Hartelius, Durocher
& Winter, PC

Do you know what to do after an accident?

It's happened to all of us in some way. We're rear-ended while we sit at a stop light. We see a doctor expecting help but an error makes things worse. We slip in the grocery store when there was no "wet floor" sign.

Accidents happen. But what happens when the responsible party chooses not to be accountable? Do you have rights under the law? If you can't make someone do the right thing even when you try to be reasonable, what options are left?

When accidents happen

When you have been the victim of an accident, do you know what to do or whom to call? Many people are not familiar with personal injury law.

This is the area of law that helps you recoup lost wages, medical bills and monetary repayment for things such as pain and suffering resulting from somebody else's negligence.

In an emergency situation, obviously medical care should be a priority. In most other situations, the first step should always be reporting. If you were in a car wreck, call the police.

If you fall somewhere, advise the owner or operator--and make sure it goes beyond a low level employee, have management document it in writing. If you are attacked by a dog, call animal control.

What insurance adjusters won't tell you

Usually, when you have been hurt, there will be some sort of insurance available (e.g., auto insurance for a car wreck). The person working for the insurance company--the "adjuster"--is supposed to pay claims. That may make it seem like he is on your side. He is not. Insurance adjusters have a job: to make sure their company pays as little to you as possible.

While we all prefer to work things out reasonably, that only works when both sides are fair. Insurance companies may not be, so you must be careful, especially right after you've been hurt. Adjusters are not your friend. Some wonder, even my own insurance company? Yes, even the adjuster from your own company.


They are not on your side!

Most adjusters will be friendly, and try to make you feel like they are on your side. Especially at the beginning, giving assurances that they will take care of everything. That is not the case. Remember: Insurance companies, like any other business, are trying to make money. The less they pay out, the more they make.

What to do?

Adjusters want a statement as soon as possible, sometimes even before your injuries are obvious, or when you are still under the effects of a traumatic event or medication. That creates a huge risk. A wrongly worded or misconstrued statement can give the insurer the excuse to deny your claim.

Keep statements brief at the outset

It is enough to say who you are, and the basics of what happened to show the other person was at fault (e.g., the other driver ran a red light and him me). Do not commit to things you cannot know, like when you will be back at work, or even whether you are hurt. As the adrenaline wears off and the muscles tighten up, you may well realize a trip to the doctor is needed. Other details can wait.

The other thing adjusters want right away? A release to gather information. That seems reasonable enough, but the fine print usually gives them wide open access to your medical records, work information, even your credit.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that an adjuster might call your boss to imply you are not really hurt, or check your credit to see if financial leverage might force a quick settlement.

Which brings up the next point
They always want a full, final resolution as soon as possible. Why? To keep it cheap. A person seeing the chiropractor might think $1000 will cover everything.

But, if a later MRI reveals the need for surgery, that person may end up with a $50,000 bill to cover. Once that release is signed, the insurance company is off the hook, so you should never sign off until you give yourself time to recover fully.

All of this boils down to a simple fact: You need to be extremely careful in dealing with insurance companies to protect your rights. If you are unsure, talk to an experienced lawyer.

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Hartelius, Durocher & Winter, PC Channing Hartelius, Roland Durocher, Jeff Winter

About Our Firm

At Hartelius, Durocher & Winter, PC, we represent those who have been injured due to another person or party's carelessness or negligence. Our lawyers are experienced in the courtroom and have a proven track record of obtaining successful personal injury verdicts and settlements for clients. Contact Us

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Hartelius, Durocher & Winter, PC
118 6th St. S.
Great Falls, MT 59401
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