Why You Shouldn’t Take an Insurance Company’s First Offer
No one expects to get involved in a collision with another vehicle, but accidents and injuries can happen. In Hawaii, which is a no-fault insurance state, you must first turn to your own insurer to recover for injuries, though the at-fault driver and their insurance plan will be responsible for any property damages. When you file your claim, your insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to your case, and your next phone call may be from that person.
If you haven’t dealt with a claims adjuster before, you may be in for a unique experience. The adjuster’s job is to hold down the parent company’s liability—that is, preserve its money—and will ask questions and use delaying tactics that can be frustrating. Their goal is to give the insurance company fodder to lower your settlement.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Maui or anywhere else in Hawaii, contact the personal injury attorneys at Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law, immediately. We can meet with you to discuss the details of the accident and then handle negotiations with your insurer to strive for fair compensation, or even file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your injuries are serious enough.
Filing an Injury Claim in Hawaii
If you have been injured in an auto accident, since Hawaii is a no-fault auto insurance state, you must first turn to the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provision of your insurance policy for reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages. The basic PIP coverage is $10,000, so it’s advisable to increase the coverage when you sign up, even though that means that your premium will be higher.
Note that, according to a study by the National Safety Council (NSC), the average economic cost of an auto accident injury is $23,900. Depending on the nature and severity of your injuries, the NSC says the average comprehensive injury cost—which factors in the lost value in quality of life—rises to $345,000.
How Insurers Handle Your Accident Claim
A claims adjuster will be assigned to your case and will subject you to questioning and other tactics that can help the insurance company limit or even deny your claim. These trained professionals have been known to begin the conversation by asking, “How are you today?” and then if you respond “good” or “fine,” they may use that as proof that you’re not as injured as you claim.
Claims adjuster also will try to delay everything by making repeated requests for additional medical records, sometimes even extending back before the date of the accident. The company may even switch adjusters on you. These measures are all taken in hopes that you just give up on your claim.
The First Settlement Offer
The first offer from your insurance company is going to be a low-balled one. They’re going to try to get away with a minimum amount of liability and money owed you. You should not accept a first offer. In fact, you should not even deal with the company and its adjusters. Rely instead on experienced car accident/personal injury attorneys to do the negotiating for you and to respond to the adjuster’s many requests and delaying strategies.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Another standard insurance companies employ to reduce their liability is what’s called maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point in the treatment for your injuries that the insurer claims is essentially as good as it’s going to get. In other words, no matter how much longer you receive treatment—through medications, physical therapy, or whatever else—your condition will not improve. When the insurer deems you have reached MMI, they will use that as the end point of their responsibility.
This is an important issue when an initial settlement offer is made. You never know if your injuries are going to resurface or worsen. If you accept the first offer, you can’t go back later and file a claim for new medical expenses. When you accept a settlement offer or any later offer, that’s it. The insurance company has closed out your claim.
What to Do If the Offer Is Not Sufficient
When you receive the first offer, which as noted will generally be low balled, you can and usually should turn it down. The insurer will no doubt try to stick to that figure, but you have options. For example, you can compose a demand letter stating the reasons and justification for a higher settlement. Again, however, it’s best to have experienced attorneys handling all of this for you. Your legal team knows all the insurance company tricks and negotiating tactics and can counter whatever the adjusters try to do to limit your payout.
Turn to Trusted Legal Support
If you’ve been injured in a vehicular collision in Maui, don’t go it alone and attempt to negotiate with the claims adjuster assigned to you. Contact us at Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law. With more than three decades’ experience, we can carry out negotiations with your insurer and fight for the just compensation you deserve.