Things can seemingly happen very fast after a motorcycle crash. You have to figure out how badly you are injured, how to pay for your medical treatment, how to repair or replace your motorcycle, how to obtain transportation until your motorcycle is repaired or replaced, how to handle time away from work, and so many other things that hit you unexpectedly following any motorcycle crashes.
It can be a very stressful and chaotic time. Insurance companies know this, and they can and often will use that stress and chaos to take advantage of you if you are not prepared to deal with them.
You won’t even realize you are being taken advantage of at the time because the insurance company will make it seem as if they are on your side and are doing you a favor to help you out with your insurance claim by doing things like offering you a fast settlement up front at a time that they know your out-of-pocket expenses may be mounting and cash flow may be tight.
Be prepared, and do not fall for the insurance company’s tried-and-true tricks to take advantage of you following a motorcycle accident.
Here are five things you need to know to protect yourself if you are ever injured in a motorcycle accident:
1. DO NOT PROVIDE A RECORDED STATEMENT TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY
This is one of the insurance company’s oldest tricks and one they will use on almost every motorcycle insurance claim they receive. The insurance claims representative will usually tell you he or she needs to get a recorded statement from you to begin processing your claim.
While the insurance company will usually ask you for permission to begin recording you (because it is illegal in some states to record someone without their permission), they will not tell you that you have absolutely no obligation to provide the recorded statement.
They are trained to make it sound as if you have no alternative but to provide the recorded statement or else they cannot begin processing your injury claim or sometimes even your property damage claim. In fact, we have had clients tell us that insurance representatives have outright lied to them and told them they cannot and will not process their claim unless they provide the recorded statement. That is simply not the law in Georgia.
The insurance company has a duty to investigate any claim made against any insurance policy they have issued to determine if the claim is covered by the policy or not, if the person(s) they insure are at fault, and, if so, to determine the amount of compensation that should be paid to cover the damage caused by the person(s) they insure. They have a duty to complete this investigation within a reasonable time whether you provide them with a recorded statement or not.
The only reason they want a recorded statement at the very beginning of their investigation is to get you on tape saying something about the accident or about your injuries that they can use against you later. You see, what the insurance companies know is that injury claims can take months if not years to be settled if the injured person is willing to fight for full compensation for their injuries. Over that time, memories can fade and new facts can come to light.
Most often, those new facts come from your doctors as they learn new information about the scope of your injuries and the treatment that will be required to heal them. Insurance companies want to have you on tape a day or two after your accident describing the scope and severity of your injuries and pain so that if you or your doctors ever try to say that your injuries are more extensive or more serious than you first described on tape they can try to argue that those injuries were not caused by the accident because you made no mention of them on your recorded statement.
It is common for a person injured in any type of accident to not notice or appreciate the full extent of their injuries immediately after the accident. Sometimes you “hurt all over” and cannot pinpoint your worst injury, and sometimes an injury may not become painful right away or the pain may be masked by other more severe pain.
But when an insurance company asks you to describe your injuries on a recorded statement, it is solely for the purpose of trying to use anything you say (or don’t say) against you if your injuries later turn out to be anything other than what you first described. Do not unknowingly provide them this potential evidence to use against you.
2. PUT ALL INSURANCE COMPANIES INCLUDING YOUR OWN ON NOTICE OF THE MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT.
Few people know that failing to promptly notify an insurance company of a claim can prevent you from being able to pursue the claim. One of the first things you should do after any accident is notify all insurance companies that may have insurance policies that could cover the accident that the accident has occurred, that you have been injured, and your motorcycle has been damaged, and that you may need to pursue a claim against their insurance policy as a result.
This particularly applies to your own insurance company. Many people do not contact their own insurance company after motorcycle wrecks because they fear it will cause their rates to increase even though the accident was not their fault. That is almost always a mistake.
First, unless you have recently been involved in multiple other accidents, it is extremely rare that any accident that is not your fault will have any effect on your insurance rates. Second, it is almost impossible to know right after a motorcycle crash how much insurance compensation will be required to cover the full extent of your injury claim and whether the at-fault driver has enough insurance coverage to pay your full claim.
In Georgia, your own auto insurance policy may provide you additional coverage if the at-fault driver’s insurance policy is not big enough to pay the full legal value of your injury claim. This additional coverage benefit typically starts at $25,000 and may go up exponentially from there depending on how much under-insured motorist coverage you pay for. However, if you do not notify your own insurance company about the motorcycle crash soon after the accident occurs, you could be in violation of one of the terms of your insurance policy that requires you to promptly report any accidents which may be covered by the policy. That violation could then provide your insurance company a legal excuse to refuse to pay you the coverage benefits that you pay for every month.
Even though you may not ultimately need to use your own insurance coverage, they still have the same legal duty as the at-fault driver’s insurance company to investigate your accident claim to see if they are required by your policy to cover it. Notifying them right away puts them on a level playing field with every other insurance company involved in your claim and enables them to investigate the claim while all of the evidence is fresh. That is why they require you to notify them of the accident promptly and why the law allows them to refuse to cover your claim if you wait too long after the accident to tell them about it.
3. FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE.
As we mentioned above discussing recorded statements, your doctor’s diagnosis, opinions, and treatment recommendations regarding your accident-related injuries may change over time as he or she learns more information about your injuries. It is very important to the success of your injury claim that you follow all of your doctor’s treatment advice.
Insurance companies are naturally skeptical of any injury you claim to have received in a motorcycle accident, particularly internal injuries to your neck and back which are not as obvious as cuts or broken bones. If you tell your doctor you are injured and your doctor prescribes treatment for that injury, which you then do not follow, it suggests to an insurance company and to a jury that you must not have been as injured as you claimed.
Both insurance companies and juries assume that people who are really injured will follow their doctor’s orders to try to get better. Even though you may be busy or have other good reasons why you are not able to follow your doctor’s advice, your failure to follow your doctor’s advice will be used against you to argue that you were somehow exaggerating your injuries and your pain and suffering.
If your doctor prescribes you treatment that you do not agree with, you should immediately schedule an appointment for a second opinion. If that doctor agrees with the first doctor, then you should immediately begin the treatment or be prepared for your failure to do so to be used against you to reduce the value of your claim.
If your doctor prescribes treatment you cannot afford, you should notify your doctor of this immediately so it will be noted in your medical records and ask if an alternative treatment option that you can afford is available. You should also immediately consult an injury attorney because they often can refer you to treatment providers who will agree to provide treatment now and wait to be paid until you receive your insurance check after your case settles.
4. DON’T SETTLE TOO EARLY.
As we mentioned previously, one of the insurance company’s tactics to take advantage of you is to offer you a settlement very early on after you first file your insurance claim. They know it may be tempting for you to accept a quick settlement when you have just incurred a number of unexpected out-of-pocket expenses and do not want to have an insurance claim hanging over your head for many months.
As tempting as it may seem, do not fall for this tactic and settle your case too early. The value of your injury claim is determined by the severity of your injuries, the total cost of your medical treatment (without factoring in any health insurance benefits you may receive), any lost wages or other expenses you incurred because of the accident, and the pain, suffering, and inconvenience you experienced as a result of the accident. Together, these are referred to in the legal world as your “damages.”
It usually takes time to learn the full extent of your damages, and if you settle too early, you very likely will not be receiving full and fair compensation for all of the damages caused by the accident. Most importantly, if you settle too early, you risk letting the insurance company off the hook before you even know the full extent of your injuries. Sometimes, motorcycle injuries caused by an accident may not be painful right away and may not be noticed for several weeks or even several months.
Once you settle your insurance claim, there is no way to go back and re-open it later to get additional money if you realize you are more injured than you first thought. That is why insurance companies love to reach quick settlements for relatively low amounts so that they do not risk having to pay you a lot more money later once you learn the full extent of your damages. And that is why injury attorneys always caution injured clients not to settle too early before you know the full extent of your injuries and damages and can properly assess the full value of your injury claim.
5. TALK TO AN ATLANTA MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT LAWYER EVEN IF YOU DO NOT HIRE ONE YET.
While following these first four tips will make you far more prepared to handle a motorcycle injury claim successfully than someone who doesn’t, nothing will increase your odds of success like consulting with an experienced motorcycle injury attorney who handles these claims on a regular basis. Every injury claim is unique, and it is impossible to fully equip motorcycle riders in an article like this with everything you will need to know to successfully battle an insurance company.
The way to obtain the best results for your motorcycle injury claim is still to talk to an Atlanta motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Even if you are not sure if you want to or need to ultimately hire a motorcycle attorney to handle your claim, you should still contact an attorney to discuss your claim before you have any contact with the insurance company. Most injury attorneys offer free initial consultations.
You can use that consultation to obtain valuable advice specific to your situation from an experienced attorney and to learn whether your claim is one of the many motorcycle injury claims where the only way you are going to obtain full and fair compensation from the insurance company is to have an experienced attorney on your side fighting for you.
A good injury attorney in Georgia will not pressure you to sign up right away if you are not ready or if your case is minor enough that there is a chance the value the attorney can add to your case may not justify the fee they would ultimately take from your settlement. If it costs you nothing to at least inquire about your case in a free consultation, there is absolutely nothing to lose by giving it a try and potentially much to lose by not doing so.