Interviewer: Is there anything else that people are misinformed about? You spoke about involving an attorney; people feel like it will complicate their case and jeopardize their ability to get money. Is that true or the opposite and why?
Rochford and Associates: No. It’s quite the opposite. A lot of people have this idea that they can handle their own case. That’s a misconception. When people try to handle a legal matter on their own behalf, they are basically stepping into an arena that they’re not familiar with.
Lawyers have their own language, their own way of doing things, just as doctors have their own language and their own way of doing things. An insurance adjuster or anybody else that the person deals with on their own immediately knows that the person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. They can’t speak the language. They don’t have experience in it.
Any Statements made to the Other Party’s Insurance Company, without the Advice of an Experienced Attorney, Can Harm Your Chances of Receiving a Fair Recovery for Injuries
People who think they can handle their case on their own will generally do things and say things that a lawyer would never allow them to do and say. They can easily harm their case within a short period of time, within the first couple of weeks after the accident.
If, for instance, they’re talking to the insurance company for the at fault driver and the insurance company asked for a recording of the conversation and then starts asking questions about prior injuries and prior condition, and how the person feels at that point in time. The answer to those questions can harm that person or the value of that person’s case.
Never Sign a Medical Authorization Form Allowing an Insurance Company to Access Your Medical History
Another example is the insurance company may send a medical authorization to the person who’s injured and ask them to sign the medical authorization. We never allow medical authorizations to be signed and then sent back to the at fault insurance company. They can access whatever records they want. They can go into the person’s past.
Your Attorney Will Control What Information Insurance Companies Can Access
If I take a case, I’m going to be in control of all records. I will order the records. I’ll order the medical records after the person’s done with treatment. I’ll determine what get sent to the insurance company. I’ll determine what facts and information the insurance company gets to know, such as prior accidents, and prior conditions.
There may be treatment that my client had that was unrelated to the accident, which are in the medical records. We will pull those medical records because they’re unrelated.
If the person doesn’t hire a lawyer and signs an authorization, sends it to the insurance company, the insurance company has documentation and information about that person that can harm the case. That’s another big issue that we run into with people who try to represent themselves.
The Other Party’s Insurance Adjuster Will Pressure You into Making a Statement and Accepting a Settlement If You Are Not Represented by Counsel
Interviewer: The other party’s insurance adjuster will call and essentially harass people into making a statement?
Rochford and Associates: Yes. The first thing that the insurance company for the at fault party tries to do is get the injured party on the phone and try to work out a settlement at that point in time. If the injured party went to the emergency room, they’re getting some treatment or they’re taking some medicine, the goal of the insurance adjuster is to basically get the case settled as quickly as possible.
The adjuster may offer to pay the initial bills, to put a little bit of money in addition to the bills on the settlement, and possibly offer another $1,000 or $2,000 or $3,000.
The Adjuster May Try to Coerce You to Sign a Release; Once Signed, You Will Be Prevented from Receiving Any Additional Compensation, Regardless of the Extent of Injuries
Then, if they can get a quick settlement before they’ll pay the money, they send out what’s called a release. It’s actually a contractual document that the injured person has to sign. When that person signs the release, the release states that once the person has paid the money that the insurance company has offered, that person is barred from receiving any more money from the insurance company or the at fault driver.
The first goal of the adjuster is to get a quick settlement. If the adjuster cannot get a quick settlement, then the adjuster will want to try to minimize a settlement.
The Adjuster Will Use Admissions of Past Medical Problems to Justify Not Offering an Equitable Settlement
In other words, to do that, the adjuster will want to get a recorded statement, try to get information as to how bad the injury is, what the person’s previous condition was, have they ever gotten treatment for the same area of their body that they’re getting treatment for now. For instance, if somebody is injured, is complaining of back pain, the question that the adjuster is going to ask on that recorded interview is, “Have you ever had back problems before?”
Invariably, if somebody is middle aged, they’ll say yes. They fell 10 years ago or whatever. The adjuster wants to determine if there were any injuries in the past, because he can later use that against that person by saying, “Oh, your back was already in bad shape,” or, “You already had back problems.”
“Therefore, we’re not going to pay all the medical bills associated with your back treatment after the accident, because you already had these problems.” That’s just one example.
The Insurance Adjuster’s Job Is to Minimize Any Money Paid out by the Insurance Company
Interviewer: Essentially the other party’s insurance adjuster is not your friend. They’re looking to do everything they can to minimize any compensation you get.
Rochford and Associates: That’s exactly correct. Their job is to minimize the amount of money that the insurance company pays or, more preferably, to not pay any money at all.