I was recently retained by a young woman who was seriously injured in an automobile accident. She was hit while crossing the street, in a crosswalk, and suffered multiple fractures. While her injuries are not life-threatening, she will lose significant time from work, will require a lot of physical therapy, and carries the potential for long-term troublesome, and even deteriorating, post-traumatic injuries.
Within days after she was hit, my client – who had not yet contacted me – received a phone call from the adjuster for the driver’s insurance company. She described him as friendly, interested in her travails, and offering to help. He also suggested that the woman tell him about the accident and agree to sign a statement, and floated the idea that the insurance company could pay for her out of pocket expenses. If he could have gotten away with it, this adjuster would have undoubtedly obtained a release of all claims in exchange for the payment of some modest medical expenses and out of pocket expenses for items such as taxi fares to the hospital. Fortunately, my young client was savvy enough to be suspicious of insurance representatives bearing gifts. She made no commitments to the insurance adjuster, and called her father, who contacted me. I expect that if the driver’s insurance coverage is adequate, this young woman will obtain a recovery commensurate with the serious injuries she suffered due to the driver’s negligence.
There should be statutes forbidding insurance companies from seeking statements or releases from unrepresented, injured individuals, without at least notifying the individual, in writing, of their right to obtain counsel. Unfortunately, unscrupulous behavior by insurance companies following a serious car accident, or other type of accident, is commonplace. If you have been injured in an accident and are contacted by the insurer for the party that injured you, tell the caller or visitor that you will be contacting your own attorney, and that he or she will call the insurance company. Then politely end the visit or conversation. Even if you are contacted by your own insurer, it is best to have an attorney before making any statements. Sometimes questions are posed in such a way that the answers can be misleading. If you have been injured in an accident, there is no substitute for your own counsel to protect your rights.