You may be wondering how to file a personal injury claim without a lawyer, but you should know your best chance at a fair settlement is with the help of an attorney. If you're determined to go it alone, there are some things you should know. After you’ve submitted a claim form for your injuries, you can expect a call from a “claims representative” at Travelers Insurance. This is the term insurance companies use for a claims adjuster, and his/her job is to determine how much Travelers will pay on your claim.
You need to be prepared for this call. Despite how nice this person may seem on the phone, he/she will be looking for anything that can be used to lessen the amount they pay on your claim—or deny it altogether. If this sounds overly cynical, we suggest you read up on the most common insurance company tactics used to minimize your settlement.
The most important thing to remember is to never implicate yourself as being in any way responsible for the accident. The claims adjuster will latch onto this and use it to dispute your claim. The conversation you have over the phone will likely be recorded, so keep this in mind. Often these calls come shortly after the accident, so if you haven’t had time to prepare yourself, just let them know this isn’t a good time to talk and ask for a callback number. You have no legal obligation to talk to them right when they call.
At some point, you may be asked to sign a medical authorization form allowing the insurance company full access to your medical records. Don’t do it! These forms are typically worded in a way that allows your insurance company complete access to your personal medical history. Once they get into your records, they look for any medical issue in your past that they can use to dispute your claim. A personal injury attorney can discern which records are appropriate to hand over, and when to do so.
Things to keep in mind if you’re handling a claim on your own:
Document all your contacts with Travelers Insurance.
After every phone conversation with your insurance company, follow up with a letter or email outlining what you were told they’ll be doing to settle your claim. The idea is to have a paper trail documenting everything in case they later say “We never said that” or suddenly decide they aren’t going to honor a promise they made.
Be wary of the determination of liability.
Determination of liability is a critical factor in a personal injury claim, so you need to be prepared to fend off even the slightest insinuation that you contributed to the accident in any way. In cases where there’s any question about who caused the accident, expect a fight from the insurance company.
You’re up against an army of lawyers.
You may only have contact with one person at Travelers Insurance, but behind this person is hundreds of lawyers with all kinds of tricks for delaying and denying injury claims. You may think your years of being a loyal customer would ensure you’ll be treated well, but this is unfortunately not the case when money is at stake.
Remember there’s a statute of limitations.
One of the favored tactics of insurance companies is to drag their feet on your claim to the point you’re shut out of taking legal action against them. In Wisconsin, you have three years from the date of an accident to file suit against an insurance company.
If they delay your claim past the three-year point, you’re barred from taking any legal action against them and stuck with whatever lousy settlement offer they make.
Don’t accept less than you deserve.
When you’re injured in an auto accident and have medical bills piling up, it’s understandable to just go along with whatever lowball settlement the insurance company is offering so you can get the bill collectors off your back. Don’t do it! Fight back with the help of Warshafsky Law.