the wrong buzzwords.

Insure.com warns against using words like “experimental,” “investigational,” and “clinical trial” in reference to procedures that the accident injuries required.  They may come across as unnecessary luxury expenses when those words are attached 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 and most importantly, “sorry” should be avoided at all costs.

4.  Incriminate yourself.

Even a reflexive apology of the sort rendered when one is 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.  When seeking compensation, the last thing you want to do is undermine your own case by implying that your party was to blame.

5.  Offer guesstimates.

If you’re not sure, don’t guess.  Say that you don’t know, that you will get back to them, or anything else that you have to; just don’t give information that could be incorrect.  If the information you give them is incorrect, an insurance company could deny your claim.

6.  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.

7.  Settle right away.

In 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, or talk to a wrongful death attorney if you feel so inclined.  Whatever you do, don’t make any snap decisions.

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Personally reviewed by Attorney Ken Christensen

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