SPECIAL REPORT THE FIVE STEPS TO SUCCESS IN YOUR INDIANA CAR ACCIDENT CASE

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1 SPECIAL REPORT THE FIVE STEPS TO SUCCESS IN YOUR INDIANA CAR ACCIDENT CASE GUY S. DIMARTINO, DC, JD INDIANA CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER 1000 WASHINGTON STREET MICHIGAN CITY, IN (219)

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3 INTRODUCTION All car accident claims have common issues. In this report, I provide you with the five steps that, if followed, will bring you success. This report is not exhaustive, but it provides basic tools and skills for preserving evidence, getting a fair deal on your car, and dealing with the insurance company. If you follow these five steps, you will be far ahead of the curve when handling your car accident claim because you have avoided the major mistakes that people make. Each mistake that is made further destroys YOUR ability to receive a full, complete and fair settlement. This report is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This report is an overview of the five steps that should be done after a car accident. If you would like to read more about the subject, you can download a free copy of my book A GUIDE TO INDIANA CAR ACCIDENT CLAIMS. This is just a reminder that every case has its unique set of facts and no report or book can address all the potential issues in a case. If you have questions about a specific claim, you can contact me to have your concerns addressed.

4 Step One Click here to watch video of step one GETTING MEDICAL ATTENTION You are probably reading this because you or someone you care about has been involved in an Indiana car accident. If you were involved in the crash, at first your adrenaline rushed through your body and you were hyped- up. Now that things have settled down you may be feeling crappy. You may have aches and pains you never felt before a headache or your neck is starting get stiff. If you are beginning to feel any of these aches, pains, numbness, or tingling, you need to go the doctor, hospital or urgent care center to get checked out completely. Don t hesitate! Many car accident victims are afraid to get checked out for a number of reasons. They don t want to wait for hours in the emergency room, they are concerned about bills, or they believe that things will just work themselves out. However, there are two very good reasons why you need to get checked out immediately. Reason One You may have an injury brewing that needs to be diagnosed. Some injuries are immediate and the accident victim knows they are hurt at the scene. For instance, if somebody breaks their arm or leg, most of the time they know it because they feel the break or start to experience severe pain immediately. On the other hand, many injuries are JUST under the surface and may not be readily noticeable. A guy was rear- ended on the highway. He was shaken up at the scene but he thought that everything would be okay. After the crash, he went home to take a nap. When the guy woke up a few hours later, he had a severe headache. He tried to get out of bed and collapsed. He was taken to the hospital. A CT scan of the brain REVEALED blood pooling inside his brain. As it turned out, the guy was taking aspirin to thin his blood and to prevent heart attacks. When his head hit the headrest a blood vessel in the back of his head began to leak. It took a couple of hours for the blood to pool and build up enough pressure to cause the headache. The guy was rushed to surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain. After surgery he was never the same.

5 Unfortunately this STORY is not uncommon. It happens more OFTEN than you think. If you ve been injured in a car accident and you are feeling symptoms get checked out IMMEDIATELY. Reason Two The second reason to get checked out IMMEDIATELY is that an insurance adjuster will INSPECT the timing between the YOUR accident and YOUR first contact with a DR. On the day of the car accident, most people do not think about making a claim for personal injuries. However, if you plan on making a claim because your injuries do not get better, the insurance company will look at the timing of first visit. Many insurance companies use computerized claims management software. Allstate uses a program called Colossus. The computer program gives a lot of weight and validity to claims, which document a hospital visit within 24 hours of a crash. So Allstate, or other companies that use computer programs, will value your claim higher if you go to the hospital on day 1 or day 2 as compared to a chiropractor or physical therapist on day 13.

6 Step Two Click here to watch video explaining step two GIVING NOTICE TO YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY If it is a day or two after the accident, you probably have not had a restful night s sleep. You may have tossed and turned all night because you were not able to find a comfortable position. Now that you re up, you feel like you ve been run over by a truck or played football without pads. If you haven t seen a doctor yet, you should get checked out today. At the accident scene, the law enforcement officer should have given you a document with the report or accident number on it. You should be able to get a copy of the crash report today. If available, you will need the information on the crash report for this next step. Step Two Action Items Report the claim to YOUR insurance company. If you would rather first contact your agent, you can do that, but the claim needs to be reported. If you look at your car insurance policy, it will tell you that you need to report the claim. This is true even if you were not at fault for the crash. When you call your insurance company, they will ask you for a lot of information that will be on the crash report. The representative may ask you to fax the report over to them. The report should have the name of the other driver, the insurance company that insured the vehicle, the date, time and conditions of the accident. Your insurance company representative will ask you if you are injured and if you have received medical care. If so, and you have medical payments coverage, they will open up a medical claim to pay your medical bills. Make sure you get the claim number and billing address to give to your doctors so they can send their bills directly to the insurance company for payment. Also, if you have collision insurance on your vehicle, your insurance company representative will ask you plan on getting your car fixed through them. If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of going through own insurance company read step three.

7 If you have any questions about your insurance coverage ask the insurance company representative. Finally, if you were injured and you're under a doctor s care make sure you follow the doctor s advice.

8 Step Three Click here to watch a video explaining step three GETTING YOUR CAR FIXED By now, if you were injured you should have already been to the doctor and you reported the claim to your insurance company. If you haven t done those two things you might want to get them done ASAP. You were at fault for the crash If the accident was your fault, you have one choice and that is to make a claim under your own collision insurance. If you do not have collision insurance, you will have to pay for your repairs out of pocket. You were not at fault for the crash If you were not at fault for the crash and you have collision insurance, you have choices. You can go through your own insurance or go through the other driver s insurance. The main benefit of going through your own insurance company is time. When you make a collision claim, the issue of fault and responsibility for the accident is not present so the car can get fixed or totaled quickly. There are a couple of detriments of going through your own insurance. First, you will have to pay your deductible when you pick up the car from the body shop. In the end, you will get your deductible back but it is an outlay of money up front. Second, if you do not have rental insurance coverage or a spare car, you will have to pay for a rental car when your car is getting fixed. Going through the other driver s insurance takes longer. The insurance company has to open up and investigate the claim, which usually requires getting a copy of the police report and getting a statement from their insured. Once the adjuster gets this information, he will have to make a liability (responsibility) determination. In cases where the facts are clear cut, like you were stopped at a light and the other guy runs into the back of your vehicle, the insurance company should accept responsibility pretty quickly.

9 On the other hand, if the facts of the accident are disputed, time is not on your side. For instance, if you were involved in an intersection collision and told the police officer you had the green light, and the other driver also says that she had the green light, the investigation and liability determination could take days or weeks. At this stage, if the other insurance company wants to take your recorded statement to determine liability, you will have to make a judgment call. You have no legal duty to give the other insurance company a statement. However, if the adjuster tells you that he will not repair your vehicle until you give him a statement about the accident, you will have to make a decision to either hire a lawyer or give a statement with some guidelines. An example of a guideline would be that you agree to give the statement regarding the facts of the crash only and not your injuries. You can also tell the adjuster that she must provide you a copy of the written transcript of the statement. Dealing with car issues can be difficult and you may be getting frustrated with the process. Just stick with it; there will be light at the end of the tunnel when you start feeling better.

10 Step Four Click here to watch my video explaining HOW INSURANCE COMPANIES DETERMINE THE VALUE OF A TOTALED VEHICLE In STEP FOUR we are going to discuss how to deal with the insurance company if your car is a TOTAL LOSS. As a general rule, you have to understand that it is always the insurance company s decision whether to total or repair a vehicle. It will total the vehicle for a few reasons: If the repair is too expensive If the damage to the vehicle is so severe that it can t be repaired safely If the amount of damage is severe enough that state laws require the vehicle be totaled It is just not cost effective for the company to repair the vehicle I hear it from clients all the time, I would rather have my vehicle fixed instead of totaled because it was worth so much more to me and I can t replace it. How Does the Insurance Company Decide the Value of YOUR Car? If you look at your insurance policy it will use the term fair market or actual cash value. To determine the actual cash value, the insurance company will compare the sales price of similar vehicles in your local area and make adjustments for the condition of the vehicle, mileage, damage not caused by the accident and options. This will be the actual cash value. If you DO NOT trust the INSURANCE COMPANY, you need to get on the phone and call the dealerships listed on the comparables that are provided by the insurance company. See if the vehicles are at the dealerships listed and if they are for sale for the prices listed on the comps. In some cases you may be able to keep your total loss vehicle. Under these circumstances, the insurance company will pay the actual cash value minus the fair salvage amount. The salvage amount is the amount they will receive for the vehicle on the secondary market or for scrap.

11 If there is a lien holder (Bank) on your vehicle, you will not be able to keep the total loss vehicle unless you pay off the loan amount before the deal with the insurance company is completed. These property damages issues can be sticky. Insurance companies play hardball with these numbers because they know that it is not cost effective for a person to go out and hire a lawyer to deal with these issues. Again, I know the process of dealing with all this stuff after a car accident can be daunting. Stick with it and you will get through it.

12 Step Five Click here to watch video explaining the MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT In this the last step, I m going to talk about the two biggest mistakes that I see people make after car accidents. If you can avoid these mistakes, it will save you a lot of frustration and money in your car accident claim. Mistake 1: Recorded Statements The first mistake most people make is giving a recorded statement. Many times the insurance adjuster will call you up and ask if they can take a recorded statement. The answer to this request depends on which insurance company the adjuster is calling from. If it is your own insurance company calling, you are required to give the adjuster a statement. If you look at your insurance policy there will be two sections that apply to this situation. The first provision is that YOU have a duty to cooperate. The second is the policy provision that gives YOUR insurance company the right to take YOUR statement as often as it finds it necessary. Do not get confused. If the same insurance company, like State Farm or Allstate or Progressive or GEICO, insures you and the other driver, you need to ask the adjuster what claim he is handling. If the adjuster is handling the other driver s claim, you are under no duty give him a statement. Car accident victims get in trouble two different ways with sworn statements. First, they speak without thinking their answer through. When an insurance adjuster or a lawyer inspects the person s statement, we pick apart each word. Speaking without thinking can give the adjuster ammunition to deny YOUR claim. When we talk to our friends and family members they do not hold us to our specific words. Say, the issue in YOUR case is whether you could have avoided the crash. The adjuster may ask you the question; how long before the impact did you see the other car? She is asking you the time interval from first seeing the other vehicle to the crash.

13 In your mind it was a short period of time, maybe a split second but you answer a minute because that is also a short time. However, if you were traveling 30 mph that is 44 feet per second so in a minute you would be have traveled 2640 feet. The insurance adjuster will take the position that you had plenty of time avoid the crash if you were paying attention. Once this statement is recorded you are NOW going to have to live with your words forever. When the adjuster denies responsibility for the accident and you try to amend or explain your answer, you will lose credibility and possibly LOSE YOUR CLAIM. The second area where statements kill car accident claims is with injuries. Often, when the insurance company calls, the car accident victim doesn t know the nature and extent of his injuries. Here is another real life example. A guy hurts his neck and wrist in a car accident. He goes the emergency room and the doctor orders an x- ray. The x- ray shows that he has a broken wrist. The wrist is the only problem the ER staff treats. The wrist is wrapped and he is told to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon who puts the patient in a cast. The insurance adjuster calls the guy and he agrees to a sworn statement. Based on the series of events, the only injury in the forefront of his mind is his wrist. He only tells the adjuster about the wrist injury. The guy s wrist heals; he stops the pain meds and then realizes that his neck is still hurting. The guy ends up having neck surgery and the insurance company denies the claim because he did not mention a neck problem in the sworn statement. In my experience, nothing good ever comes from giving a sworn statement to the insurance company in a car accident claim. Mistake Two: Medical Releases/Medical Authorizations The next mistake that I see people make is giving the insurance company a blank medical authorization and the names of all doctors for the last 10 years or so. This is an overreaching request. Odds are there is irrelevant information in the medical records that has nothing to do with the injuries claimed in the accident. The problem is that the insurance adjuster can use this irrelevant information against you. Here is one short example. A woman experiences periodic depression. Her medical record documents that the patient would get depressed when she was put in a

14 confrontational position. The insurance adjuster may use this information by being confrontational with the victim because she knows it will make the process uncomfortable, and the victim may take any settlement figure to get the process finished. If you are going to handle your own car accident claim, you should be aware of these issues. One way to protect your confidential information is to provide the insurance adjuster with a specific release for each doctor and/or hospital. Do not provide a blank release. Also, you can limit the scope and timeframe in the release. Finally, you can require the adjuster to provide you with a copy of each and every record she obtains with the release. This way, you will know the specific records the insurance company received and what information is contained within the records. Conclusion The personal injury claims process can be difficult and tedious. If you have followed these five steps in this REPORT you have at least taken the steps to protect yourself from the insurance company. If you avoid the common mistakes that injury victims make, the insurance company will not be able to take advantage of you, and you will be in a position to get a full, complete, and fair recovery for YOUR injuries. If you have any questions about any of the five steps that I have given you, you can always give me a call at (219) Click the link if you would like to download a free copy of my book that goes into much more detail about the Indiana car accident claims process.

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