Let’s say, for example, your car has been rear-ended on the freeway or at a stoplight. Your rear bumper and trunk are smashed. Your neck and shoulders snapback from the force of the collision and begin to ache. You develop a headache and experience a feeling of disorientation. Your joints are sore.
Your primary concern following an injury accident is to feel better and ensure that your injuries are not serious. Your first instinct should be to seek immediate and appropriate medical care from a physician or hospital emergency department. In Oregon, where PIP coverage is mandatory under State law, you can and should get the immediate medical care you need without delay. You paid premiums for this coverage and are entitled to the best care available. PIP is YOUR coverage under your insurance policy. Cooperate with your own insurer and your medical bills will be paid.
But what should you do when the insurer for the negligent driver calls and wants information?
If you have been injured, tell the opposing insurer only that you have been injured and that you will provide relevant information once your injuries have healed. Do not allow the opposing insurer to obtain information to which it is not entitled.
Remember, the insurer for the negligent driver has one goal: to minimize the amount of money it pays to you for your personal injury damages. That sounds harsh, but it is true and many injured people find that out too late.
If the opposing insurer’s policyholder injured you, the insurer will first look to deflect liability from its policyholder. If that is impossible (as in the examples above), the opposing insurer will next look to prove that your injuries are minimal or non-existent.
The opposing insurer will want you to give a recorded statement where its representative will ask you about your injury history, your past medical treatment, your occupation, and other personal information. The opposing insurer will want you to sign authorizations allowing access to your medical and employment records. The insurer will attempt to convince you that you are required to provide this information.
Are you required to give the opposing insurer access to this sensitive, personal, and confidential information? NO!
Frequently, when clients first come to me to discuss personal injury claims, I am amazed at how much information has been given to the opposing insurer. People sign authorizations allowing the opposing insurer unfettered access to their sensitive medical records. People sign authorizations allowing the opposing insurer to obtain confidential employee files. And people allow opposing insurers to conduct prolonged recorded statements where all sorts of irrelevant information are disclosed. When people do this, they hurt their case and they allow invasion of their privacy.
When I deal with the opposing insurer on behalf of my clients, I provide only the information the insurer needs to determine the value of my client’s claims. I control the flow of information and I allow access to only necessary information. This helps my clients to obtain appropriate personal injury settlements without jeopardizing privacy. It also does not allow the opposing insurer to obtain medical information which should not bear on the value of my client’s claim.
An opposing insurer will try to use old and irrelevant medical and/or employment information to argue that current injuries and damages are unrelated to its policyholder’s negligence. By controlling the flow of information, I prevent the opposing insurer from making such a ridiculous argument. Remember, the opposing insurer has one goal – to minimize its payment to you. Don’t give the opposing insurer an opportunity to intimidate you, devalue your claim, and snoop in your private information. Take control. If you’ve been injured in an accident, call our law firm for a free, no-obligation initial consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Paul J. Vames
Attorney at Law