Tips to Protect Your Rights Against Powerful Insurance Companies
In the vast majority of personal injury claims, the main source of compensation for the injured person is not the wrongdoer’s bank account, but an insurance policy of some sort. Dealing with insurers means dealing with their attorneys, who are very experienced at what they do. Injured people deserve lawyers of their own who are equally skilled.
You will find that kind of lawyer at Gelber & O’Connell, LLC. We have become Western New York’s “personal” personal injury law firm because of our ability to take on insurance companies and come out victorious. We help our clients understand their rights and the obligations of insurance companies after an accident has occurred in an effort to maximize their compensation.
Do Not Accept a Settlement Offer
Following an auto wreck, crash or nearly any other type of accident, the injured person will receive a phone call from the at-fault party’s insurance company. Insurance adjusters frequently offer a settlement directly to the injured person. At the time, the offer may seem acceptable, but it is invariably less than you deserve. Insurers are worried about their own bottom line. We strongly advise you to speak with a personal injury lawyer before accepting any offer.
Be Careful What You Say
Insurance company representatives may try to engage you in a conversation about the accident, perhaps expressing sympathy. They are not your allies or friends. It is in your best interest to say as little as possible in these conversations. It is very easy to say things that damage the strength of your legal claim, which is exactly what the insurer wants. Always remember that you are under no obligation to speak to an insurance representative without your attorney present in person or on the telephone.
Dealing with Your Own Insurance Company
No-Fault insurance coverage
If you are injured in an auto accident in New York, there are strict timelines for filing a No-Fault application with your own insurance company, which is within 30 days of the accident. Because of the strict requirements in New York, it is advisable to obtain the services of an experienced personal injury law firm whose attorneys understand “No-Fault” laws.
Under New York’s No-Fault insurance law (also known as “Personal Injury Protection” or “PIP”), you are entitled to compensation for economic losses (meaning medical/health expenses, lost earnings, and certain other reasonable and necessary expenses related to injuries sustained) that result from an automobile accident, regardless of who causes the accident. Basic No-Fault provides coverage for the above economic losses, in accordance with the rules set up under the law, up to $50,000 per person to the driver and all passengers injured in your car, as well as any pedestrians injured by your car because of its operation and use in New York state. As discussed elsewhere, No-Fault benefits are not available to motorcyclists.
As an injured person, however, in addition, you are able to sue the other driver for negligence in causing the accident if you have suffered a “serious injury” as defined by No-Fault insurance law. Depending on the nature of the accident in which you are involved, you may need to know more about different aspects of the No-Fault insurance law in order to receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled. This may include optional insurance coverage such as APIP or OBEL, which not only has its own rules but also may involve subrogation rights back against you if you recover in your personal injury action. Our law firm has decades of experience with No-Fault and the optional coverages potentially available after an auto accident and is therefore well-suited to protect your interests. We will help you file your No-Fault forms and, additionally, help you understand your options so you can make the right decisions and take timely action to protect yourself after your accident.
Uninsured Motorists coverage (UM)
Another important feature of your auto insurance policy is bodily injury protection for you, all your family members who reside in your household and occupants of your car in the event you or they are injured as the result of the negligent actions of an uninsured driver or in a hit-and-run accident that occurs in New York state. In these circumstances, you will need to file a claim with your own insurance company to receive the compensation that is otherwise unavailable. With basic UM insurance, the amount of coverage is limited to New York’s minimum required limits for liability insurance, which are currently $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.
Supplemental UM/UIM Coverage (‘SUM’)
You also have the option of purchasing SUM insurance to protect you and your family for injuries suffered in a car accident that have a value in excess of the limits maintained by other negligent drivers. For an additional premium, which is nominal for the coverage you get, your insurance carrier must offer SUM coverage with limits up to the $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident. The maximum amount you can purchase, however, may not exceed the limits of your own liability policy. This supplemental coverage will pay for your injuries in circumstances when the other negligent driver does not carry sufficient limits on his vehicle to cover the value of your injuries and, additionally, extend the coverage to accidents that occur outside of New York state.
If SUM coverage has been purchased and you have an accident with another vehicle that is insured but has bodily injury liability limits lower than yours, or if such vehicle has no insurance at all, SUM coverage will be triggered. The amounts paid under your SUM coverage, if the injuries warrant it, will be the face amount of the purchased coverage reduced (offset) by any amounts recovered from the negligent driver’s auto liability insurance policy.
Although obtaining the above supplemental coverage is extremely important, and when triggered places you in direct contact with your own insurance company, do not be fooled into believing your own insurer will treat you fairly because you have faithfully paid your premiums. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an injured person’s own carrier to refuse to pay out a fair amount when presented with a SUM claim and usually requires the involvement of an attorney to represent the interests of the injured insured against its own insurance company
The Bottom Line
There are strict timelines in New York for filing papers with your insurance company when you are in an auto accident. In addition, speaking to insurance companies without proper legal guidance can cause complications down the road. At Gelber & O’Connell, LLC, we are always available to meet with you to discuss your rights and obligations concerning insurance coverage as well as the obligations of the insurance company to you, which will help to level the playing field between you and the insurance company.
Contact a dedicated and compassionate lawyer today
To arrange for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney at Gelber & O'Connell, LLC, contact us at 716-633-5050. Or, if you prefer, complete this form and one of our lawyers will contact you.