At  Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A., we hope that most people never have to face the ordeal of suffering a serious injury. When it happens, the process for filing an insurance claim against the negligent party, or against your own insurance company, can be confusing, frustrating and time-consuming, leaving people to wonder if they fully protected their rights to fair and reasonable compensation.

This blog post will discuss two important things you will need to know when filing a claim or hiring an attorney to help you fight for compensation.

Dealing with insurance companies

After the accident, when you are focused on getting help for your injuries, getting paid for lost time from work, or getting your vehicle repaired or replaced, the insurance company will be requesting records, forms and information that may be difficult for you to gather.  The insurance company will demand records and reports and specific forms to file. In the case of auto accidents, the police reports and eye witness accounts, which are necessary to determine which insurance company will be held liable for your losses, may not be immediately available or may require a specific request.  Sometimes, insurance companies insist on the red tape, on detailed forms, and claim they are unable to assist you until every “I” is dotted and “t” is crossed.  This insistence may be a deliberate delay tactic, hoping you will just give up and go away. Unnecessary delays are technically illegal under Florida insurance laws, but too many insurers rely on “bad faith” practices to save themselves millions of dollars in liability settlements every year.

Filing a claim on your own

You have every right to deal directly with the insurance adjuster, but it is usually not in your best interest to do so.  Typically, the adjuster has training and experience which will allow the insurance company to take subtle advantage of your rights.  If you decide to try it, don’t be too quick to sign the check for what appears to be a fair settlement offer. Remember, you will be paying back medical professionals who provided services, often with a lien against your future settlement. You may also be uncertain of the full extent of your financial damages because you have not received enough medical treatment to reasonably predict what future impacts your injuries will have.  In serious or catastrophic injury cases, it may take a year or more of treatment and recovery to get a fair assessment of the full damages.  An early settlement may have been far less than the full and fair value of your case.  Only after completing treatment should you consider negotiating your losses with the insurance company. Otherwise, you may find your settlement money inadequate to pay for bills, cover lost wages and protect for your future.

It pays to talk to an attorney

Gathering reports and records and dealing with the complexities of an insurance claim can be frustrating at the best of times. You will be fighting the legal resources of a major corporation, experienced in saving money on insurance payouts.  When trying to overcome the fallout from a serious injury, handling the small and large details becomes even more complicated. It makes sense to start by talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer before making your decision about how to proceed.