Frequently Asked Questions - What to Expect When You Sue an Insurance Company?
When suing an insurance company, there are many things you should expect. Please understand that this does not necessity apply if your attorney has not yet filed a lawsuit on your behalf. In most situations, your lawyer will attempt to resolve the claim directly with the insurance company before suit is ever filed. If these efforts are unsuccessful, your lawyer will usually file a lawsuit which will then normally prompt several things to occur which are discussed below.
For instance, once suit is filed, the insurance company will almost always hire their own lawyer to defend your lawsuit. Typically, the other lawyer will send your lawyer a written request for you to produce documents (known as.a “Request to Produce”. Around that same time, you may be asked to answer certain questions (known as “Interrogatories”. Once this occurs, your attorney will provide you with a copy of these documents and ask you to gather documents and respond to the interrogatories.
Many clients get very concerned when they receive these requests. For example, you may not possess some of the documents being requested so you aren’t sure what to provide. Or, you aren’t sure how to answer the interrogatories. With regard to the Request to Produce, you aren’t required to gather documents not in your possession or control. For example, let’s say you are asked to produce any medical reports within the past 10 years. However, you do not maintain copies of your medical reports. Or, the records were destroyed when your home was flooded. You would not required to go to all of the physicians you’ve seen over the past 10 years and request records. Again, you only have provide what you have in your possession and control. If you do not possess or control the documents being requested, you do not have to produce them. With regard to the interrogatories, your attorney will typically ask you to complete a rough draft response on your own and will then review them and help you craft the final answers on your behalf. You should contact your attorney (or their paralegal) if you have any questions or concerns when you receive these documents.
Once the lawsuit has been filed, you can also expect the insurance company lawyer to schedule you (and possibly your spouse) for a deposition. In layman’s terms, a deposition is simply the insurance company’s opportunity to ask you questions under oath before trial. This can be very nerve racking to a client that has never been involved in this process before. Again, do not be overly concerned if this occurs in your case. First off, your attorney will spend some time with you explaining what to expect before the deposition occurs Additionally, your attorney will be present during this proceeding. While your attorney can’t help you answer questions during the deposition, your attorney has the ability to object to certain questions and advise you whether or not they want you to respond. The most important thing to remember is you will be swearing, under penalty of perjury, to tell the truth before the deposition starts. The importance of telling the truth (even if you think it may hurt your case) cannot be overstated. You are swearing to tell the truth under penalty of perjury and could potentially be convicted of a crime for failing to do so. This does not mean that you have to volunteer information not being asked. Telling the truth and keeping your answers short without volunteering information (unless your attorney is asking the question) are the two most important ground rules of your deposition. Again, your lawyer will discuss what to expect (and may send a letter explaining the process) before the deposition occurs.
Another thing to expect is for the insurance company (or their attorney) to request medical reports, employment records or other documents from your doctors/employers, etc. For example, they may subpoena records from your family doctor to obtain information about your past medical history. Or, your employer may be asked to produce your pay records if you are claiming a loss of income as a result of your accident. Your attorney will typically obtain a copy of these records as well. The insurance company may also check for records related to prior lawsuits, criminal activity, automobile accidents and emergency room treatment.
Another thing that may occur once a lawsuit is filed is that the insurance company may hire a private investigator. The investigator may film you while engaging in activities at any given time during your lawsuit (and possibly before suit is even filed). As long as they are licensed by the state and are not trespassing on your property, this is perfectly legal. Obviously, the insurance company may want to see the type of activities you are involved in and perhaps whether you will be truthful when asked about these activities. For example, you are asked in your deposition if you have performed ANY yard work since your accident. You testify that you have not been able to do so because it causes you too much pain. However, the insurance company has video of you mowing your yard with no apparent difficulties whatsoever. Obviously, this could severely damage your credibility and could potentially be considered untruthful even if you truly forgot. Again, answering questions honestly to the best of your ability when asked cannot be overstated. If a judge or jury think you are an untruthful person, they will not be very sympathetic to you and may not believe you about other key aspects of your case.
In other words, the insurance company is going to spend a lot of time and effort looking for documents or information to help them defend your lawsuit. If they obtain any information that is inconstant with your deposition testimony or the interrogatories, this will certainly be used against you later. As indicated above, it is extremely important to be truthful at all times related to your case. And, if you have any specific concerns about responding to document requests or being deposed, make sure to talk to your lawyer first.