What Should I Do If The Other Party’s Insurance Contacts Me?
There are times when you have to give a statement, but you would want to have consulted with an attorney first. In addition to the deposition, which we discussed earlier, there is a thing called a sworn statement. What that means is that you and your attorney are going to be able to tell your side of the story in a professional manner. The way to give proper testimony is to show up on time, dress professionally, and be kind and courteous. It may be hard to be courteous because someone has hurt you and now the insurance company is questioning you. Not only that, they are making you take the day off of work to come to some office building that is far from your home. This is nerve-wracking, and it may be difficult to be nice to the insurance company lawyer.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the research on jurors shows that when accident victims are kind, courteous, and hardworking, they tend to get a higher award in court. If the jury likes you, they give you more money. The insurance company attorney knows this and gives you a grade on how likable you are. After I train you on how to give your statement, you are going to get a better grade from the insurance company and their representative. This factor goes into their software and sinks right down to the bottom line.
Research also shows that people who try to get back to work quickly are much more likable. My clients often ask me, “Mr. Balke, should I stay off work?” I tell them to get back to work as soon as you are able, just as you normally would. If you have to make different accommodations for yourself, then that is something we document. For example, many people find that they can get back to work, but may need to take pain medication or assistance from co-workers to perform tasks that they used to do by themselves. Jurors love somebody who tries to fight their way back against long odds. I call this the “Rocky Factor,” after the hard-luck boxer played by Sylvester Stallone.
However, when a jury hears that you have been off work for months or years since the accident, they automatically start to think of you as lazy. The average juror believes that they would have gotten back to work by now, even if they really wouldn’t have. When it comes time for that juror to allow money for lost income, the juror resists. In fact, they resist awarding money for anything, including medical bills or pain and suffering. But, if that same juror hears that the injured party got back to work by making accommodations or even re-training themselves to work a different way, the opposite happens: that juror starts to think about making a higher award across the board. The plaintiff now has the “Rocky Factor” working for them. Everybody likes Rocky and will like the plaintiff more, too.
Example 3: “Nice Guy” David
You may have heard that nice guys finish last. That is true many times, but not in litigation. The plaintiff—you—is the most important factor in an accident case, and perhaps in a way that is not immediately obvious. I want to talk about a case I once had with a young man named David. David was a 21-year-old person that had just gotten his pilot’s license. He was clean-cut, all-American, handsome, and a nice kid. To celebrate his pilot’s license, he went to a nightclub and had a few drinks. He decided after the bar closed that he was not going to drive home, so he walked. He had to walk home down Golf Road, which is a major highway that has multiple lanes going each way. As David was walking along the side of the highway, he saw a kitten preparing to cross Golf Road.
The story writes itself from here: David decided to run into the middle of the road to save the kitten from being hit by a car. In the process, David was hit by the car himself and thrown some distance. When he landed, his leg was more crooked than the State Legislature. Later on, the insurance company gave David a call. They asked him, “David, whose fault do you think this accident is,” and just like anyone else, David responded, “I am sorry, this is one-hundred percent my fault. It’s not anybody else’s fault. It’s mine and mine alone.” So the adjuster said to him, “Are you sure it’s not anybody else’s fault—it’s one-hundred percent your fault?” David said, “Yes, and I am sorry for what happened.”
In Illinois, the legal standard is that you cannot collect a dime if you are over fifty percent at fault. With that in mind, the insurance company used the recorded statement of David saying that he was one hundred percent at fault. They brought this statement to me and said, “There is no way, Mr. Balke, that you can show that it is fifty percent of the driver’s fault. That is the law in Illinois. If you are more than fifty percent responsible for your own injury, you cannot collect.”
When the insurance company reviewed my presentation, however, they started to get nervous. David was the most perfect client in the whole world, maybe short of Mother Teresa. Not only was he trying to save a kitten, but he was also a handsome young kid: the kind of person that you would want your daughter to go out on a date with. At the end of the process, the insurance company buckled and paid David a settlement because he was such a nice person: he was trying to save a kitten; he was walking home from the bar instead of driving; he had just received his pilot’s license; and he was sorry. Ultimately, the insurance company felt it was in their best interest to pay, even though David gave a recorded statement saying that he was one hundred percent liable.
The point of this story is, that when you show how responsible you are in seeking follow-up treatment, and if you try to be an all-around good person, it will go a long way toward resolving your case.
For more information on Interaction With Other Party’s Insurance, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 495-5598 today.
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