Interviewer: What do people tell you when they’ve been in accident? What are the most common things you hear?
Roy Comer: Most of them don’t really know what to do because most of them have never been in a collision before. They’re concerned about rumors they’ve heard about how the system works and they’re afraid they’re going to be cheated. They’re concerned that no one is going to believe that they were injured. They’re concerned that they will be ignored by the insurance company. They really do need somebody to answer some questions and guide them through the process. Some of them don’t know how to get appropriate medical care. Some of them are afraid that they’re going to be taken advantage of even if know what’s going on. Some simply need somebody to guide them through the process because they’re either too busy or unsure of themselves or lack the ability to communicate effectively with somebody that’s going to be in an adversarial position.
People Mistakenly Believe that the Other Party’s Insurance will Cover their Medical Bills Upfront
Some potential clients don’t have adequate (or any) medical insurance or sufficient resources to pay for their needed medical care. Some believe that, in principle, the defendant’s insurance company should pay for their medical expenses upfront. Some people mistakenly believe that the dangerous driver’s insurance company will just automatically pay for their medical bills. It doesn’t work like that. The injured person has to wait till the end of the case and get one settlement that covers all of the expenses: attorney’s fees and costs as well as medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering. That is one of the misconceptions that people have: that the attorney can call up an insurance company and get it to pay their medical bills before the case is over. That doesn’t happen in California.
Common Client Experiences with Insurance Adjusters and Personal Injury Attorneys
Interviewer: When people first contact you, have they already been “through the ringer” with their insurance company, or do they usually come to you immediately after the accident?
Roy Comer: Some have been treated badly by an insurance company representative. Others have been ignored. In my experience, most potential clients haven’t been mistreated. After all, the claims representatives are trained to be polite and insistent. They try to get a statement in which the injured person admits that the accident was at least partly their fault, or an admission that the injuries are not that painful, etc. If the injured person doesn’t call them back, the representative can be very persistent. I’ve had clients that tell me the claims representative have actually come to their home or workplace unannounced in an effort to get statements and photos. Sometimes my clients have told me they are afraid to return calls to the insurance company because of their fear that their words will be taken out of context. I believe that any injured person needs to be properly cautious about giving a statement to the insurance company because that statement is not being taken to help them; it’s only intent is to be used against them. There is a time and place to disclose information about the facts and circumstances of the accident as well as the nature and extent of the injuries suffered. Over the years, I’ve found that there is rarely any benefit to the injured person to hurry to do this.
Unguarded Statements to Any Insurance Company Can Be Harmful Rather than Helpful
So, it has been my experience that unguarded statements to the insurance company can hurt rather than help. When people come in to see me, they’re usually referred by personal friends, family members, friends from church, students from the law school where I teach, or other lawyers. They come in wanting somebody to come alongside them with strength and compassion, to believe that they’re legitimately injured, to help them sort out the complexities of the legal system, to be a strong and effective advocate on their part. They just don’t want to get shortchanged, made fun of and disbelieved. Almost every client I see has come to me because they don’t think they can do it themselves and they need the help of a competent and compassionate advocate. That’s who I am and what I continue to strive to be.