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.
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