Wisconsin Personal Injury Lawyer and former insurance claims adjuster, Sally A. Hestad offers a free consultation to anyone who has questions about the claims process after an auto accident. You may contact her at (608) 273-1600 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The insurance claims process can be very confusing and stressful, especially after you have sustained an injury in an auto accident. Even though you are suffering with neck pain, back pain, sleep deprivation, headaches or are recovering from a fracture or surgery, the liability claims adjuster will persistently ask you many questions as part of the claim process. The adjuster is likely to ask for a sworn statement regarding what happened in accident and will also ask about your injuries, your past accidents and your past medical history. This can be time-consuming and very difficult if you are in pain. Much of this information is not relevant to your injury claim for this accident and could be used against you because you are unfamiliar with the claims process. A personal injury lawyer will take over all communicating with the insurance companies. After you hire a lawyer, you will no longer speak to the adjuster and usually the lawyer will avoid any sworn statements. On the few occasions when a statement is strategically recommended by your lawyer, your lawyer will be with you to make sure the questions are fair and reasonable.
The liability claims adjuster will ask you to sign medical authorization forms. By signing these authorizations, you give the liability insurer permission to obtain copies of your medical records. Many of these authorization forms broadly authorize release of all medical records. Such releases give the liability insurance company access to medical records that are irrelevant to your accident claim, including records prior to the accident and records of unrelated medical conditions. This information could be used against you by the liability insurance company. Once you hire a lawyer, the lawyer will advise you not to sign any authorizations from the liability insurer, and will revoke any that you have already signed. The lawyer will review your medical records and will make sure that only records related to treatment for your accident are sent to the liability insurer.
If you have lost time from work due to your injuries, the liability claims adjuster will ask you to sign authorization forms to release employment information. By signing these authorizations, you give the liability insurer permission to obtain copies of your work records. Many of these authorization forms broadly authorize release of all work records and/or the contents of your personnel file. Such releases give the liability insurance company access to work records which are irrelevant to your accident claim, including records prior to the accident and records of unrelated work issues. This information could be used against you by the liability insurance company. Once you hire a lawyer, the lawyer will advise you not to sign any wage authorizations from the liability insurer, and will revoke any that you have already signed. The lawyer will review your wage loss records and will make sure that only records related to time off work for your accident are sent to the liability insurer.
Dealing with the liability claims adjuster can be very confusing. For example, the claims adjuster may say: “Just send me all your bills and I’ll take care of them.” This is misleading because you assume the adjuster means that the bills will be paid when you send them in. Instead the liability insurer will usually hold the bills for months or years until you are ready to settle the case and sign a release. Your bills could be turned over to collection during that time. Liability adjusters often try to minimize your injuries, saying for example: “You couldn’t be very badly injured because there was only $1100 of damage to your car.” “You are not badly injured because you are only taking Advil a few times a day. Everyone takes those.” “Most of your medical bills are for diagnostic tests, not treatment.” The adjuster’s job is to convince you that your injury is not worth very much in settlement. If you hire a lawyer, the lawyer will deal with the adjuster and you can avoid the stress involved in listening to the adjuster’s comments minimizing your injury.
After you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will start working on the file and will contact your health insurer, your own auto insurer and the liability insurer on your behalf. Your lawyer will request your medical records and bills and your wage loss records and will ask you for status reports on your treatment. Your lawyer will obtain the accident report and will contact any witnesses.
Your lawyer will research any legal issues involved in your claim. Your lawyer will make a list of all of your bills and will keep track of which insurance company paid your bills. Your lawyer will ask your doctor or chiropractor for a report after you reach maximum medical improvement. Your lawyer will evaluate your claim, draft a demand letter and negotiate a settlement on your behalf. If you don’t hire a lawyer, you will need to accomplish these tasks on your own.
If you hire a lawyer, the lawyer will do what is needed to resolve your claim and will relieve you of the burden of handling the many claim details. However, it is certainly possible for an individual to settle injury claims directly with the liability adjuster without a lawyer. Cases involving a few doctor visits over a short period of time can be successfully handled directly with the adjuster. As there are more legal and documentation issues in serious injury cases and wrongful death cases, lawyers are often needed in these cases. Lawyers are also needed in complicated cases where liability is an issue, or where there is an aggravation of a preexisting injury. To help you make the decision whether or not to hire an attorney, ask for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.