When you're dealing with the other driver's insurance company after a car accident, you must be cautious. Small mistakes can have a serious impact on your ability to obtain a fair settlement.

Businessman foot about to stamp out the competition concept forPrepare for Battle

It is very important that you recognize at the outset of your claim that you are now in the midst of a battle with the other guy's insurance company. No matter how pleasant the insurance company's representative may be or how many times the agent tells you they can help you settle your claim quickly, they are not your friend.

They are being paid well to find a way to deny or reduce the value of your claim. Worse yet, the agent may delay doing anything at all until you are so frustrated—and broke—that you will take whatever low-ball offer they make. Watch out!

Know the Insurance Company Has the Upper Hand

You should also recognize that right from the start, the insurance representative has the upper hand. They have been trained in these sorts of matters. They probably have considerable experience and vast resources that you don't—like legal advisors to turn to for help. Also, they likely know the things to look for to wreck your claim. They are under no obligation to help you, inform you of the law, or advise you as to what is best for you.

So, if you have been seriously hurt, you should seriously consider not talking with the insurance carrier at all or signing any forms until you have consulted with a knowledgeable attorney. If you choose this direction, be sure to get the agent's contact information and tell them you will be in touch with them after you have talked with an attorney.

If you choose to communicate with the agent, be careful!

Do Not Give a Recorded Statement Until You've Talked to an Attorney

The first thing the insurance carrier will probably want is a recorded telephone interview about the accident and your medical care. Beware! If you agree to this, carefully think through what happened. Consider preparing notes, including a timeline beginning several hours before the accident, then retracing the accident itself and what followed. If you participate in an interview unprepared and answer a question with "I don't know" but later remember the answer, you could be accused of changing your story. It is better to qualify answers to questions you know, but can't remember at the time, with an answer like, "I can't recall that at this time."

A book could be written about this interview process, but with some help, you can tell the complete truth and avoid hurting your claim. At Steffens Law Offices, we have a series of pointers we give clients. We also like to be part of the interview and record it ourselves.

Be Cautious Signing Documents

If the insurance company asks you to sign any papers, approach this with extreme caution. You should strongly consider getting legal advice first. Whatever you do, don't sign anything you don't completely understand or haven't carefully thought through.

In summary, the other driver wrecked your car. Don't let the other driver's insurance company wreck your claim, too.

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