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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Insurance company recommendations: When to get a second opinion

A second opinion helps determine the validity of an insurance claim settlement
Think carefully before accepting an insurance claim settlement
By Molly Pearce

Everybody experiences accidents at some point in their life. Some of these may be car crashes while others may just be home damages caused by detrimental weather. 

Whatever the case may be, though, having insurance is a way to protect against losses caused by any unforeseen event. Unfortunately, even though insurance companies are supposed to help people, they're still in the business of making money. This is why everyone should consider getting a second opinion about what their insurer is offering them.

When to question insurer's decision

There are several reasons that a person should question their insurer's first settlement offer. The first and most obvious reason is if the offer doesn't adequately cover the damage. If a hail storm destroyed a roof, for instance, why would a homeowner take an offer that won't properly repair it? How about a car accident? What sense does it make to take an offer that will not cover all property damage and medical costs?

In addition, it's important to think of indirect and future costs related to the incident. If a swimming pool is destroyed during a storm, for instance, a homeowner needs to think of what it will cost to fence the pool back in as well. For car accidents, it's important to think of lost income from not being able to go to work and future medical expenses related to an injury. Unless an injury or damage is only minor, it's likely a good idea to always question an insurer's initial offer.

Dishonest insurance practices

Unfortunately, insurers use several practices that make it prudent for a person to seek out a second opinion. In fact, some of these practices are outlawed by statute, and if it can be proven that a company engaged in them, an attorney can help recover damages that far exceed those the person initially could've claimed.

One tactic some insurers practice is delaying payment of claims. They feel that if they can wait out a person who needs financial help, they can offer a much lower settlement. In some instance, in fact, insurers will even outright deny a legitimate claim for illegitimate reasons. Of course, they can also offer much less than a person deserves, and this is usually what happens when a person files a covered claim.

Where to get a second opinion

There are various places that an individual can get a second opinion before accepting their insurance company's settlement. The important thing is to not sign any documents before getting this additional opinion. Otherwise, it's easy to leave money laying on the table.

Research: Sometimes, a person only needs to turn to themselves when seeking a second opinion. Online research can go a long way in deciding whether or not a claim is fair. Simply looking up "average settlement" along with whatever the accident was, is likely to return a treasure trove of information.

Professionals: It's often best to have a professional offer their opinion before an insurer does, but if this didn't occur, it's definitely important to seek this information afterward. After auto accidents, for instance, a person could have a mechanic give them a quote. For home damage, it's possible to bring out a contractor, roofer or other professional.

Legal counsel: Attorneys are another vital source of second opinions. In fact, their professional experience makes them especially proficient at deciding whether an insurer's offer is fair or not. "With a skilled accident attorney on your side, you won’t need to even talk to the insurance company," advises one online attorney directory. On top of this, if the offer isn't fair, a lawyer can also work to raise a settlement offer or get a larger award in court.

In a perfect world, insurers would offer fair settlements on every single claim that they received. Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect world, and insurance companies are, at heart, still businesses. Luckily, this doesn't mean that an individual has to accept less than they deserve. Being able to identify a low settlement offer is essential when dealing with an insurer, and if an offer seems too low, it's important to do a little more research and seek a second opinion.

About the author: artist, and mother Molly Pearce often addresses the topics of law and human rights in her work and shares this article in the hopes of providing useful tips on dealing with insurance companies. In research for this post, Molly consulted http://www.houston-accidentattorney.com/, and shares that dealing with insurers can be intimidating without the right attorney, but that the right one can easily be found online.

* Image license: Xymonau, RGBStock royalty free