In Massachusetts, the claims process begins immediately after the car accident occurs and the insurance company is notified. The claim is assigned to a claims adjuster who starts investigating the crash. She will review the damage to the vehicles, the scene of the crash, and the police report (if there is one). She will call you and probably send you a letter as well. Meanwhile, you are likely going (or already went) through a course of medical treatment. You, or your car accident lawyer, will be keeping the adjuster informed about your medical treatment and how the injuries are healing.
Once all of the medical treatment has concluded, you (or your attorney if you have one) will put together a demand package. This is a compendium of all your medical records from the crash, the police report, proof of lost wages, and other pertinent documentation concerning your car accident claim. Once the demand package has been received, it will then be reviewed by the adjuster assigned to your case. Once it has been evaluated, an offer will be made. The insurance adjuster generally has 30-days to evaluate a demand package and extend an offer. If you are representing yourself, the offer will likely be lower than you were expecting. This is when it helps to have an experienced car accident lawyer on your side. After all, the insurance company has a team of lawyers ready to fight your case. Fighting the case on your own is not a recipe for success. The insurance adjuster will try to discredit your case with some of the following tactics:
- She will argue there was only minimal damage to your vehicle. She will argue that with such limited property damage, how could you possibly have been injured?
- She will argue that your injuries are not very serious. You may hear “It’s only a back strain, it should resolve in a couple weeks, no problem.”
- She will argue that liability is not clear, and that you share part of the blame for causing the accident.
- She will argue that there was either too little, or too much medical treatment.
- She will argue that you have a preexisting injury.
- She will argue that you had gaps in your medical treatment which casts doubt on the legitimacy of your claimed injury.
Of course, each case has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. Their arguments however are some of the more common ones insurance adjusters typically use. If the parties are able to successfully settle the case, a release will be signed by you. A short time later, you will receive your settlement check. Once the release is signed, the case is over and can never, under any circumstances, be reopened again. There is an important area of law called insurance bad faith. This is found at M.G.L. c. 93A/M.G.L. c. 176D and requires insurance companies to engage in good faith business practices when handling clear liability car accident claims. This is a powerful tool that can be utilized if an insurance company in bad faith fails to make a settlement offer that is fair and reasonable.
If you’ve been in a car accident, call our office at 617-338-7400 for access to a variety of free resources and a no-obligation consultation.