Handling the Insurance Company
If you are injured in a motorcycle or bicycle accident, the first step is to get the medical attention you need.
DO NOT wait and see if your injury resolves on its own. Have your injuries evaluated promptly and follow the orders and recommendations of your doctors and health care providers.
If you are referred to physical or occupational therapy, go to your therapy sessions. If you are told to do home exercise or therapy, get a journal and chronicle your exercise sessions.
If your injury does not improve, continue to follow up with your physician and be an advocate for your care. In short, get to the doctor, fully explain your injuries, and be an advocate for your care until you are healed.
In addition to your wellbeing, prompt medical attention establishes a medical history related to the accident and your injuries. Insurance companies seem to think that every injured party should go to the doctor immediately, and then have follow up appointments every day.
We do not advocate unnecessary visits to the doctor, but have your injuries evaluated promptly and follow the orders and recommendations of your doctors and health care providers. If you are referred to physical or occupational therapy, go to your therapy sessions. If you are told to do home exercise or therapy, get a journal and chronicle your exercise sessions.
If your injury does not improve, continue to follow up with your physician and be an advocate for your care. Fully describe your injuries and physical limitations to your doctors, no matter how minor. This is not the time to be tough.
Insurance companies and their lawyers will primarily rely on your medical charts when evaluating the history of your injury. Without a medical record, an injured person’s undocumented statements of pain and physical limitations are given little weight.
If you wait to get treatment, the insurance company will presume that you were not hurt in the collision. When you later say you were in a lot of pain, but you were hoping it would go away, the insurance company will not believe you. If your treatment history is erratic (i.e. missed appointments or not going to recommended therapies) the insurance company will presume that your injuries were minor and insignificant. If a physical complaint is not noted by the doctor in your chart, the insurance company will presume the injury did not exist. Get to the doctor, fully explain your injuries, and be an advocate for your care until you are healed.
The second step is to contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney, motorcycle accident attorney, or scooter accident attorney. DO NOT speak to an insurance company representative without contacting a bike attorney. DO NOT attempt to settle your claim without speaking with an attorney first, even if your injury is minor. DO NOT sign a release until you have talked to an attorney.
You may think that you will get more money out of your claim by not involving or “paying” an attorney. Insurance adjusters are aware of this mindset and will use your inexperience to their advantage.
You must understand that the insurance adjuster’s job is to limit your claim as much as possible, not to help you out or fully compensate you for your injures.
If you provide a statement or send a letter to an insurance company, you may make admissions which are detrimental to your claim. Insurance adjusters commonly conclude that a bicyclist or motorcyclist is partially at fault for the collision (comparative negligence); even where the police report indicates that the car driver is at fault.
Often, the insurance company’s comparative negligence conclusion comes from unintended admissions in a recorded statement, written statement or a letter. Keep in mind that your statements, recorded or written, can be used against you in later proceedings. If you do not get the result you want on your own and later retain an attorney, you will likely be stuck with your prior statements.
When you contact our office, at a minimum, we will provide you with free advice on how to handle an insurance adjuster should you wish to handle the claim on your own.
Initial consultations are free, so do not hesitate to contact our office for assistance with your claim. Bicyclists and motorcyclists who handle claims on their own often settle for “out of pocket” expenses, such as money to fix a bike or medical bills that need to be paid. In most instances your claim is worth much more, even where the injury is relatively minor. Therefore, your best option is to contact our office and take us up on some free advice. After we discuss your claim, you still have the option of handling the claim on your own.
Should you retain our firm, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means we do not get paid until and unless you do. Nothing comes out of your pocket.
If you do retain our firm, in most cases, we can obtain a recovery that is substantially more than you will be able to obtain on your own, even after the contingency fee.
The bike accident attorneys at the Shefman Law Group were insurance defense attorneys in another life. We understand the mentality of the insurance companies and their adjusters. These people used to be our clients.
We know how they evaluate claims and therefore we know how to maximize your claim. We know and understand the lawyers the insurance companies retain and how they evaluate claims. We used to be one of them.
Whether we are negotiating your claim with an insurance adjuster or with a defense attorney, we will get the best result for your claim. If we believe that you can get a better result handling the claim on your own, we will tell you.
If you do not contact our office and decide to handle the claim on your own, review the content under our “HARMS AND LOSSES” tab. This section will give you guidance on the compensation you should request from the insurance company.
Generally, make sure that you keep receipts for all property loss (damage to your bike, clothes, etc.) and losses related to your injury (medical bills). Request compensation for the entire amounts of your medical bills, not just the amounts you paid out of pocket (co-pays, etc.). The full amount that your medical insurance paid for your treatment is recoverable from the negligent driver’s insurance company. If you do not have health insurance, you can recover the full amount charged, even if some amounts are “written off” by the medical provider.
If you are injured, you should wait until your injuries fully resolve (no more pain, discomfort or loss of function for two weeks or more) before settling your claim.
If your injuries are permanent it is imperative that you talk to a bicycle or motorcycle accident attorney before settling your claim.
If you and an insurance agent agree to settle for a specific amount, the insurance company will likely send you a release before sending you a check. When you sign the release you are waiving any and all claims for future losses and injury. In most cases this closes the door on your claim and you cannot go back later if you realize your injury is worse than you thought.
For instance, a person with a neck injury who settles a claim when they still have neck pain will be unable to get further compensation if their pain increases and they need cervical spine surgery. Insurance companies are quick to throw a release in front of an injured claimant. Think long and hard about contacting a bicycle or motorcycle accident attorney before signing a release.
Last, but not least, be mindful of statutes of limitations, which are laws that set limits on the amount of time after the accident that you can file a claim.
In some cases you may have only six months to file a claim. These cases may involve dangerous conditions of public property or a collision that is caused by a public employee (such as a police officer or a bus driver).
If you are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle driven by a private individual, typically you have two years from the date of the collision to file a formal Complaint in Superior Court. Bringing the claim to the attention of the insurance company does not satisfy the statute of limitations. Therefore, if you are discussing the claim with an insurance company, you must remain mindful of the limitations period.
If you have a claim, do not wait until it is too late to contact an attorney.