A common scenario that arises in Kentucky and other states occurs when an insurance company for the person that injured you calls and asks you questions before you get a chance to talk to your own lawyer. We are commonly told by an injured person that an insurance company wants to settle a claim and asked whether he or she should settle the case without a lawyer.
You should absolutely consult an attorney before agreeing to settle a case. Whether the injuries were sustained in a car wreck, bicycle accident, trucking accident or other type of collision, and whether the injuries appear to be relatively minor or resulted in a fatality, broken bones, paralysis or other injuries, you should talk to an attorney before making any decisions regarding settlement and before talking to an insurance agent or adjuster about the facts of the case.
Often, people don’t realize that the friendly insurance adjuster that asks them questions is not on their side. An insurance adjuster for a primary liability policy owes a duty to the insurance company’s insured customer, an excess policy if there is one, and shareholders. They do not owe duties to you after you have been injured.
In fact, an insurer’s goal is to pay an injured person that is not insured under its policy as little as possible. To that end, an adjuster may be excessively friendly to try to cajole you into making an admission they can use against you should you bring a lawsuit. Alternatively, an adjuster may use threats, bullying and misstatements to try to convince you and make you agree that the other person was not at fault or make another damaging statement. An adjuster may ask you to make a recorded statement.
Sometimes insurance adjusters offer a sum of money immediately after an accident offering to settle your personal injury case. The problem with such an offer is that usually it is for far less than your case may be worth. The full extent of personal injuries after a car accident, for example, may not be known for many months or up to a year after an accident. Internal bleeding, the extent of organ damage, and soft tissue injuries may not be immediately apparent. If you accept a small settlement in exchange for waiving your claims, you may give up your right to pursue compensation even where your injuries turn out to be very serious. You may also be waiving your right to file a claim under other policies that may provide coverage that you aren’t even aware of.
A personal injury attorney is familiar with many different kinds of injuries and evaluating what a case is reasonably worth. The attorney will also explore every possibility for determining if there is additional insurance that my cover your injuries. One of our clients had been offered the policy limits of $125,000 for two policies for her serious injuries before she retained us to represent her. Once we began investigating, we were able to identify and fully collect an additional $1 million policy that provided coverage that the client had never expected would provide coverage.
Consulting and retaining an attorney before talking to an insurance adjuster can make a big difference in the long run, even in situations where it seems like your injuries are relatively minor or where you believe you have been offered the full amount owed under the applicable policies.
Talking to an insurance adjuster other than your own without the participation of an attorney is not advisable. Most people want to be polite and helpful in interacting with others. But even statements made solely to be polite or to explain your perspective when confronted with an adjuster’s statements can be used against you in a legal proceeding.
Unlike the insurance adjuster for the at-fault party, your own attorney owes you duties of loyalty and confidentiality. He is obligated by the Kentucky rules of ethics to pursue the goals you outline. The duty to keep you informed includes giving you a reasonable amount of information about the status of the case and respecting your wishes. Your attorney must also keep your confidences and act in your best interests.
An experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney can look at the settlement being offered and give you a sense of whether it is fair or whether you have a good reason to pursue a lawsuit instead. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney even before talking to the other driver’s insurer or attorney, but if you decide not to do that, you should make sure to consult with an attorney before signing a settlement agreement. Contact us at 877-634-1519 or via our online form.
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