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Dale Gribow Dec. 1, 2014

Snowbirds and locals, in recent accidents related to traffic from recent concerts or end of season parties, will soon realize that the evil insurance companies will deny and delay settlements. But why are insurance companies not treating victims fairly as they did in the past and how can victims reverse this process?

This refusal to treat victims fairly has resulted in lawyers putting in a lot more time to resolve or try the case...if they accept the case. I say IF because lawyers know that without bad faith law to protect citizens it will be a long and tough road ahead and no one can afford to take a small case to trial. Unfortunately, citizens mistakenly voted with the insurance companies and against the interests of victims when they did not see the value of bad faith laws.

This current scenario requires all victims to be more diligent than ever preparing a case. They must convince the carrier this case should be settled quickly and fairly. But how do you get in that posture?

I formerly had a radio show entitled "Accidentally Yours" where we discussed what to do if you were in an accident. The first thing I suggested on each show is that "people don't plan to fail, they just fail to plan". I urged my listeners to decide now which lawyer they would call for an accident. Have a lawyer's information handy... just as you would the information for a plumber or an electrician.

After an accident call the police and convince them to take a traffic accident report. The report and immediate medical treatment at a hospital or urgent care center is crucial today to support claimed injuries.

An accident case is an information gathering game that is now necessitated by insurance companies recent hard line approach. With your cell phone take photos of the damage to both cars, as well as your injuries and those of the other party. Also use it to record statements from witnesses and the defendant driver.

I advise my clients to get a spiral notebook to use as a journal to note the name, address, cell and email of all parties and witnesses. Then start with the top of your head and work down to the bottom of your toes listing daily what hurts.

There may be new pains every day so list them daily as well as your loss of enjoyment of life. Take this journal to your doctor appointments so that you do not forget to tell your medical provider all of your medical and psychological complaints.

If you do not relate all your medical symptoms to your doctor then today's insurance companies will assume you did not have that symptom. Each doctor must include all your symptoms in the medical report your lawyer will request.

I always suggest you see a doctor you have not seen before and one that knows how to write a med/legal report. Otherwise when the insurance company subpoenas your medical records from your former doctor it may show things you do not want to disclose: drug use, STD, mental illness, alcohol addiction, psychological issues, etc.

Journalize what you were NOT able to do because of the accident? For instance did you have to cancel a party you were throwing or attending? Did you cancel a vacation or were you unable to lift your minor child or grandchild?

Do not discuss liability or talk to either insurance company because if the other side is uninsured you will bring a UM claim where we collect from your carrier. Either insurance company will size you up to determine how saleable you would be to a jury. They look at how you dress, were your shoes shined, nails clean, tats, etc.?

The adjuster pumps you for information and it is not just what you say but what they thought they heard you say. They might think because you live in Palm Springs that you are a golfer or a tennis player and then ask whether you played recently. If you were well enough to play a sport they will later argue you were not as injured as you claimed to your doctor.

When they look at the property damage they ask to take pictures of the damage and ask you to stand next to the car and point to the damage. Right before they take the picture they say "smile". Now they have a picture of you bending and smiling when you complained your pain is so bad you cannot bend and certainly would not be smiling.

Please understand you will not be treated fairly by the insurance company without an attorney. In California we previously had "bad faith laws" to protect citizens. They required the insurance company to deal fairly with claimants, but that was mistakenly voted out by citizens mistaken as to what it would do.

Lawyer's contingency fees level the playing field so that victims can afford to hire the best. A good lawyer assists in finding a doctor to treat on a lien. Thus you do not pay for treatment until the case settles.

When selecting a lawyer, look at the AVVO legal rating system and choose a 10.0 lawyer and one who has been recognized as a TOP LAWYER by Palm Springs Life. A lawyer's community involvement is also important because it is symbolic of the respect the insurance company will have for the attorney.