What to Expect When Making GEICO Claims for Car Wrecks
GEICO: 2nd Largest Automobile Insurance Company in the U.S.
Don’t let the cute little lizard on the commercials fool you, GEICO is a giant in the auto insurance industry. GEICO was founded in 1936. Since then they have grown to become the second-largest automobile insurer in the United States. Only State Farm is bigger. GEICO currently insures over 15 million drivers across the country. Thus, there are numerous GEICO claims pending at any given moment.
GEICO Claims Adjusters Arguing Fault/Liability
The claims adjusters at every insurance company may argue with you as to who is “at fault” or liable for the accident. We have seen some GEICO cases where the adjuster argues to the person who was rear-ended that he was 50% at fault for a rear-end auto collision. This tactic can discourage the injured party from getting the medical care that he needs out of fear that he will be out-of-pocket for the bills. Fear of non-coverage of the bills can make a victim even more victimized than the accident! If you are being told that your bills will not be taken care of by an at-fault party’s insurance carrier, you should speak to an attorney about your rights.
GEICO Claims Adjusters Recording Conversations
Many times when you seek to file a claim, the adjuster will tell you they would like to do a recorded statement. We recommend that you never agree to do this. Anything you say on those recordings can be used against you. Anything you agree to in haste is binding. One poor accident victim learned this the hard way when he agreed to settle early on before realizing the full extent of his injuries and a Court of Appeals ruled that he was out of luck because an oral settlement agreement is binding.
Even if they do not ask, you should always assume that everything you say is being recorded. Did you know that in Texas they do not have to ask your permission to record what you say? Both Federal Law and Texas Law allow the recording of a telephone conversation so long as one party consents. (If anyone is out of state, there could be other state laws that prohibit this, but so long as all parties to the conversation are in Texas, only one must consent to the recording.) Thus, it is always best to assume all that you say is being recorded and that it can and will be used against you.
GEICO Claims Adjusters Reducing the Medical Bills For “Usual and Customary” Charges
GEICO, like many insurers, does not necessarily go by to the billed amount of your medical bills. Quite often, they reduce the bills based upon what they have determined to be the “usual and customary” charges for the same care in the same area. It is not uncommon to see an insurance company using this method to reduce the medical bills to less than the actual amount you owe and then make an offer that is based on these amounts. The total offer may even come out for less than what you owe!
In litigation, their “in house” attorneys (or “captive counsel”) may hire their own “expert” witnesses who testify, often by affidavit, that the billed amounts are not reasonable and therefore should not be “allowed.” These so-called experts may be nurse practitioners, doctors, chiropractors or any number of different professionals.
ClaimsTECH Solutions Buying Hospital Liens
One of the most recent tactics we have seen from GEICO is the strategy of buying an injured person’s hospital lien for a fraction of the original charge from the hospital via a company called ClaimTECH Solutions. While paying your hospital bill at a reduced rate might seem like a noble thing to do, the motives for this are not so altruistic.
When a case goes to trial, juries often will link the pain and suffering award to some fraction/multiple of the medical bills. When the medical bills are low, this can act as an anchor to keep the jury from awarding a large amount. Additionally, in Texas, you are only allowed to show the jury the actual amount incurred for medical expenses not the original amount charged when there is a discount taken. So that $20,000.00 hospital bill that gets settled for $5,000.00, now appears to the jury as it was only a $5,000.00 bill—thereby giving the jury the false impression that it was not as serious of an accident and therefore not worthy of a high pain and suffering award.
Once the hospital bill is settled for a fraction of the charge, then an insurance adjuster can use this lower settlement number as their basis for calculating a settlement value on the claim. The result is that you can expect a lower total settlement offer. Insurance companies can do this when you do not have a lawyer in part because the hospitals typically make you sign an assignment of benefits to the hospital which gives them the ability to pursue and negotiate with the insurance company without telling you if you do not know to take action to protect your rights.
How Can You Fight GEICO When They Try to Pay Off The Lien and Devalue Your Case?
There are several tools a car accident lawyer can use to combat this practice. One thing that can be done early on, is that the lawyer can send a letter to the hospital notifying them that the lawyer, by contract, has an assignment in the case and that the hospital is not authorized to negotiate the bills. After that, any such attempt by the medical provider to negotiate could constitute tortious interference with the attorney-client contract thereby potentially exposing the insurance company and/or the hospital to liability. Second, a lawsuit can be filed against GEICO for interfering with the attorney-client contract by paying bills that are subject to an attorney’s lien.
The Importance of Speaking to an Attorney Early
All of the above tactics that may be used by GEICO and/or other insurers are aimed at devaluing your claim. Getting an attorney early on is the best way to combat these tactics. Indeed, both of the methods of combating GEICO’s lien payoff tactic require that the client engage an attorney early. It is the contract between the attorney and client that allows the attorney to demand the hospital and insurance company to cease and desist in interfering with the contract. If you have been in an accident with GEICO, get legal advice before you try to fight this large corporation on your own. You do not have to go it alone. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. for a free consultation today.