Imagine you’ve been in a car accident – nothing serious, but your injuries are enough to send you to the hospital to get checked out. You have head, neck, and back pain. The doctors note some whiplash and send you home with pain medication and a caveat that you may feel worse the next few days. A few days later the at-fault driver’s insurance company calls and offers you a settlement for your hospital bills and an additional $500 to settle your case. You think, cool…an extra $500. And they want to settle so quickly. You’re busy and you’d just as soon put this all behind you. So you accept the offer and cash the $500 check.
Life is good. Or so you thought.
A month later you begin to get consistent migraines and you have tingling down your left leg that has gotten progressively worse. You go back to the doctor and learn that you have a concussion and a slipped disk, which will require an operation and weeks of rehab and treatment. The doc notes that these secondary issues likely stemmed from your car accident.
What do you do? You might as well cry. When you cashed that $500 insurance check, you settled with the insurance company whether you were aware of it or not.
The insurance company duped you into falling for what is known as the “swoop and settle.”
By cashing that check, you absolved them of any further liability. And now you’re on the hook for your own medical bills. We’ve seen this rush to settle to be a favorite ploy among some insurance companies to try to trick injury victims into settling prematurely in an effort to pay them as little as possible.
The “Swoop and Settle” Insurance Tactic
Here is how swoop and settle typically works. An insurance company representative contacts you very soon after a wreck and makes you a lowball settlement offer. They know you have a lot going on, you’re probably in pain, have no car to drive, and could be missing work. And the insurance company may try to settle before any “secondary” injuries manifest.
This is a confusing time for victims, and the insurance company may try to take advantage of your confusion to get you to settle for way less than your case is worth, and to give up your rights before you know how badly you are hurt or before you have had time to talk to a lawyer to learn about the many rights you have to fight for more money. The idea is to get you to quickly settle for a miniscule amount before you even know the full extent of your injuries. To many people, this quick cash seems too good to be true. But you know what they say about that – too good to be true usually is.
Sadly, we’ve seen a lot of our non-English-speaking clients (especially Hispanic clients) become victims of “swoop and settle.” When one of our paralegals had called to make initial contact with a new client, he said his insurance company sent him a check and that he cashed it that morning. It was money in the mail and he didn’t think twice – so he took it to the bank. The insurance company didn’t give him a chance, but what’s worse is the check was only for $500.
We also represented a client who had an adjuster come into the client’s house, make an offer and sit on the couch, refusing to leave until someone accepted his offer. The client didn’t know what to do.
These are just two of dozens of examples of insurance company tactics we feature in our free downloadable booklet Insurance Companies (and others) Behaving Badly. Read it if you dare. It’s a real shocker.
Beware the Recorded Statement
As part of any accident protocol, the insurance company will likely call you as soon as possible for a “recorded statement.” What you say to the insurance representative and the words you choose on this recorded statement are extremely important to your settlement. (Click here for five things not to say on a recorded statement.)
The recorded statement is so important, I advise my clients not to give one unless they have consulted with me first, or I am on the phone with them during that statement.
We’ve seen it time and time again. The representative may likely ask you leading questions that may get you to admit partial fault, or answer in such a way that your own words may be used against you in court, if it comes to that. Even something as simple as “How are you doing today,” needs to be dealt with carefully. If you respond, “Oh, I’m fine, thank you,” some insurance companies may try to interpret that to mean you are indeed fine from a medical perspective. When all the while, you were speaking rhetorically.
Other Insurance Tactics to Try to Pay You Less
Most insurance companies are for-profit companies. Their profit, not yours. And many of them have a variety of methods to try to keep as much of their money as possible. Learn some surprising ways some insurance companies have devised to keep money you potentially deserve out of your hands.
Why Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Get a Lawyer
The real reason insurance companies don’t want you to get a lawyer? Insurance industry studies show that, on average, car accident victims who handled claims on their own received 3.5X LESS compensation for their loss than they would have if they hired a personal injury lawyer.3
What Can an Accident Lawyer Do for You?
We will deal with the insurance company and your medical bills for you. All you have to do is follow your doctor’s orders and heal up as quickly as possible. While you’re healing, we’ll do all the heavy lifting to try to:
- Prove damages
- Determine fault
- Prevent and deflect insurance stalling tactics
- Investigate claims
- Secure evidence
- Negotiate a fair settlement
You may have a right to maximum compensation for:
- Medical and rehabilitation bills
- Lost time from work
- Cost of vehicle repairs
- Diminished earning capacity for permanent injuries
Not only do we offer a free case evaluation, but you pay us nothing upfront and no attorney’s fee if we don’t recover for you.
NC Car Wreck Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation
If you see a check in the mail or are offered a settlement too soon, that is a red flag. If you cash that check, you just may be cashing in your financial future. Take your time and talk to an experienced car accident attorney before settling your case.
3Insurance Research Council, 1999.