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Dealing With Auto Insurance After a Car Accident

Video Transcript:

Samantha Pryor:

I have seen times where folks have tried to handle claims on their own and have not been able to get the type of recovery that they would have ordinarily been able to achieve with an attorney.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you're injured in an auto accident, are you sure you know how you should deal with the insurance company? Well, we're going to find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer. Hi again, everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Denver attorney Samantha Pryor, who is a former insurance lawyer, so she has a unique perspective on all this for us.

I want to remind you right at the top though, if you'd like to ask Samantha a question about your specific situation, all you’ve got to do is head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can ask away right there. Samantha, good to see you. Thank you so much for helping us out today.

Samantha Pryor:

Hello. Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Rob Rosenthal:

So I mentioned that in the past you worked on the insurance company side of things. Tell us a little bit about that and your experience with those things and who you represent these days. 

Samantha Pryor:

Yes, sure. So thanks again for having me; it's a pleasure to be here. And yes, I started my career as an insurance defense council. So in that role, I worked at another law firm where that law firm was hired by a number of different insurance companies to represent its insurers when they were sued. So in that role I handled a lot of different types of cases, employment, personal injury, construction defect even, and so I would work with the insurance companies in evaluating claims; I would work with the insurance adjusters to determine how much a case was worth and how much to put up in reserves, and then I would work with the insurance company and its insured in either resolving a case through settlement negotiations or at trial. So with that experience, I realized that people who are injured really need an attorney who understands that aspect of claims, and so in 2012, I decided to start the Halliburton Law Firm. And now at the Halliburton Law Firm, we represent injured parties. Having the experience as an insurance defense council really gives us a unique perspective and value-added service to our clients because we understand the language and we understand how things work with insurance companies.

Rob Rosenthal:

Let's just talk about some of the pitfalls that you know of that you see and you have learned in your experience when somebody's injured in an accident and has a claim. What are some of the pitfalls that they may make when it comes to filing?

Samantha Pryor:

Sure. So I think it actually goes back a little bit further before you're injured. A lot of folks unfortunately find themselves waiving important coverages that should apply to them. So as a general matter, when you have insurance, it should carry underinsured motorist coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, and medical payments coverage. So those coverages, like I said, are usually part of the policy unless they're waived, and unfortunately, the insurance companies tend to get a little bit tricky on renewing these important types of coverages. So a lot of times you'll be renewing your insurance policy and they send you the document on DocuSign, and a lot of those waivers are pre-checked. So here's why it's important. For example, if you're involved in a hit and run accident where someone hits you from behind and then takes off, they don't have insurance, then you need to be looking at your own insurance for uninsured motorist coverage. So what ends up happening is when people come to the Halliburton Law Firm, and for example, if they've been involved in a hit and run, we're not able to get compensation unless there is insurance available, and so if the uninsured motorist coverage is weighed, then unfortunately that doesn't leave much for the person who was injured. So we try to encourage people to get the right type of insurance and make sure that it's not waived.

This is why it's important also to consult with an attorney as well if you have questions about your insurance policy. So those are some of the pitfalls we have as well. Medical payments coverage, which is called Med Pay for short, usually it's up to $5000 in your own insurance policy that pays up to $5,000 no matter who's at fault, and that's in addition to any sort of compensation that you'd be able to obtain from an actual party, but if that coverage is waived, then that leaves less available to the injured party to pay medical bills and things like that.

Rob Rosenthal:

It's interesting that sometimes when it comes time to renew people may not even realize they're waiving it. That's interesting to know. So you mentioned underinsured and uninsured that's UM or UIM insurance. What else should people know about that? How much of that should they get generally? What's your advice?

Samantha Pryor:

I would recommend that people get more than just the minimum amount required under the law, I believe it's $25,000. However, you never really know what's going to happen. And the insurance is there to protect your personal assets from, for example, someone coming after your assets, if the insurance coverage is not enough. So for purposes of uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage, it's important that you have enough to protect and care for your own injuries if you're involved in an auto accident where someone takes off and doesn't have insurance to cover your injuries.

Rob Rosenthal:

So what should people know about when it comes to medical claims or medical payments? What's your advice here? What should he know?

Samantha Pryor:

So it's really important that when you're in an auto accident and you're injured, it's important to seek medical attention right away. Your own insurance company should also know about your injuries to the extent they have or you have medical payments coverage. So when you are injured and you go to the emergency room, you're going to be billed or your insurance company will be billed, and the good thing about Colorado is that you get to collect from the at-fault party what's billed versus what's paid. That can make a really big difference if there are insurance companies involved that are paying your medical bills. 

So one of the things that medical payments coverage does is it gives the injured party additional funds to pay for medical expenses, even if the party is at fault. So all that needs to be done is the insurance company needs to receive the medical bills and the records to determine whether or not the medical treatment was associated with the event that brought the claim. The Halliburton law firm asks insurance companies to send medical payments to the firm's trust account, and then what we do is we negotiate at the end of the case; we will negotiate with the medical providers to bring down the balance of the medical expenses, and then we'll use the medical payments to then satisfy medical bills, and then the remaining amount goes to the client.

Rob Rosenthal:

So, Samantha, I think people say they're injured in an accident and someone else is at fault; they probably think that their own insurance company has their best interest at heart; that they’re really going to back me 100%. Is that always the case?

Samantha Pryor:

Unfortunately, it's not always the case. In fact underinsured and underinsured motorist claims are, unfortunately, adversarial in nature. I always have this conversation with these adjusters because it's their own insured who is filing for a claim for benefits that they've been paying for. So it is oftentimes an adversarial process when you are filing an under-insured or uninsured motorist claim. Either way, that insurance is there for you when you're involved in an accident and need coverage. So that's why it's important to have an attorney who understands the law and understands how underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage actually applies to someone's case.

Rob Rosenthal:

And having an attorney like yourself who understands the insurance companies also can really be beneficial I assume.

Samatha Pryor:

Yes, absolutely. There are instances where, for example, the uninsured motorist carrier will deny a claim, will only value the claim at a certain level because they don't know the law, and so a lot of times it's about educating the insurance company on what the law is in Colorado, because the insurance adjusters can be all over the country.

Rob Rosenthal:

You mentioned the importance of having an attorney on your side to help you through all this. Some people may say, “Well, that's going to cost me money, and I have to worry about paying fees for the attorney.” Talk to us a little bit about why that's worth it; why it's worth it for people to have a personal injury attorney such as yourself, help them in these kinds of situations.

Samantha Pryor:

Sure, yeah, that's a really important question. It is always important to get a lawyer involved when you have a personal injury claim, and the really good thing for clients is that usually when you have a personal injury case, the attorney will only charge a contingency fee. The contingency fee is a fee that is paid only when the attorney is able to obtain a judgment or a settlement on your behalf. So in Colorado, it's usually a percentage of the settlement or the judgment, and usually that's 33 and a ⅓ or a third of a settlement without having to file the lawsuit; a lot of lawyers will increase that fee once they take more risks, such as filing a lawsuit that will increase, and even going to trial, the fee will increase as well, but the good thing about, again, about the contingency fee is that the injured party will not pay out of their pocket for those fees. The fees will come directly out of the settlement or the judgment, and the client will not have to pay a settlement or a judgment if the attorney is not successful on the claim. So I have seen times where folks have tried to handle claims on their own and have not been able to get the type of recovery that they would have ordinarily been able to achieve with an attorney.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of really helpful information, Samantha. Thank you so much for taking some time to answer our questions. I appreciate it. 

Samantha Pryor:

You're welcome. Thank you. 

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Denver attorney Samantha Pryor. Remember, if you'd like to ask a question of Samantha about your specific situation, just head over to askthelawyers.com, there's a button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”. Click there and it will walk you right through the process; it doesn't cost anything to ask. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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