Insurance Claims – Notify the Insurance Company!

Seems sort of obvious, doesn’t it? But, there are different ways to notify the company that you’ve had a loss. And when you notify the insurance company can make a big difference in how your claim is handled.

The first place to look for information is on your policy. Many policies will have a telephone number listed for reporting a claim. However, I’ve seen policies that require the policyholder to notify the company in writing. So, make sure that the method of reporting your claim is acceptable to the insurance company. Likely, your agent has his name and telephone number on the policy. If so, call him and report the loss also.

Sometimes, an agent will have settlement authority to handle small losses, such as homeowner’s losses under $2,000.00. In that kind of instance, the agent could handle the claim for you. I’ve found this situation to be rare, though. Occasionally, captive agents (agents that work for only one company, like Allstate, Nationwide or Liberty Mutual) will have a small amount of settlement authority.

The first thing you should remember is that the agent is licensed by the Department of Insurance in his state to be an agent. There is a separate license for claims adjusters. It’s actually a violation of insurance regulations for an agent to do claims adjusting. It’s not his job to handle your claim, but to assist you in buying the coverage that’s right for you. Agents can be very helpful by making calls on your behalf if you’re having problems in your claim. They can be helpful in finding out key names and phone numbers for insurance company personnel that are handling your claim. If the agent has a large number of policyholders with that company, and his clientele represents a large amount of premium to that insurance company, it can be very helpful to have the agent call on your behalf when you’re having problems.

After all, it’s all about customer service, and keeping the promises made in the insurance policy.

Sometimes, the agent or an office secretary/customer service representative will fill out a claim form (called an ACORD form), and submit the claim form to the insurance company on your behalf. In this age of the Internet, frequently the claim form is electronic, and the agent will submit the electronic form by computer.

If the agent notifies the company on your behalf, and uses some type of form, ask the agent to send you a copy of the completed form. Then, you’ll be certain that the claim was submitted, and the date the claim was submitted.

Many times, however, the agent will have to refer you to the claims department of the insurance company. Your policy may have a telephone number for the claims department listed on the policy, and instructions how to make a claim.

Your policy requires you to notify the insurance company “in a timely manner” after you’ve had a claim. What is timely? It varies policy to policy. But each state has statutes of limitation that limit the amount of time after a claim occurrence that a claim can be made. Check with your state’s Department of Insurance to determine the statute of limitation where you live…or where the loss occurred. You’ll find a list of all of the Insurance Departments of all 50 U.S. states and their phone numbers in the Appendix, and at the website address shown below.

For example: you live in Minnesota, and own a retirement home in Florida. The Florida house gets hit by a hurricane. The statutes for Florida would apply.

WARNING: If you wait more than a month after your loss to notify the insurance company, they will be instantly suspicious. In those cases, you should expect to receive one of two forms from the insurance company before they begin their investigation of the loss:

Non-Waiver Agreement. This basically states that the insurance company is going to do a thorough investigation of the claim, but that their investigation does not commit them to pay the claim. It states that they do not waive any of their rights under the policy, and that the insured does not waive any of his rights by cooperating with the investigation. The insurance company wants the insured to sign this form. However, if the Insured refuses to sign the form, the insurance company will send him a….

Reservation of Rights letter. This states basically the same thing as a Non-Waiver Agreement, but the Insured does not have to sign it.

Don’t forget to write in your claim journal the date, time, who you spoke with, the phone number you called, and what was said when you reported your claim. That information could be very valuable later if you have problems with your claim.

Most likely, you’ll receive a claim number from the company when you report the loss. Write the claim number in your journal!!! Don’t expect the insurance company to quickly send you a form that has the claim number on it. Sometimes, it may be many days before the claims department sends you any correspondence, and you will likely need to speak with them before then.

WARNING: What about a situation in which someone else is at fault, and you’re making a claim against the other person’s insurance company? This could happen in an auto accident, or if someone causes damage to your house, or your contents. EVEN IN THIS SITUATION, you must notify your own insurance company that you’re involved in a claim.

The reason is that third party claims don’t always turn out well for you, the claimant. Sometimes, the other person’s insurance company denies liability or denies coverage. Sometimes, the other person’s insurance company drags the process out. Sometimes, the other person’s insurance company makes a settlement offer far below the fair value of the claim. Months may pass, and you have suffered a financial loss that is not getting paid.

What if you, or someone in your family, is injured in the claim…and the other guy’s insurance company won’t accept liability?

Those things might occur weeks or months after a loss. In many cases, you can short-cut that process and make a claim against your own insurance policy to repair the damages. Then your insurance company will do something called “Subrogation.” That is, they will pay your claim, and then contact the other person’s insurance company and demand reimbursement, including your deductible.

So, if you don’t report your claim right away, the policy might allow that insurance company to deny your claim based upon late reporting.

Besides, your policy REQUIRES you to notify the insurance company “promptly” after you have a loss of covered property. That requirement is there no matter who is at fault for the damages.

Don’t get caught in this technicality! Don’t lose your right to collect what you deserve when you notify the insurance company.

Now, I’d like to offer you two special reports at no cost. One is “5 Things To Do When Shopping For Car Insurance,” and the other is “5 Things To Avoid When Shopping For Car Insurance.” Each one is a $9.95 value, but free to you when you sign up for my newsletter at the website address below.

The Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Today’s Time

Criminal defense lawyers sometime get a not-so-flattering portrayal because people assume that they defend guilty people. However, if you are a defendant in a criminal proceeding, you need the assistance of a qualified criminal defense lawyer, regardless of your guilt or innocence. As the protectors and advocates of the accused, defense lawyers play a pivotal role in the United States justice system to see that everyone charged with a criminal act has an opportunity to defend themselves.

Defense Lawyers Protect the Rights of the Accused

First and foremost, a criminal defense lawyer’s role is to protect the rights of the accused. Upholding your rights under the Bill of Rights as set forth in the United States Constitution, criminal defense lawyers are bound by law to assist their clients by making sure you are treated fairly by the United States criminal justice system. Specifically, your criminal defense lawyer’s job is to see that you are allowed:

·The right to a trial by a jury of your peers;

·The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”;

· The right to a speedy and public trial;

· The right to remain silent;

·The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; and

·The right to legal counsel.

All these rights are guaranteed by the United States Constitution and are applicable to all states through the Fourteenth Amendment as well as United States Supreme Court case opinions. As such, a criminal defense lawyer is obligated to provide clients with protection against the overreach of the government in meting out punishment to any individual accused of a criminal offense. An experienced, qualified lawyer accomplishes this by challenging any government or law enforcement conduct that violates the rights of any United States citizen accused of a crime. Should a criminal defense lawyer fail to make reasonable efforts to protect your rights or provide effective assistance, he/she risks losing his/her license to practice law or other penalties (some of which could include jail time).

Criminal Lawyers Defend the Innocent

The second most important role of a criminal defense attorney is to defend the innocent. We see daily about overturned criminal cases where new evidence verifies the incarceration of an innocent person who has served time as a result of an incorrect guilty verdict. And, while for the most part, most clients of criminal defense attorneys are somewhat criminally culpable in the crime they have been charged with, on rare occasions, some of a lawyer’s clients are truly innocent. Though a rare occurrence, innocent people are accused and convicted of criminal offenses.

To combat the prosecution of the wrongly accused, criminal defense lawyers must be diligent in holding prosecutors and police accountable for every stage of their investigation in every case they handle. Thus, defense lawyers must take seriously their role as advocates for the innocent and the not-so-innocent to assure that the guilty don’t escape while the innocent are punished.

Therefore, to accomplish the task of upholding a client’s constitution rights and acting as a watchdog to oversee the conduct of police and prosecutors, a criminal defense lawyer must zealously pursue independent investigations into the crime for which a client has been accused to assure that at trial, that client is either completely exonerated or that there is enough evidence to prove that reasonable doubt exists to warrant his/her client’s release from custody.

And, while for the majority of instances, a person who has reached the point of a jury trial is guilty, defense attorneys are mandated to provide every client an opportunity to a fair trial. Guilty or not, everyone has the constitutional right to have a fair trial. With a strong belief in the adversarial nature of the criminal justice system, reputable criminal defense attorneys recognize the right of every citizen to have representation and sometimes must put aside their emotions to represent those who have committed very serious crimes.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Defend the Guilty

In general guilty clients that criminal defense attorney’ represent fall into two categories:

·Those who deny criminal culpability; and

·Those who take responsibility for their criminal behavior

Most lawyers agree that the most difficult criminal client to represent is one that takes some responsibility for the crime as it is much easier to establish innocence or reasonable doubt when you don’t think your client is guilty. Facing ethical and moral dilemmas daily, a criminal defense lawyer must deal with situations where they have knowingly facilitated the release of a guilty person, risking their reputation and a clear conscience. On the other hand, defense lawyers get a great deal of satisfaction when their representation of an accused individual has a positive impact on society. For instance, when a criminal defense lawyer helps a client avoid more serious legal consequences by intervening in lives to affect positive change (i.e., plea bargains of rehabilitation instead of jail time, community service and probation instead of jail time etc.). As a trusted advocate, criminal defense lawyers have a great deal of influence on their clients’ lives as opposed to a judge, prosecutor or probation officer.

Lawyers are a Necessary Part of the United States Judicial System

Sometimes portrayed as villains who help criminals run free, criminal defense lawyers are necessary for the United States legal system to run smoothly. Without the availability of qualified legal representation for those accused of crimes, the potential for overreach by government would be great. A balanced system where all parties are represented and where one side isn’t given free rein to rule over the other is what our judicial system is all about. And, while every system has its flaws, the United States judicial system is still the best available in the world.