claim

Handling My Own Claim - Lessons Learned

A guest blog by Joee Reyes 

Handling My Own Claim - Lessons Learned

I thought I was 'doing the right thing' when I attempted to handle an insurance claim on my own after being struck by a car. Call it being socially and ethically responsible. Maybe it was pride. I grew up with the stigma that you only need a lawyer if you go to court and that if something life changing, like a workplace injury, transpired.  Truth be told, I should have placed the machismo in the back seat, done the right thing and asked for help.

In the spring of 2016, I was stopped at an intersection, resting on the white painted line. Since drivers tend to miss seeing cyclists, I placed myself in front of the car so the driver would see me. After looking at the driver, I proceeded through the intersection once the light turned green. I was 'greeted' from behind by the same driver with whom I had just made eye contact. The car clipped my rear tire. This caused me to bounce off the right fender and sent me sliding into the curb.

I quickly popped up to get out of the road so I would not get injured any further.  Adrenaline works when you need it the most! I walked over to the sidewalk to lie down and figure out what had just happened. The driver of the car that hit me came over to see how I was. He did not seem too concerned about my well being. I asked him to stay while I called police so I could get a report written. That was the extent of my general knowledge about what to do if involved in an accident; call the police and file a report.

After police arrived and EMS conducted a basic physical field assessment, they gave me the go-ahead to go home. Since I was struck two blocks from my apartment, I opted to walk home and drag my broken bike with me. I had gotten it less than a week before the accident.

Thinking that this would be a straightforward claim, since there were no trips to the hospital and I had not been seriously injured, I was hoping for a quick turnaround to this whole ordeal. The faster I could put this behind me, the better. Irony and hindsight are the key takeaways from this whole ordeal. Nothing was quick and the gaps in getting everything resolved were about as painful as being hit.

Here's a 'not so quick' timeline of handling my claim:

April 2016 - Struck by a car:

○      I called the driver's insurance company the same day.

○      Two weeks later the police completed their report citing the driver at fault.

○      Insurance company confirmed receipt of my email regarding the claim on April 25.

May - Some progress on the claim is being made:

o   Multiple adjusters working on various parts of the claim. Communication is not ideal.

o   Requested to speak to adjuster handling property damage portion of the claim as I felt it was not being handled properly. Submitted documentation in April for damaged property but still had not heard back from adjuster.

o   Was advised that the adjuster was actively working on the claim for a resolution.

June – Going on month two now:

o   The bike was dropped off at a local shop so the insurance adjuster could make an assessment.

o   Sent adjuster a copy of the sales invoice for my bike. Also sent the cost of aftermarket brakes that were purchased and installed. Cost was $99.00 for the parts and $90.00 to install.

o    Nothing really out of the norm. All actions seem to be moving at a 'normal' speed.

○      On June 6, I requested to keep the damaged bike or have the ability to buy it back at the totaled cost after the wreck. There were the aftermarket fenders and a handful of parts that were not destroyed, e.g. the seat, that I wanted to keep.

○      The adjuster was not very professional in his response towards me. He informed me that I could not recover the value of the bike and keep it.

○      At this point, I was less than excited about handling my own claim.

○      Still had not heard back from the second adjuster handling the property damage portion of the claim even though I had been assured that it was being worked on. None of my calls were returned.

○      The adjuster changed his mind one day later and offered me the full value of the bike plus I was able to keep it. So all in all, this experience was not the worst, yet.

Mind you this is only month two of the claim. The settlement for the bike went relatively quickly, which was the most expensive part of this accident, but I still needed the issue regarding the damaged personal items to be resolved.

Never give up! That is what I was taught from my parents and from being in the military. Do not be bullied. Ask a lot of questions. But seriously, this is when having a lawyer would have been more ideal.

o   On June 13, I sent another follow-up email asking about a settlement.

I would call once a month all summer long and leave a voicemail to the agent handling my claim. I was ignored repeatedly to the point I quit calling. I know, I know. I failed to live up to my own rhetoric about never giving up but screaming into the void was becoming pointless. At this time, I gave myself a break from the constant rejection. I’m human too. This whole insurance act was getting old. The runaround was beyond frustrating to say the least. I sent another email on September 12 with the receipts for the destroyed items as well as my medical bill. I followed up again in December.

Finally, six months later, on December 14, I received an email from the adjuster handling the PD portion and medical bill. Awesome!

○      Resolution………… almost. Finally, the last of my items were getting covered from the event. Taking a step back to analyze this whole scenario. I knew that I undervalued my medical costs but I was quick to settle to try move along the whole process. Sorting through the myriad of time and emotional effort this event took, I should have called a lawyer to handle it.

If you are ever in a similar situation, I highly recommend getting professional legal help. In my case, I met Megan a year later and wish that I had gotten to know her earlier to help me tackle the headaches that come with such a process. 

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Colorado Law Prohibits Insurers From Contacting Injured Parties Right Away (yet they still do it)...

Did you know?  C.R.S. 13-21-301 specifically prohibits insurers from contacting someone who has been injured in a crash for at least 15 days...  Yet, many of our clients report to us that within days (and sometimes even hours!) of their bike crash, they have been contacted by the insurance company for the at-fault motorist and they've been pressured into giving a statement (which is almost always recorded).  Not cool, insurance companies...not cool.

There is good reason for this policy.  Consider that in one of our cases, our client was hospitalized having sustained massive injuries and trauma during his bike-car collision.  He was under the influence of heavy pain medication and sedation -in light of the serious procedure he had to undergo to repair the injuries he sustained.  He is not in a good state of mind to talk about anything -let alone his future claims.  Imagine- being contacted by an insurance company when you or a loved one or friend are in this situation!  Imagine the stress and duress of that scenario, compounded by the fact that an adjuster is hounding you for your statement.  

Having read this far- you now know - YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TALK TO THEM, and further -WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS contrary to state statute and case law! 

The Statute specifically states:

(1) If a person is injured as a result of an occurrence which might give rise to liability and said person is a patient under the care of a practitioner of the healing arts or is hospitalized, no person or agent of any person whose interest is adverse to the injured person shall:

(a) Within thirty days after the date of the occurrence causing the injury, negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement with the injured patient;

(b) Within thirty days after the date of the occurrence causing the injury, obtain or attempt to obtain a general release of liability from the injured patient;  or

(c) Within fifteen days after the date of the occurrence causing the injury, obtain or attempt to obtain any statement, either written, oral, recorded, or otherwise, from the injured patient for use in negotiating a settlement or obtaining a release except as provided by the Colorado rules of civil procedure.

Colorado case law also supports this position - specifically, the case of Smith v Safeway Stores, Inc., 636 P.2d 1310 (1981).

Insurers love to apply pressure early-on before an injured cyclist fully knows or realizes the extent of their damages and injuries.  Insurers would love to pressure you into a fast settlement right away- so they can avoid paying for all of the damage their insured caused.  In Colorado, a bike crash case involving a motor vehicle has a 3 year statute of limitations. Therefore, we always encourage our clients to take their time in getting treatment and fully recovering, before moving forward.  Once you sign a release and settle a claim, you cannot go back later and ask for more.

And... now you know!