Have you ever noticed that in a lot of car insurance commercials, everyone seems to be smiling and talking? The lady with the beehive in the Progressive commercials certainly has a permanent grin, as well as the gift of gab. Even the quite intimidating presence of Dennis Haysbert has been softened to a smiling, avuncular type in his commercials for Allstate.
It’s a strange sight for us to see, particularly because whenever we interact with insurance company personnel, they try to say as little as possible about practically anything. Sometimes we get the feeling if was asked them for the correct time they would say “It’s not our policy to comment.”
We get that a lot, you know. It’s nothing personal. It’s just a matter of the insurance company wanting to make things as difficult as possible for us, and by extension as difficult as possible for you.
Here’s what we mean: Let’s say for the sake of argument that you get hit by a car on 495 just past Bethesda and get injured. Let’s say the car that hit you is a 2005 Honda minivan. The woman driving is nondescript. As a matter of fact, you didn’t even get a really good look at her. The only reason that you know she is a woman is because that’s what it said on the accident report.
Normally, this is where the stonewalling begins. You get the name of her insurance company, and you (or preferably your attorneys) contact them, and that’s when the “It’s not our policy to comment” routine starts.
The reason they do this is because the insurance wants to pay out the least amount possible, while we want to get you the most amount possible for your injuries. Information is available during the discovery period, but that only happens after the lawsuit has been filed. Withholding information is a smart way for insurance companies to force the opposing attorneys to file a lawsuit rather than settle the claim, or at the very least to buy some time before a lawsuit it filed.
Time is actually the insurance company’s best friend. They have a ready reserve of cash on hand, while the injury victim usually does not. The insurance company has a source of income, which the injury victim might not. The insurance company can pay its bills, while the injury victim cannot. The financial realities are completely different for the injured who cannot work, verses the insurance company who continues to collect premiums from its policy holders, and the insurance company knows this. As the bills go unpaid and the collection agencies begin to call, all of a sudden that initial settlement offer that the insurance company made starts to look pretty appealing. And so you settle, all while having no idea whether you are even getting a fraction of what you could have received because the insurance company is under no obligation to tell you exactly how much that could possibly be.
Fortunately for car accident injury victims in Maryland, the guessing game is now officially over.
As of October of 2011, insurance companies will be required to say what their policy limits are before a lawsuit is filed, provided that the accident victim presents the insurer with the following information:
· When the car accident happened (date, time)
· Name and address of the person that (allegedly) hit you
· A copy of the vehicle accident report
· Thorough documentation of health care costs related to the accident (medical bills,) documentation of loss of income (pay stubs or a letter from your place of employment)
We know that seems like a lot to go through, and that’s because it is a lot to have to go through. But if the end result is that you get information that helps your attorneys avoid guesswork and helps shave time off of the lawsuit process, then this can't be anything but good.
Here is a link to the bill, which became law in October of 2011. If you get injured in an auto accident in Maryland that wasn’t your fault, and if you attempt to find out the limit of the coverage of the person who hit you, the insurance company very well might tell you that it “isn’t our policy to comment.” But if you present them with the all the forms listed above, you can quite easily tell them “It’s the state of Maryland’s policy that you will comment.” You will have important information, which can give you a better idea as to you should proceed. Are you getting a fair settlement offer or not? Now you will know.
Greenberg and Bederman is a car accident injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been hurt in car crashes due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free consultation today.