Philip J. Berenz, CPA, JD
CHICAGO, IL, October 26, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Many people are surprised to learn that their very own insurance company may fight them and deny coverage to them when they most need it. Why does this happen? Many reasons exist. Be careful of what you say after an accident to anyone--even your own neighborhood, family-trusted insurance agent.
Pretend you were just arrested after an automobile accident!
From the second after your car comes to a stop, say nothing to anyone! Of course, tend to yourself and your passengers to make sure everyone is okay but try not to "blurt" anything out when people approach your vehicle such as the other driver(s), police, fire and ambulance personnel except to tell officials only of course if you are injured and need medical attention.
But the accident wasn't my fault!
Phil Berenz hears it all the time. Rules of the road may dictate otherwise or a not-so-honest, at-fault driver(s) may "turn the tables" on your side of the story and "make it" your fault by lies and mis-statements. Worse, maybe there are only 2 witnesses--you and the other driver--and nobody else saw the stop light mechanism or other factors to make liability clear. However, even if the accident was not your fault, the other driver(s) may have (a) no insurance or (b) not enough insurance to cover the bills and costs and other damages in relation to the accident. Then what?
No insurance situations.
People are also often surprised when they learn that the person who just hit them has no drivers license, might be drunk, might be driving another person's car without permission and/or have no insurance at all! It happens all the time. Mr. Berenz has seen it in many cases. Of course, it is generally against the law not to have insurance (and goes without saying to drive drunk). That is where your own insurance company "steps in" to become your potential enemy as if you were the at-fault driver under any "uninsured motorist coverage" that you may have in your own insurance policy.
In fact, as the case develops, every word you uttered after the moment of impact to anyone--including your own neighborhood, family-trusted insurance agent whom you may have known for 30 years--will be used against you by your own insurance company.
No insurance situation case in point:
You were just rear-ended by a 25 year old man who lost his job 4 months ago, he could not make his insurance premium payment and his insurance lapsed. He was clearly at fault. You have uninsured motorist coverage up to $100,000. After the moment of impact, the police arrive, the adrenaline is pumping and you feel okay but shaken up. You tell the police officer you are okay (and maybe the other man who hit you hears it) and you deny any need to go in the ambulance to the hospital.
The scene clears, you go home and your back starts to ache. You call your insurance agent and you tell him or her that you are "okay" and will "tough it out." Three days go by and now you cannot walk the pain is so bad. You go to the hospital and find a slipped disc is causing you problems and now you need surgery. But you said you were "okay" to the police, the ambulance driver, the other driver and even your insurance agent and now you need surgery from a "little bump?" your insurance company will say!
Three months go by after surgery and now your insurance company starts to ask more questions--show us your medical records and bills they say. Next your own insurance company will say "our doctor reviewed your medical records and it looks like you already had a 'little problem' with your disc before the accident" or "your bills for this surgery are unreasonable and excessive" or "you should have found a cheaper doctor." Your claim for uninsured motorists coverage is denied and, implicitly, your own insurance company says "good luck with those bills of $165,000 for that back surgery and other treatment and hope you don't lose your job now too."
You are stunned. Your own insurance company just turned into your adversary.
These are very real situations that happen. Your own insurance company will fight you to not pay you benefits you are entitled to. In some states, such as Illinois for example, if the denial and claim handling is done in "bad faith," you can sue your own insurance company (as suing the 25 year old who is out of a job will basically result in $0). In Illinois, under the law found at 215 ILCS 5/155, you may be entitled to attorneys' fees, costs and other amounts if your own insurance company's actions have been "vexatious and unreasonable."
Again, your own insurance company started fighting you the minute you told people you were "okay" when soft tissue and other kinds of injuries may not "surface" for quite some time. Again, say nothing! Under most insurance policies, you only need to inform your insurance company of the accident with some very basic details under the "cooperation provision" in your policy. You need not--and should not--give medical diagnoses of your injuries or guess at what may or may not be wrong with you. Let an attorney handle that.
Not "enough" insurance case in point:
Just as in the prior example, suppose the 25 year old man who rear-ended you only had $20,000 worth of insurance coverage and no other "real" assets to sue for. You have $165,000 in medical bills for your back surgery and other medical treatment. Now what? Same thing. Say nothing to anyone from the moment after the accident impact. Your own insurance company will still fight you the same for the same reasons if you make a claim under any "underinsured motorist coverage" benefits.
What Should I do?
Hire an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Insurance companies and their representatives will try to "act" like your friend and try to "help" you in your situation and show compassion--sometimes they have good intentions and truly mean to help. In other situations (and we see it all the time and near daily), when it comes time to "writing the check" for $165,000, you will hear a polite "well, we need to investigate this further, etc, etc, etc" and then a month or two later or more "we're sorry but we cannot pay you for this claim." You probably already told them too much by this point if you were unrepresented by an attorney.
But all is not lost! Fight, fight, fight and get the information and representation you deserve. You may be in for the fight of your life with extraordinary medical bills and maybe a lost job and maybe you have a family and children to care for and support.
Do Not Delay!
There are many time limits to carefully consider when you are involved in an auto accident. Time limits in law are known as "statutes of limitations" and can be as short as one year in Illinois, for example, and shorter in other States for "notice" and other procedures that must be followed. Experienced attorneys understand such rules and put insurance companies and others "on notice" of claims in the appropriate time frame and may need to file a lawsuit even if you are still seeing doctors years later. Never try to analyze these rules yourself as they are often complicated even when you may think they are not.
Philip J. Berenz, CPA, JD is a Chicago trial and personal injury attorney truly committed to assisting individuals and businesses with securing all available remedies and compensation for injuries and disputes and defending them when necessary. His passion for his beliefs of aggressive and zealous representation and empathy for his clients' situations, circumstances, life-altering events and suffering shines through at trial time before a jury, in everyday conversations with the opposing attorneys and insurance companies and in every aspect of every single case. He listens. He does the "right" thing when nobody is looking. Integrity. His trust is unequivocally paramount. And the passion, integrity, and trust end in results (and being the utmost ethical attorney, he must say that results can never be guaranteed by the rules that govern attorneys but he sure does his best to accomplish the goals, intentions-and sometimes dreams-of his clients). For further information, please contact Mr. Berenz at 312.375.6524 directly.
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