In May of this year, I was hit by a car while riding my bike.
As it happens, I was very fortunate, I wasnt too badly hurt, and the lady who was driving was a) insured and b) very helpful.
So anyway, after a trip to the hospital I was diagnosed with a fractured wrist, and a broken toe, it was at that point I started being told to ‘get a lawyer’. But as you may have guessed, I am not keen on the kind of ambulance chasing legal action which goes on these days, and which has massively inflated not only our general insurance premiums, but also the bank balances of certain lawyers. So to put it mildly I wasnt keen to go down that route.
However, I was in a quandry, I wanted to get compensated for the work that I was unable to do for a month while my wrist repaired, and I also felt it was fair to ask the insurers to pay me something by way of compensation for the pain I had suffered. Granted a broken wrist is not the most horrific of injuries, but it’s sore none-the-less, and jolly inconvenient, as is a broken toe.
So on reflection I decided to speak to the insurers and see if I couldnt deal with them myself, without suing anyone, and without retaining the services of a law firm. To put it mildly the insurers were suprised and a bit taken aback, but they finally accepted that yes, they could indeed do their job and work with me as an individual, instead of entering into some ridiculous legal battle.
I have now, within six months, got a small settlement from them, which compensates me adequately, and hasnt contributed to the advancement of insurance premiums for everyone else. Nor have I sued anyone – which is something I am very glad about – it was an accident after all!
So anyway, if you feel like me, and you would prefer not to use lawyers in a simple accident situation, here are my top tips for dealing with an insurance company without resorting to legal action. To be totally clear, I am not a legal expert, and my experience is only really relevant to those who have simple injuries which are completely healed within a few months. As the insurers would no doubt tell you, if your inury is complex or serious, you will need to do something else. However, even if you do enter into a ‘direct’ dealing with the insurers, you still have the right to retain legal help should you need it.
Top tips on dealing directly with an insurance company.
First of all – when you are hit by a car, van, bus, whatever, find out who their insurer is, and take their details as if it were a car accident. You can then contact them. And when you do…
1) Don’t be greedy – an accident should not be seen as an earning opportunity. It is an accident. If you treat it that way, and they do too, then you can come to a reasonable agreement.
2) Document everything that happens, from your visits to the hospital to your correspondance with the insurers, and keep a file with all the details and documents. Take photographs of any damage, and write down anything that happened in a clear and precise way. Be prepared to send them any information they need, and comply readily with their requests for you to get medical assesments done etc.
3) Be scrupulously open and honest. This goes with the first point about not being greedy, don’t try and claim for things which aren’t real, dont claim your bike was a £2000.00 Trek when it was a £50.00 mongrel, and dont say you have whiplash if you just bent your finger back. Don’t say anything you can’t demonstrate is true, and don’t try to con anyone, as it’s wrong, and you will probably get caught. If the accident was your own flippin’ fault – then dont try and blame someone else either, that isnt fair.
4) Confirm that any compensation to be paid in respect of injury is in line with the guidelines set out by the Judicial Studies Board. Just writing to the insurers to say this should show them that you know what is expected of them, and will hopefully mean they wont try and fob you off with a fiver for a broken arm. To explain compensation for a moment – you need to understand that there are three ways in which it will be paid: a) your bike or skateboard , clothing or whatever else was damaged in your accident should be replaced – they should pay you the replacement value. b) any lost work should be compensated, you will need to demonstrate that you have lost money, they will want paperwork for this. c) you are entitled to be compensated for any injuries – guidelines for how much you should be paid are set out by the JSB, but you should understand that if like me you have two injuries, or more, then its not like a shopping list, the full price doesnt get added on with each injury, because in each case there is an amount for emotional disturbance included, and this would not be doubled just because you hurt your nose AND your toe.
If you do these things, and nag the insurance company to make sure they havent forgotten about you, then they should treat you properly, and the whole thing can be sorted out amicably between you and the insurer concerned. That way we avoid making lawyers even richer, and help keep down the insurance premiums for everyone.