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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How insurance companies try to trick car accident victims

Difficult to undersand insurance contract language may be a red flag
Quick insurance claim payment may have strings attached
By Sophie Evans

English author Aldous Huxley once wrote, "Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you.” And this is most true when dealing with the aftermath of an automobile accident -- especially if you are the victim!

Very few people would agree that being involved in a car accident is a good experience, especially if you are the victim. However there are steps you can take to make it less of a bad experience whether you are the driver at fault, the other driver, or a passenger in the vehicle.

Are you really in good hands?

Sadly one of the most negative aspects of being in a car accident is with the organization that gives the impression that it is there to provide you with the most help, and that is with your insurance company. Now don’t get me wrong. Not all insurance companies are out to take advantage of you.

But all too often insurance companies play dirty tricks to try and avoid paying the compensation you are due after a car accident, whether it is to cover your damaged vehicle or pay the cost of your hospital bills. Here are some of the ways that insurance companies try to make a profit at your expense.
  • Employee rewards - Some insurance companies reward the clever employees who use loopholes or whatever other means at their disposal to successfully deny your otherwise valid claim.
  • Delaying claims - If some long-term insurers knows that the victim in an accident is likely to give up or pass away before the claim is awarded, they will make every effort to delay, using every last stall tactic in the book, to get out of settling up.
  • Confusing jargon - Have you ever looked at your insurance contract and felt like you were reading total gibberish? Densely worded contracts with phrases incomprehensible to anyone not in the insurance business are a common tactic to avoid a payout.
  • Credit scores - Some insurance companies use credit scores to reevaluate what premium you will pay after you file a claim, such as the one you might file after a serious automobile accident. And if you have a record of filing a lot of claims, new insurance companies could use this tactic to deny you service right off the bat.
  • Recinding policies - If your claim becomes too expensive, or your medical bill associated with a car accident become too costly to treat, then it is possible that your insurance company could find a way to retroactively cancel your policy to avoid future payments.
  • Quick payment - Any time an insurance company is quick to offer a payment after a serious incident like a car accident, look for strings attached. Often the payment is only offered with the stipulation that the victim agrees to seek no further damages, which prevents you from filing additional claims for the same accident later.
As you can see, filing an insurance claim after a serious incident, such as an automobile accident, is as risky of a gamble as betting your life’s savings at a high stakes poker game in Vegas. Do you really want to try being a lone crusader, fighting all alone to see that you get your due after filing a claim?

Protecting yourself against tricks of the insurance trade

Fortunately there are things you can do to avoid being a victim of your insurance company’s tricks. First of all, stay off the roads during the hours when crashes are most likely to occur. The Arizona Department of Transportation reported that the peak hour of alcohol-related automobile crashes occurred between 2 AM and 3 AM in 2012 (http://www.azdot.gov/).

Additionally never drink before getting behind the wheel, because a DUI arrest or conviction is only giving your insurance company more leverage against fulfilling your claim. Avoid common bad habits like texting and driving, or driving a car that has not been properly serviced at the appropriate times.

And finally, as soon as possible after your accident, call a lawyer who is well-versed in the tips and tricks that insurance companies use to get out of paying for claims. The fee you pay to have someone like this on your side is nothing compared to the risk you take for trying to go it alone.

About the author: Californian Sophie Evans is more than a freelance writer. She is also a wife and mother, two roles which allow very little free time - especially when you live in the same neighborhood as Mickey Mouse! For quiet time Sophie can be found at Starbucks, whether she is reading blogs like the ones on www.travisblacklaw.com or just grabbing a latte.

* Image license: Mzacha, RGBStock royalty free