Most accidents are not caused intentionally. When you get rear ended, typically it wasn’t done on purpose and it was just a mistake or someone not paying attention. While people often get mad when others hit them and we all have different opinions about what stupid is when it comes to driving, the terms for such behavior is negligence. When people are negligent and cause damages to others, their insurance company tries to pay for the damage caused and you deal with all the issues involved in getting your claim resolved.
However there is certain behavior that almost universally can be considered beyond negligent and would be considered reckless and willful or some other legal term that is not relevant for this blog entry. The best example is drunk driving. If you get hit by a person who is drunk and they cause damage to your person or property, in addition to their potential responsibility for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering etc, there is an additional claim that needs to be made for punitive damages.
Insurance policies in North Carolina cover punitive damages when an insured is drunk or does something else that makes it go beyond a simple rear end collision. An insurance company is not going to tell you about punitive damages and even if you are aware of it, they may not even consider it in the evaluation of your claim. The nature of your damages, the egregiousness of the other drivers behavior, and his past conduct, are just some of the factors that go in to evaluating your claim for potential punitive damages. Again punitive damages is not designed for bad driving or stupid omissions while on the road, but only for the worst kind of conduct that is fairly defined in our States case law.
If you are involved in an accident and the person who hit you was drunk or did something that your common sense says goes beyond simple negligence, call Tanner and Romary for a free consultation about your rights and learn what insurance companies do in these situations.
When you are involved in an automobile accident and it is not your fault, how your claim will be handled depends on which company insures the person that hit you. One tactic used by many companies, most notably Nationwide and Progressive, in addition to all their other responsibilities they must do to resolve the claim favorably for their company, adjusters are required to make contact fairly quickly with the injured person to assess what happened and size up how bad the person was hurt.
While certain duties of an adjuster when it comes to handling a claim seems like common sense, where it gets tricky is when the adjuster shows up at your house with a smile, after putting pressure on you to meet with them quickly, to try and resolve your injury claim as soon as possible after the accident. They will do this whether you have no injuries and no medical treatment, or are sitting in a chair with a cast on a part of your body looking at some significant time to recover and unknown medical costs going forward. How you handle their approach can vary but the wrong decision can cost you financially and emotionally as you wonder how anyone could try and take advantage of you while you are at a low point be it injured, in shock, or you just haven’t had time to fully assess what is going on. These adjusters are trained to quickly assess individuals, their situations, and formulate an agreement that often saves their insurance company employer thousands of dollars within days of their insured causing an accident and injuring someone such as yourself.
A scheduled release is typically a document where the insurance company agrees to pay you a lump sum up front(these amounts are often small and not likely reflective of what unknown pain and suffering may exist over the course of your recovery) and also agrees to pay medical bills up to a certain amount incurred within a certain period of time that they consider reasonable. These releases are different than medical authorizations they ask for from a person to get their medical records. Do not let a slick adjuster tell you what you are signing is something other than what it is. I call these people who do this, along with lawyers who meet with you and during your initial consultation and tell you your case is worth x or they will get you x in order to get your business, fortune tellers. Why would you trust anyone who can predict, promise, or anticipate what your case might be worth? I don’t think any modern day Nostradamuses have law licenses or ply their trade with the companies who claim to be on your side or put you in good hands. If anyone needs a discount double check, it’s these adjusters and the companies who employ them but you as an injured party cannot ignore the reality of how claims are handled with Scheduled Releases.
Simply put insurance companies do this in order to get your case settled as soon as possible for an amount that they expect would be for less than they would pay after your treatment was completed and the claim was evaluated based on the known medical bills and recovery time. Heaven forbid you got a lawyer to handle your case for you who can best evaluate the case once all treatment has been completed and losses fully assessed. When you meet with an adjuster who is trying to sell you this pot of gold or tell you that getting a lawyer is a waste because they will just take 1/3 of the same money you will be offered with the lawyer, yet wants the case resolved before you have time to think about getting legal advice or even just to gather your thoughts following an accident, why would you place your physical and financial health at risk by signing one of these things? While every case is different you have to ask yourself why they are doing it and how do you benefit before you decide to sign or walk away.
If you are involved in an accident and don’t go to the doctor and don’t feel you are injured your risk of signing one of these releases is obviously lower. An adjuster who wants to give you $500.00 and pay for medical treatment you will never get seems great assuming you aren’t injured. The risk with all of them is what if you get a pain that forces you to a doctor a week after the accident which requires treatment that exceeds the small amount allocated by the insurance company for your treatment(after they record you saying you aren’t injured) but you had signed the release 48 hours after the wreck because of the fast moving adjuster who got to you and got a signature while you felt fine and were happy to take their $500.00. This happens more often than you think.
More importantly, if you are seriously or even semi seriously injured or are looking at medical care where you can’t predict how much it will cost, why would you sign for any amount they are offering to cover? While the end result may not change if you wait to settle later on, the more injured you are the less risk you need to take with these Releases. They are designed to benefit the insurance companies and not you even if they often are set up and the injured parties case resolves without incident and medical bills are paid.
Following an accident you have to make quick decisions about many things regarding your case early on in the claim from rental cars, to total losses, to medical care. Your financial standing can often dictate what you can do often allow you a better bargaining position with an insurance company who is trying to settle any part of your claim quickly or for an amount that does not seem fair or creates more uncertainty. Having a second car, medpay, a doctor who will see you, or health insurance of your own are factors that can make or break a person. With all these issues, ask yourself why someone wants to resolve your injury claim so quickly?
When faced with an insurance company who wants to get you to sign a Scheduled Release, before deciding what to do, contact Tanner and Romary and let us explain in detail what is going on and to help you decide what to do and whether it makes sense to bring a lawyer on board to even the playing field against these fast moving and tricky insurance companies who engage in such conduct.
Were you unfortunate enough to get into an accident? Is your mailbox now filled with letters from lawyers telling you all they can do to help you with your case? Do you live in Wake or Johnston County and get letters from a lawyers in Charlotte? Yes it’s that bad.
If you walked away with little to no injury from your accident be thankful but don’t scoff at all the letters you get. Look at these advertisements through the eyes of the person who got hurt in the accident or who is getting the run around from an insurance company over their damaged car. There might be some valuable information in them and most all of them will tell you the initial consultation is free. You want that consultation with an actual lawyer.
Sorting through these lawyer letters can be a challenge but don’t just through them away. You may be the lucky person who knows a personal injury lawyer personally or has prior experience with one so that lawyer is on the top of your list who you will call. If you don’t know one, just don’t pick up the phone and call the lawyer who did your real estate closing as this lawyer may not have the experience to handle a personal injury case. Look at the letters you received and see if you can find something or someone that stands out. You can bet most of the lawyers in the letters have experience and going through them can often help you find that needle in a haystack lawyer who not only can handle your case properly but also give the personal attention you should require of someone you choose to handle such a sensitive and often frustrating matter.
What do you look for in these letters when deciding who to call to talk to? You can get good representation from a big firm or a small firm. The firm with the most commercials on TV or the biggest package of information may not be the best fit for you and what they send you may make things seem more impersonal. At Tanner and Romary, we don’t someone from Clayton, Garner, of Smithfield feeling like they have to travel to Raleigh to get a good lawyer. You can get top notch representation here locally and the logistics can lead you to more interaction with your lawyer in the office. We send letters locally for that very reason as we have seen over time that while our credentials may be comparable to the top lawyers in the profession, people will often say they chose us because we sent them a letter, gave them basic information they needed, and they didn’t want to drive to Raleigh. If it’s a geographical reason they call us, that’s great as it gives them some peace and we get a chance to show not only did you get the right lawyer for your situation you didn’t have to drive to Raleigh. We can be that needle in the haystack and without lawyer advertising we would have no chance.
As with any profession, starting from scratch and building a client base can be difficult, time consuming, and often costly. Gone are the days when young lawyers can hang a shingle and have the phone ring with clients. While no lawyer wants to advertise, it has become a must if you want to survive in business. The thought you put into your advertising is important. If you ask most personal injury firms who advertise, they often hire outside companies to create the letter and to decide what to include in the letter such as magnets or pens or dvds to prospective clients. These companies mass volume mail to people who have been in wrecks often on the other side of the state.
When we opened up in 2000, my father Rod Tanner did the advertising letter, obtained the accident reports, and only sent them to the Raleigh/Johnston County area. Including the accident report in a letter was rare back then but he did that and now everyone does it. The time and care he took with each letter was beyond the call of duty. As a new business, it helped to have someone you trusted doing your letters, but it also helped to have someone who wanted the business to succeed involved in the process. When he died in 2005, my mother Sara Tanner took over full time. Her past experience in the marketing field with cemetary property and funeral plans was invaluable and the sacrifices she made to see that the letters went out and didn’t seem to impersonal was also invaluable. In 2015 at age 71, she still does these letters for us with as much care as my dad did beginning back in 2000 and her ability to relate to many new clients makes her an important part of our team day to day.
My point is if you are involved in an accident and you get a bunch of letters from lawyers, don’t be cynical and bash lawyers who send them. If you think having a lawyer help you with your case look through all of them carefully. Try to figure out which letters were carefully crafted and filled with content and credentials versus those that are clearly sent out in such massive volumes all over the State. Use them to get information to help you decide if it makes sense to have a lawyer and to get immediate questions answered. Go get the free consultation we all advertise for.
Our firm has been serving Johnston County and the local area since 2000 and we have been sending direct mail and accident reports to potential clients since that time. The end result is a business that has stayed open for 15 plus years and has helped countless numbers of people who often placed blind faith in us based on our letter. While most of our clients come from referrals, we are fully aware that advertising is a part of the process and we will continue to do it in as professionally a way as possible.
Our success in many parts is owed to this simple form advertising but even more so a big thanks is owed to Rod and Sara Tanner who when the business started sacrificed time and gave up employment to do this often repetitive and time consuming task because they wanted the business to succeed and for people who needed help to get it from someone they knew would do a good job and could be trusted and for that alone I am thankful for what I do. Advertising has brought in many great clients and we hope it will in the future. It has also allowed us to keep our business open when many firms have not been able to do so.
Lawyer advertising is always going to be a sticky subject for lawyers but just know that when you receive a stack of letters in the mail following your accident , some of them were crafted with much thought and sent by someone who truly cares about who is getting them and the reputation of our firm.
Thanks mom and dad. We are still here 15 years in and will continue to strive for good service for our clients even if the world has changed as to how we get many of them.
From the beginning, Mr. Tanner told me that my case was not going to be easy to win but he knew that I was innocent and he wanted to stand by me during my case. I can honestly say that he did everything that he told me that he was going to do from start to finish. I have never written a testimonial for anyone, but I felt that I had to for Mr.Tanner due to all of his hard work that went into winning my case. Since the conclusion of the case, I have been able to repair my car and settle my doctor bills and I am really thankful that Mr. Tanner was there to help me.
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