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LEGAL MATTERS: Protect yourself when you're injured in a car accident

If an accident isn't your fault, don't compound your misfortune by getting tricked or pressured into a quick and potentially unfair settlement

Darin Luneckas
Darin Luneckas

It’s a day like any other. You’re headed to work, driving responsibly, obeying traffic laws … and BAM! You’re blindsided.

Your vehicle is damaged. You’re injured. The car accident wasn’t your fault. The driver at fault has insurance, so you don’t have to worry about any financial fallout from the accident — right? Not exactly.

Auto insurance companies are notorious for advertising products that offer financial protection via insurance contracts that will make us feel secure.

But when drivers or passengers become victims of another insured driver’s negligent driving, that insurance company works to protect its bottom line, not the injured party.

The insurance provider for the driver who is at fault typically has one goal in mind: Settle the case as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

The motive is a financial. It costs the insurance company significantly less to close a claim before victims have a chance to learn their legal rights or fully understand whether they may have lifelong injuries or future surgeries to endure.

Expediency makes sense to insurance providers. It saves money and boosts profits and shareholder dividends.

But for car accident victims, quick settlements often cause future difficulties.

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Injured parties are dealing with pain, loss of a vehicle, missed time from work and financial uncertainty. It’s imperative not to let these stressors lead to a hasty, bad decision.

When you’re the one injured, you need to know how to protect yourself.

A claims representative or adjuster for the insurance company of the negligent driver will generally reach out to car accident victims to get a statement or seek medical waivers for all the records of treatment.

Your response should be simple but firm, “I’m not discussing my injury claim until I’ve had the chance to learn my rights and how this process works from an attorney.”

An insurance adjuster should understand that you need time to talk with doctors and learn more about the healing process. Ethically, the adjuster is supposed to stop bothering you right then and there.

After that, it’s important you do the following:

• Seek medical attention.

• Take photos of injuries as they heal.

• Obtain the accident report from law enforcement.

• Keep a diary of your physical symptoms each day.

• Discuss your symptoms with your medical provider.

Move forward to work out the property damage claim on your vehicle, but tell the bodily injury adjuster, “Please don’t call me. My attorney or I will reach out when we have more information.”

Darin Luneckas of Luneckas Law, of Cedar Rapids, focuses on workers’ compensation and personal injury cases.

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