When Vic and I were rear ended last September, we had absolutely NOTHING to go on. I was completely and utterly naive as to how the process would work. Thanks to the fine people at Young Drivers, I knew enough to document as many details of the accident as I could, as soon as I could. So as I stood on the sidewalk, while the other driver was on the phone, I asked Vic for my phone and made note of every possible thing I could. I took a picture of his info with my phone, he followed suit and we went on our way.
From the moment we were hit, Vic was in pain. My injuries took several hours to rear their ugly head. From the accident scene, I proceeded home to immediately call my insurance and then proceeded to the emergency room. After several hours waiting and a full look over, we were sent home with caution to take it easy and come back if the headaches and pain didn’t easy up. In my mind, my job was done. Have an accident; report accident; get checked. End of story right?
So, so, so, SO wrong!
That was the easiest and least painful (physically, mentally and emotionally!). The next day, after nagging from several family members and friends, we headed to the police station to file a report. In no time flat, I recounted everything and I was sent on my way. Liability was confirmed quickly by the other party and the ball began to roll.
We received a phone call from the auto adjuster – what a SWEETHEART! She was absolutely fabulous. Walked me through the process – what to expect, what was covered, the whole nine yards. Sure enough, things went exactly as she said they would, and with only a minor inconvenience to us, our car went in with a rental waiting and two days later was ready for pickup. We were able to choose our own mechanic (recommended by Honda), who was also an absolute sweetheart. The whole thing was seamless, leaving us feeling like we were in great hands.
Oh! During the time our car was getting fixed, we gave statements to the our parties insurance – who was even more incredible than even my own insurance. His adjuster was honestly THEE sweetest person we dealt with throughout the entire process – hands down. So nice.
Then came our personal injury adjuster. Sweet adorable. I won’t get into specifics as I’m still dealing with this individual, but I will say that she is such a gem, she literally has our lawyer and all medical professionals completely and utterly DUMBFOUNDED! I hope every day that’s she’s a rare, one of a kind gem. Seriously. She has caused an unimaginable level of stress and she’s from MY insurance company!
Which leads me to the point of this post – 7 questions you need to ask your insurance company NOW and 4 questions to ask BEFORE you hire a personal injury lawyer.
Trust me, these are all things you NEED to know. I only wish someone had given us similar advice.
Interview Your Insurance
#1. If I’m involved in an accident, what is your claim process?
You may think this is something you can simply ask should the need arise. NO! If, god forbid, you’re ever involved in an accident, no-fault or not, IT’S TOO LATE! You’re stuck regardless of what their process is. You need to know now, so that if there is an issue, you can work to resolve it – be it extra coverage or even a new provider. Get them to walk you through the entire process. What is required of you, wait times etc as well as what their responsibilities to you are. Their rules go far beyond their written policy to you.
Our personal injury adjuster told us NOTHING. She would never answer phone calls, rarely return messages and only provide information when it was directly asked for – several times. We were delayed in processing our claim due to her lack of response which caused a huge financial strain at the time.
#2. If I am hit by another driver and hire a lawyer, how does that affect my claim?
It shouldn’t right? Wrong. Our insurance company? They went on lock down the minute our adjuster found out we had a lawyer. Even though we’re weren’t suing our own company, they would have no further communication with us what so ever. I even attempted to go to our local office, only to be told that no one in the building would speak to us because we had legal representation – I kid you not.
#3. If I submit a claim, can I deal with someone from this office?
Doesn’t seem like an important question, but it is. It really, really is. I never discovered until after I had my policy that my insurance company wasn’t in fact a local company at all. It was a local company, operating under a larger ‘mainland’ umbrella company. During one of the most stressful times in our lives, we couldn’t deal with someone face to face, we were given an adjuster in a completely different province.
#4. If I’m involved in an accident, do I deal with my own doctor and his/her medical advice, or is there someone who overrides him/her?
This is a question that shouldn’t even need to be asked, but unfortunately, it does. I was told at my local office that under NO circumstances are they able to override my family physician. Hmmm . . . really? Maybe they should have passed that information along to their adjusters. Ours didn’t just override our family physicians, but our physiotherapists, and massage therapists – I kid you not.
We were assigned a woman who was local, from a totally different business, to act as our ‘support’. A woman who lied, and refused to take the advice of any professional we were seeing. We seen her once throughout the last 13 months. A month into our claim we sat around our table and had her say aloud, that she was unsure what she was even doing there at that point because she isn’t called in until approximately the one year mark. Hmm . . .okay? Again, we had NO idea what to expect from this entire experience, being our first (and hopefully last) accident, so we rolled with it. Only to have our doctor get so incredibly frustrated and angry because they simply weren’t listening and in fact, sending us through things that kept making us worse and setting back recovery and progress.
#5. If I submit a claim, do I have access to someone who can answer my questions within a timely manner?
SO, SOOOO important! You WILL have questions, I can promise you this. You may have A LOT of questions and there is nothing more frustrating then when you have to wait days if not weeks to get a response to something that affects your claim, be it financially, physically etc. As I mentioned above – our adjuster was MIA.
#6. If the need ever arises, what is your complaint process?
I never would’ve thought to ask this question because I’m not a person who complains, but when things come to a screeching halt due to circumstances beyond your control, you need to know the process. You need to know that there is something you can do to try and remedy a bad situation. Our insurance company, well their complaint process is terrible and absolutely useless. Due to the freeze out due to legal representation, we were at a total loss of help.
#7. If I am unable to work due to injuries of an accident, what financial coverage do I have?
I can’t possibly put into words the importance of this question. I’m going to let you in on a very well hidden secret. I have full coverage and even a few extras. When myself and Vic were kept off work due to the injuries sustained in the accident, my main concern shifted from getting better, to paying our bills. No one was concerned with how we would keep a roof over our head, have heat, groceries or even pay the ridiculous amount of car insurance – etc. It wasn’t their job. My ‘full coverage’ – well that paid us less than that of the provincial social assistance program. I kid you not. We were able to avail of EI sick benefits for the first few months – then nothing. We didn’t qualify for regular EI benefits due to the medical basis of our claim. We were screwed. No one would release us to return to work and our adjuster was constantly delaying payments for sometimes months at a time.
The amount of stress and complete lack of caring led me to have what I refer to as a meltdown. I went from being stressed, to depressed. Imagine not being able to work, having no money and being terrified of losing everything you have – now, by all means relax, the tension isn’t helping your injuries any . . . hold on now I relax while my payments bounce all over my bank account like a damn basketball, while the bank calls because it’s never happened before . . .?
Find out what you qualify for – NOW. If it’s as ridiculous as mine was, I recommend you get or increase your health coverage – TODAY! Make sure that you are covered for both short term AND long term disability. You may not believe you have a need for it. Trust me, I was naive and ignorant to the importance. I was picking up my fiance from work, having the normal, ‘how was your day . . . we should stop for coffee . . .’ when *BAM* our life was literally turned up.side.down. A great health insurance is the key to security. Car insurance covers NOTHING compared to what you need covered. You need to make sure it covers the disability I mentioned above, as well as treatments. It may seem scary and expensive, but it really isn’t. Your health insurance company will have cover and be concerned with your overall health and well being; not just chips in the window and dents in the car door. For the cost of one meal out a month (and not even an expensive one!) you could add these things and more to your coverage.
Interview Your Lawyer
#1. Do you keep in touch with your clients throughout their claim?
You want a lawyer who will check in. Someone who has your best interest at heart. Please don’t think it’s automatic – it isn’t. You are paying this individual to represent you in the best light. To fight for what is fair in the given situation. Regular check ins are a sign they want to know how you’re doing and how things are going.
#2. If my I encounter an issue with my own insurance company, is that something you will assist with?
You NEED a lawyer who will cover you if this happens. Not someone who will wash their hands of it because it isn’t their job. Although I’ve been told several times that it is unusual for an insurance company to react like mine, it is most definitely a possibility. I’m not the only client my insurance company has . . .
If they say no, PLEASE, keep looking for representation!
#3. What can I expect from this process?
Again, you want a walk through. You want someone who will give you specifics so you know exactly what to expect. An accident claim can affect SO many aspects of your life – the best offense, is a strong defense.
We have met with our lawyer only once in the last 13 months. It has left me feeling vulnerable in some ways, due to the serious nature of some of the issues that have surfaced. I am all for emails, partly because it leaves a paper trail and proof in sticky, he said/she said situations. But sometimes, you need that meeting. You need to sit down, face-to-face with the individual you’re talking with. I mean a physician wouldn’t deliver the news of a health related issue by email would they?
Be sure to know exactly what they have access to. This goes for the lawyer and insurance company/companies. Your life is about to become an open book. A book that will be judged by people who see you as nothing more than a dollar value. One will say you’re worth more, one will say you’re worth less. It’s harsh; it’s sometimes demeaning; it sucks. But you need to remember that this is their job and neither opinion matters a row of beans because they don’t know you what-so-ever. They are judging what is on paper, for approximately the last 5 years. Prior to that, you cease to exist to them.
The more you know, the better you can brace yourself. Living in such a small place means I’ve had people I know look into personal aspects of my life that are simply none of their damn business. Thankfully there are codes of conduct and oaths etc to help protect your privacy, but it’s still incredibly awkward.
#4. If I am unable to work, due to injuries sustained in the accident, what financial avenues do I have?
These individuals deal with personal injury cases ALLLLL the time. It’s their job to know the in/out’s of the entire process. You will both want and need someone who can give you advice about how to deal with the important things. If their responses are dripping with condescension, walk away. The situation can be stressful enough without feeling as if the one who’s in your corner, thinks your equal to the dirt on their shoe. Yes, it happens.
Guys, I CANNOT stress enough the importance of getting answers now. Arm yourself with information now before you need it. It is by far the most valuable information you can have should you ever need to tackle the nasty ol’ insurance process. Make sure you have a safety net for yourself and your loved ones.