First, you have to be able to prove liability — the other person did something wrong that rose to the level of negligence. Typically, this means they did something that they were not supposed to do, or that they failed to do something that they were supposed to do.
Next, you must prove damages. This is, oftentimes, much more difficult than you might think. Some damages are relatively easy to quantify. A medical bill is definite. It is a specific amount. It is typically easier to prove those types of damages than more human-type damages, such as pain, suffering, emotional distress, or mental anguish. These flow from resulting physical injuries. For example, if you are unable to work, you are no longer able to provide for your family. That can make it very difficult and stressful.
In addition to proving liability and damages, there must be a defendant who is able to satisfy any judgment you might obtain. You may have a great case where there is clear liability and there are significant injuries, but, if you have neither a defendant nor sufficient insurance coverage that is able to satisfy the judgment, then you are not going to recover for all of your losses.
Obviously, there are some cases that need to be tried based on principle. However, most cases boil down to compensation. If you are not able to recover, regardless of what judgment you might obtain, then you are not accomplishing much. A judgment is merely a piece of paper with a number on it.
What Do You Advise Clients To Do If the Other Party’s Insurance Company Tries to Contact Them?
It is quite common, whether it be by phone or written correspondence, for an insurance company to try to contact you if you were injured and there was insurance coverage. They are going to want to get information about how this happened and what you were doing at the time. An insurance company will try to piece something together where there is a potential for holding you at least partially responsible. However, if you do not have an attorney, you probably are going to need to make arrangements to get a rental car and get your automobile repaired or replaced. Otherwise, it is not in your best interest to communicate with an insurance adjuster. It is a very safe assumption that, if you do talk to an insurance adjuster over the phone, the telephone conversation is being recorded.
If you are contacted by your insurance company, you do have an obligation to speak with them. There is a provision in every insurance policy that requires you to cooperate with your insurance company. If you are going to make a claim for medical payments or you want your insurance company to pay for the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, you must cooperate with them. If you do not, they can deny your claim and even cancel your policy.
An insurance adjuster likely will try to contact you and try to get a recorded statement from you. They also are probably going to send you some forms that they will want you to sign. One of them would allow the insurance carrier to be able to get your medical records. This is commonly called a “medical authorization” or a “medical release.” By signing this document, you are authorizing an insurance company to have access to all of your medical records from the day you were born.
Another document that you may receive is an authorization to allow the insurance company to have access to your employment records. By signing this document, you could be giving them access to every form of discipline you have ever received, every day you have ever missed from work, all evaluations that you have gotten or results of drug testing. Therefore, it is best NOT to sign any documents provided to you by an insurance company until you have spoken with an attorney.
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