Opinion

Hergott: Be honest and forthright with adjuster

“Do not sign anything” is a stern warning I see or hear from time to time from some personal injury lawyers.

Use that phrase as a Google search criteria and the first page of results includes a brief video of a California lawyer saying that if the insurance company asks you to sign something fast, it is probably a good clue that it’s not in your best interests to do so.

I have seen and heard the warning by some British Columbia lawyers as well.

The warning implies that the insurance company is poised and ready to trick you into signing something you shouldn’t sign, that you need to immediately hire a lawyer to protect you from the insurance company trickery.

Perhaps that is the case with some insurance companies, but in my experience it is not the case with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

I am typically hired after an injured victim has dealt directly with an ICBC adjuster for at least a few months.

It is extremely rare that anything signed for the insurance adjuster before my involvement has had a negative impact on a claim.

Yes, it would be ideal to obtain a few minutes of free legal advice, even by telephone, before meeting with the insurance adjuster to fill out and sign the required documentation, but it’s certainly not critical.

My key advice about dealing with an insurance adjuster is to be honest and forthright.

Some people are fearful that their full disclosure will be used against them.

As I’ve advised in previous columns, injury claims are all about credibility.

Failure to give the straight goods to anyone involved in the claim, including the insurance adjuster, will kill your credibility and seriously compromise your chances of achieving fair compensation for a bona fide injury.

You don’t have to worry that paperwork you sign, such as for accepting a payout for your vehicle, or accepting a $500 advance to cover expenses, will include fine print signing off on your injury claim.

That simply won’t happen. Claim settlement documentation is exceedingly clear and is not buried within other paperwork.

I am not advising against involving a lawyer with your personal injury claim.

I recommend getting perhaps a half an hour of free advice, early on after a collision, to get the “lay of the land” and pointers about how to maximize the prospect of eventually achieving fair compensation for your losses.

I then recommend that any settlement offer be reviewed carefully with a personal injury lawyer, again on a free consultation basis, so as to get the straight goods about what compensation for your losses is fair compensation.

Just like I can assure you that an insurance adjuster will not play tricks with the paperwork, I can assure you that you can’t trust what the insurance adjuster tells you about the value of your claim.

This column is intended to provide general information about injury claims.  It is not a substitute for retaining a lawyer to provide legal advice specifically pertaining to your case. Paul Hergott is a lawyer  at Hergott Law in West Kelowna.

paul@hlaw.ca

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