How to Deal with Insurance after a Car Accident in Arkansas
You’ve seen the commercials and you know the slogans promising that they’re “Like a good neighbor,” and that “You’re in good hands.” Insurance companies make billions of dollars a year in profits offering Americans peace of mind. They promise that if you pay your premiums on-time, they’ll be there when catastrophe strikes. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. In fact, insurance companies often use a wide range of deceptive practices to reduce your claim and protect their own bottom lines.
Many insurance companies take advantage of injured accident victims and their fragile physical and emotional states after a crash. They know that you need money to pay medical bills and they use this to their advantage. They often offer a lowball settlement and use a harsh “take it or leave it” approach in order to pressure crash victims in to signing quickly.
If you’ve been injured in a car crash in Arkansas, we can help. At Rainwater, Holt, & Sexton, our car accident attorneys know the insurance company tricks and tactics and we use this knowledge to fight aggressively for our clients. We are able to obtain significantly more compensation and we don’t let the insurance companies take advantage of our injured clients and their families during this tough time.
Handling the insurance company is difficult, and often involves:
- Notifying your insurance company of the crash
- Notifying the “at fault” driver’s insurance company of the crash
- Cooperate with the investigation of crash
- Giving recorded statements
- Reviewing documents and evidence
- Researching the cost of repairs and reimbursement for expenses
- Negotiating settlement offers
Why are Insurance Companies so Difficult?
The insurance industry in the United States enjoys average profits of over $30 billion a year and CEOs in this industry make more than CEOs in any other industry. How do they get so profitable? By delaying, denying, and refusing claims to their policyholders. This unethical behavior has been well documented throughout the years, however, these deceitful policies and tricks continue. In fact, some of the largest insurance companies, like Allstate, State Farm, AIG, and Progressive, have denied valid claims simply to boost their profits. They even go so far as to reward employees who successfully deny the most claims every month.
Insurance companies make more money when injured accident victims settle for the lowest amount possible. In order to achieve this, they often confuse their consumers with incomprehensible contracts and indeterminate language. They delay claims in the hopes that policyholders won’t fight too hard to continue them. And they deny claims when all else fails.
Insurance Adjusters from Your Own Insurance Agency
The insurance adjuster from your own insurance agency is the person assigned to your case. They will determine how much money your own policy will pay for liability or property damage. To do this, they will need to discuss your accident with you and investigate the damage. A dollar value will be assigned to the damage for your car or for your property. Your policy limits will determine how much you are able to receive. If you’re at fault for the crash, then your insurance adjuster will also negotiate with the injured party to settle their claim.
What is a Duty to Cooperate?
Your policy likely has a provision stating that you have a “Duty to Cooperate” with the insurer during the investigation and during the defense of a claim. Once you’ve submitted a claim with your insurance company, your adjuster may request financial statements, bank records, and income tax returns from you. While this may seem excessive, failure to comply with the adjuster’s requests could be seen as a violation of your policy, which could result in your claim being denied altogether.
What is a PIP Application?
A PIP claim is a personal injury protection claim and it has to do with “no fault insurance.” If you have this insurance it will provide benefits, such as medical expenses, disability benefits, and accidental death benefits to you when you are injured in an accident, regardless of who is “at fault.” This can be extremely beneficial if you caused the accident or if you were involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
What Happens When You’re At Fault?
Each insurance company will investigate the accident and determine who is at fault for the crash. If you’re at fault, your insurance adjuster will need to negotiate a fair settlement with the injured accident victim and their insurance company. If you are sued by another driver, your insurance adjuster will also represent you in court. Your insurance adjuster will be building a case designed to reduce the injured party’s settlement. To do this, they may request recorded statements, or they may investigate the accident more closely to assign some of the blame on the other driver if possible
Insurance Adjusters from Other Party’s Insurance Agency
You will need to file a claim with the other insurer if the other driver is to blame for the accident. They will be looking for any way to reduce your claim, so be careful. They will look to pin some of the blame for the crash on you and to do this they may resort to using deceitful tactics and tricks. Never admit to anything. Even a simple “I’m sorry” can be used against you to show that you accepted fault for the crash. They may also pressure you into signing a settlement by claiming that this is their best and final offer. Never sign anything without first speaking to an experienced Arkansas personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process and that you are able to obtain maximum compensation.
Never Submit a Recorded Statement
While you have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company, you do not have the same duty to cooperate with the “at fault” driver’s insurance company. As such, when their insurance adjuster requests a recorded statement – say “No!” Why? Insurance companies will compare this statement to other statements you’ve made at the scene of the accident to find any reason to deny your claim. Even minor inconsistencies can be the evidence they need to deny your claim. They will also ask you questions worded specifically to trap you into making mistakes that will hurt your case. They may try to push you into agreeing with their version of the accident or with the details of the case. Never record a statement without first speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney.
Even friendly chit chat can backfire. If you are approached by the other driver’s insurance adjuster here are some ways you can avoid falling into their traps.
- Be polite
- Let the insurance adjuster know that you will not be answering questions
- Say “I will not talk to you without consulting with my lawyer first”
- Request that the insurance adjuster contact your attorney
- Get name and number of the adjuster
Never sign any documents without first speaking with an experienced Arkansas personal injury attorney. You may be inadvertently signing away your rights to future compensation. During a claims process, you may be asked to sign numerous forms and documents. While some of these forms may seem innocent, they may not be.
For example, the insurance adjuster may request that you sign a medical release form. This may seem like an easy form to sign, but it can significantly jeopardize your case. Signing this release form gives the insurance company permission to review all of your medical records, past and present. They may then use your past medical history to reduce or deny your claim altogether. They will also look for any indication that you aren’t as injured as you claim to be. Did you miss any appointments? Did you neglect to fill any prescriptions?
As you can see, it is never a good idea to sign documents without a lawyer present. Your insurance adjuster is not a lawyer and cannot explain the full legal consequences of signing these forms. Your lawyer can not only protect your rights to full compensation, but they can also prepare you for what’s ahead. Your attorney can advise you to review your own medical records first, so you can know what the adjuster may use against you. This will give you the best chance of fighting them and obtaining the money you need to fully recover.
How to Handle Offers and Settle Your Case
After an accident, one of the first things you may need to do is to research the cost to repair your vehicle. Get a quality estimate, not just quick or easy estimates. Only go to places you would actually get the work done and be sure to get multiple quotes. Your quote should be the amount it would cost to repair your vehicle to the highest standard, not just the one that will get it done the most efficiently. Don’t let the insurance company bully you during this process. You have a right to seek your own quotes for car repairs.
Negotiating after an accident can be difficult, but it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid long and drawn out legal battles. You will have a number in your mind of what you need to pay your expenses and your bills after an accident, but so will the insurance company. The negotiation process is an attempt to find an amount in the middle that is in both parties’ best interest. But always remember that it is the insurance adjuster’s job to offer you as little money as possible. As such, never accept their first offer and never sign an offer before you’ve discussed your injuries with a qualified medical professional, as well as a personal injury attorney in Arkansas.
What is Betterment?
Betterment occurs when fixing a vehicle causes that vehicle to improve in condition or in value. When you’re making a car accident claim, you’re expected to pay this betterment charge when repairs put your vehicle in a better condition than before the crash. An insurance company’s sole responsibility is to put you back to the same financial position you were before – not a better one. For example, perhaps your car’s radiator was on its last leg before your crash. After your crash, you obtained a new radiator and a significant increase in value. The insurance company could request that you pay the difference.
To counter betterment charges, you will have to prove that the parts will not actually increase the value to your car at all. Perhaps your car is so old that even with a new radiator you could not ask more money for it on the market. To win this type of claim, you must get testimony from an expert in auto repairs or a qualified mechanic.
As with all claims, you only have a specified amount of time to settle your case. Injury accidents in the state of Arkansas must file claims within three years. In some cases, you may only have as little as a few months to file your claim, therefore, you must act quickly after a crash. An insurer in Arkansas has only 15 days to acknowledge your claim after they’ve received it. The carrier must also complete their investigation within 45 calendar days of opening the claim. If they can’t complete the investigation within this time frame, they must advise the insured of why they request more time. After the close of an investigation, the insurer only has 10 days to deliver all claim checks.
Why You Need a Lawyer
Speak to an experienced Arkansas personal injury lawyer after an accident. Your lawyer can help you avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that often occur after a car accident. However, the insurance company won’t want you to talk to a lawyer. That’s because they know that they have a significantly better chance of getting you to sign a lowball settlement if you don’t have legal representation. Your future is at stake after a serious car accident. Don’t let insurance companies win – contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton today. Our car accident lawyers have been representing injured accident victims in Arkansas for decades. We know how to handle insurance companies and how to avoid their tricks.
We’re There When You Need Us
Being involved in a car crash can turn your whole life upside down and cause financial burdens to you and your family. Unfortunately, dealing with the insurance company after a car accident isn’t easy. After all, their main goal is to reduce your compensation and protect their own profits. That’s why you need an experienced Arkansas car accident lawyer on your side from the start.
With five offices in Arkansas—Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Bryant, and Hot Springs—our Arkansas car accident lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you are injured. Contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton Injury Lawyers today. Fill out a free contact request form, which only takes a minute, or simply dial (800) 767-4815 and tell us your story.