It’s not an Alabama car accident case. Rather, it’s a recent New Jersey case. Yet, it provides a valuable lesson for car accident victims in Alabama and elsewhere. Be careful what you sign! The case started as a car accident that left an innocent driver with personal injuries and car damage. Fortunately, the negligent driver who caused the crash had liability coverage.
The morning after the accident, an insurance claims adjuster called the injured driver and asked to “inspect” her damaged car. That’s OK. After getting permission, the claims adjuster arrived with “paperwork” to “expedite the property damage claim.” The injured driver signed the paperwork. Rather than property damage paperwork, the document was a general release of all claims. By signing, the injured driver released all her claims for both personal injury and property damage.
If you read some of our past articles, you know we believe accident victims can often resolve property damage claims without the need for a lawyer. The same is true for minor injury claims. Unfortunately, we have an entire industry of settlement mill lawyers smiling from billboards and skimming attorney fees from minor cases that could have been resolved without them.
Where are real injury lawyers needed? Cases involving disputed liability. Cases involving significant injuries or damages. These are the cases where a lawyer earns his or her fee.
Let’s get back to the New Jersey car accident case. What lessons does it teach? If you are in a car accident, don’t simply trust the adjuster. The adjuster does not work for you. The adjuster works to save money for the insurance company. No adjuster should act dishonestly. I’m not saying every adjuster is dishonest. I like and respect many adjusters and lawyers with whom I’ve argued cases over the years. But, some adjusters are dishonest.
What is the lesson here? Read the paperwork before signing. Every day, people involved in car accidents resolve their property damage claim separately from their bodily injury claim. While a quick estimate or two can tell you what is damaged on your vehicle, bodily injuries are much more complex. Some injuries take substantial time to treat, rehabilitate or heal. Preserving your injury claim separately for later is not unusual. But, the paperwork should be clear.
After an accident and injury, you may be stressed and confused. That’s understandable. Hopefully, you have never been involved in any prior accidents. Your health and medical care should always be your primary concern. If you have questions, you can call a lawyer. Beware of those lawyers who just want to sign you as a client. Beware of lawyers who send investigators or staff to the initial discussion with you. We frequently hear from people after a billboard lawyer has damaged their claim beyond repair. Most dedicated personal injury lawyers provide a free consultation and should be able to answer your questions. We answer Alabama car crash questions on a daily basis at our firm.