Car Accident Claims: 20 Common Misconceptions
At Negretti & Associates, we’ve been handling car accident claims for many years. As prospective clients have approached us regarding legal representation, we have encountered a wide variety of misconceptions, myths, and bad advice about how to resolve car accident cases.
Let’s dispel those myths!
Myth #1: A traffic citation equals fault.
This is a common misconception. Traffic citations do not equate to fault.
In fact, the police officers who respond to a crash do not determine fault. They simply issue citations for committing a traffic offense, such as speeding. After evaluating the whole situation, the insurance companies involved will decide on fault. However, the insurance company’s decision is not final. Fault is really decided by a jury of your peers. Learn how fault is determined in car accidents.
You shouldn’t assume that you are in the clear just because the other party was issued a citation. Conversely, don’t think you are out of luck because you were issued a citation.
Myth #2: You don’t need to call the police at the crash site. You can just exchange information with the other driver.
This simply isn’t true. You should always call the police if you are involved in a crash. The police can be instrumental in helping to acquire information that will be necessary to pursue your car accident claim. Officers may also take photographs and document other evidence that could be utilized later on.
Parties involved in a crash may provide old, invalid insurance cards or licenses that don’t have up-to-date home addresses. People are less likely to do this with the police.
Myth #3: I need to give a statement to both insurance companies: mine and the other party’s.
Do not give a statement to the opposing party’s insurance company without the assistance of an attorney. This could be fatal to your case.
Here’s an example to illustrate this point. Negretti & Associates once had a client who called the other party’s insurance company and gave them a recorded statement. When asked how our client was feeling, he said of his party, “We’re fine.” His response wasn’t meant to indicate that members of his party weren’t injured. He was simply responding politely. The insurance company later refused to pay for our client’s medical treatment claiming that our client was “fine” right after the crash.
Further reading: How to talk to insurance claims adjusters after an accident.
Myth #4: If I just get a chance to tell my story, the insurance company will do the right thing.
Don’t ever give an insurance company the benefit of the doubt. If an insurance company can find a way to pay you very little — or not pay you at all — it will do exactly that.
Insurance companies increase their profits be denying, rejecting, and failing to pay fair value on car accident claims. Thinking you can convince an insurance company to do the right thing is like thinking you can trust a thief with your wallet!
Myth #5: Initial offers made by the insurance company following an accident need to be accepted — or else, they will disappear.
The initial offer from the insurance company is going to be the lowest offer that they will ever make to you. Accepting it would be a mistake. Notwithstanding, the insurance company documents the file with the offer that they have made and places a range of value on your case. The initial offer will never disappear. It would simply be foolish to take it.
Myth #6: I get to keep everything the insurance company is offering as a settlement.
If the insurance company makes a full and final settlement for your car accident claim, that settlement includes your attorney fees, costs, medical bills, health insurance reimbursements, and any other outstanding balances or loans related to your case. If the insurance company makes an offer to settle your claim, the real question that you should be asking is, “What is the net amount to me?” This will tell you what get to keep.
Myth #7: Insurance companies will make a fair offer to settle immediately after the accident.
The word “fair” is subjective. What is fair to one person is not fair to another person. At Negretti & Associates, our experience tells us that most insurance companies will offer roughly $500 to settle your car accident claim sight unseen. That may seem fair at the time, but let’s play that out. A day or two after you settle your claim for $500, you start to experience terrible back pain. That back pain wasn’t there before the accident. You go to the doctor to get checked out and after trying conservative treatment option, you are recommended for surgery. After your surgery, your medical bills total over $100,000. You owe most of those medical bills out-of-pocket. At this point, would $500 still sound fair to you?
Myth #8: You should definitely go to the ER — even if you are not injured.
This bad advice probably originated from personal injury attorneys that really don’t understand injury law. If you are hurt, you should go to the ER. If the first responders recommend that you go to the ER, you should probably go to the ER. What you shouldn’t do is take an ambulance to the ER for the sake of doing so. It’s a waste of time, money, and resources. However, the adrenaline of an accident can mask the way that you are feeling right after an accident. If you get home and start to experience issues, don’t be afraid to go to the ER to get checked out.
Myth #9: If you’re not that hurt, you shouldn’t hire a lawyer.
Imagine that you were going to go play kickball against a really good team. Would you show up by yourself? Of course not! You would put together the best possible team so that you can beat the other guys. The same logic applies here. The insurance company is an entire team of people looking for ways to avoid taking responsibility and paying you for your losses. Don’t go into that game without help.
Myth #10: You can’t resolve your property claim until you resolve your bodily injury claim.
We often get called with this question. You can resolve your property claim before your bodily injury claim. In fact, you not only want to, but the law may require this. When you are involved in a crash, you have a duty to mitigate your damages. This means that you have to take responsible steps to avoid running up bills. You can’t go rent a car for a year and expect the insurance company to pay for it — absent a really unusual circumstance.
Myth #11: I can determine the value of my case by “Googling it.”
Sure, the Internet is a terrific resource. However, the Internet can also provide you with some bad information. Some personal injury attorneys have created what they call settlement calculators for you to use. These let you plug in your medical bills and lost wages, and the calculator will spit out a case value.
Unfortunately, these calculators are wrong. They try to use a one-size fits all approach for personal injury claims, which are entirely unique.
Do you know who else uses a one-size-fits-all approach? Insurance companies!
Don’t trust these calculators and don’t rely on generic articles that may be published by the insurance industry telling you what your case value is. Instead, hire an attorney and talk to her or him about how case value is determined.
Myth #12: You only have 30 days to make a car accident claim.
You typically have two years to resolve your claim or file a lawsuit to protect your rights to bring a claim. There is no legal requirement that you have to make a claim within a certain number of days. It’s probably important to put insurance companies involved on notice of your intent to bring a claim, but this is a fairly easy thing to do.
Insurance companies like to tell you what you have to do and how much time you have to do it. Don’t let them bully you around. Have a conversation with an attorney to get proper advice on how to put people on notice of your claim.
Myth #13: You shouldn’t make a claim with your insurance company if you are not at fault.
Oh, unlucky Myth #13 … This myth reflects the biggest disinformation campaign we have ever seen! It makes politics seem like child’s play! This myth was started by insurance companies to stop people from making claims, which obviously cost them money.
Why would you purchase coverage to use in the event of a crash, but then not use it if you have a crash? This makes no sense! Your insurance coverages are there to help you in the event that you have a crash.
Your insurance company might make it tough for you to use your coverages, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t available to you. In fact, there are laws in most states that prevent your insurance company from raising your insurance premium if you make a claim and you are not at fault for the accident.
Myth #14: The insurance company will pay all of my medical bills.
As stated above, insurance companies are only interested in one thing: keeping their money. An insurance company will not pay all of your medical bills. It is more likely to argue that the treatment that you received was unnecessary and that the billing for your treatment was unreasonable. In other words, it will contend that your medical provider charged too much.
At Negretti & Associates, we have experienced situations where insurance adjusters have told people that they will pay all of their medical bills, only to turn around later and refuse to make payments.
Don’t get trapped by an insurance company! Rely on an attorney to help ensure your medical bills are paid.
Myth #15: Personal injury claims resolve quickly.
Injury claims take as long as they need to. This ensures that the injury claimant is fairly compensated for what has happened to him or her.
Of course, the insurance company will be happy to pay you fast — as long as you are willing to take a huge discount on what you are owed.
But, ultimately, the claims process should not be rushed. You only get one bite at the apple, so to speak, so resolving a claim too quickly could result in leaving compensation on the table.
When you hire an injury attorney, he or she will be as interested as you in resolving things expeditiously. Your attorney won’t get paid until you get paid.
Any good injury attorney will tell you to be patient, allow your medical treatment to play out, and don’t hurry to the finish line.
Myth #16: I don’t have health insurance, so I can’t get medical treatment.
Whether or not you have health insurance, there are always treatment options available to you, regardless of your ability to pay. If you find yourself in a crash and don’t have health insurance, you can still go to the ER and you won’t be turned away. If you need follow-up treatment, give Negretti & Associates a call, and we’ll give you some recommendations. Don’t suffer through your injuries thinking that you can’t see a doctor because you don’t have health insurance.
Myth #17: When I sue, I’m suing the insurance company.
Wrong! Incorrect! When you file a lawsuit related to your crash, you are suing the person who caused the crash. The insurance company of the person who caused the crash will hire and pay for an attorney to represent that person. The insurance company is still very much involved, but you are not suing it directly.
No one wants to sue or be sued. A lawsuit is borne out of necessity. It’s important to remember that the insurance company is forcing everyone into court — not the injury claimant (the plaintiff) or the person who caused the crash (the defendants).
Myth #18: You are “being greedy” when you ask for money to pay for your injuries.
You are not being greedy when you ask for money to pay for your injuries. Rather, you are asking to be made whole for what happened to you. This is your legal right.
Our judicial system is not an eye or an eye. We provide monetary justice. You get paid for what happened to you. You are allowed to recover, in the form of money, what you lost. It’s not supposed to be a windfall. You don’t win the lottery. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
You are not being greedy if you hire an attorney and pursue a claim. To the contrary, you are being smart.
Potential Myth #19: My past medical history has nothing to do with my current claim.
We would love to say this is a myth, but it remains a possibly true, on a case-by-case basis.
Your past medical history may not have anything with your current claim. However, if your injuries stem from prior issues, there may be a need to disclose parts of your past medical history. This can be a tricky situation. Having an experience injury attorney on your side is extremely important here.
What you don’t want to do is sign blanket authorizations for the insurance company and let it dig into your medical history. Not only are there privacy issues at play, but the insurance company is likely to point the finger at things that they find and say that your current injuries were not caused by the crash.
Potential Myth #20: I was a passenger in my friend’s car. Do I have to sue my friend?
This, too, remains a possibility — and not necessary a myth. Yet, this attitude reflects a misunderstanding of how things work. If you friend was at fault for the crash, then yes, there is a possibility that you will have to sue your friend to resolve your claim. But remember, as stated above, the insurance company for your friend would be the culprit here. If they would be fair and compensate you accordingly, there isn’t a reason to sue anybody.
If you have any questions regarding your car accident claim in Arizona, California, and Colorado, Negretti & Associates will be happy to help you find answers. For a free consultation with our legal team, call us at 602-531-3911 in Arizona, 619-777-3370 in California, or 720-636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.