Mistake #1 - Exaggerating your claim. You need to tell the facts, just the facts. If you try to make your loss out to be more than it really is, you are making a mistake. First of all, it never benefits you, or anyone else, to oversell your case. Second of all, your insurance company will find out.

Mistake #2 - Not knowing what your insurance policy will cover. You are making a claim on your contract of insurance. You have lived up to your part of the deal and you are asking your insurance company to live up to theirs. You should know what they have promised you. Too often, people are unaware of what types of losses are covered. This will be outlined in your contract of insurance. I don't mean the Declarations Page, I mean the actual contract. The Declarations Page is generally the first or second page of the policy and only states the dollar limits applying to each category of coverage. And remember, if your policy says you are covered, you are covered regardless of what your insurance company now tells you.

Mistake #3 - Waiting too long before going to the doctor. If you are injured and sit around hoping that the injury and pain will go away, you are probably making a mistake. Injuries can get worse with time. In any event, if you have been injured, it doesn't hurt to get it checked out. You can't determine if the offer your insurance company is making is fair until you know what you have lost. Get a medical opinion.

Mistake #4 - Waiting too long before telling your insurance company that you have a claim. A long delay in notifying your insurance company can result in possible denial of your claim (there are rules about how much time you have to notify your insurance company), or delay in payment. The quicker you get information to your insurance company, the quicker they can evaluate, investigate and pay your claim.

Mistake #5 - Allowing too much time to pass before responding to requests from your insurance company. You are asking your insurance company for prompt attention to your claim; you should provide the same. Don't delay in getting requested information to your insurance company. If you only have some of the needed answers, provide those and tell them you are working on the others. The faster you comply with requests the faster your insurance company should resolve your claim.

Mistake #6 - Leaving your insurance company out of the loop. After the initial contact where you first notified your insurance company about your claim (hopefully done promptly, see Mistake # 4), most folks are busy with medical appointments, health concerns, getting prescriptions, and generally adjusting to life after a loss. This is in addition to the usual daily duties we have, such as work and caring for those we love. It is easy to forget to keep your insurance company up to date about the status of your health and/or your loss. This is a mistake. Your insurance company needs to know about any changes or developments about your claim and they need to know as soon as possible. This helps them better evaluate your claim and helps you get a settlement that adequately covers the full loss you have experienced.

Mistake #7 - Failing to document your loss. It is not enough to contact your insurance company and tell them how much money they need to pay. It is helpful to have receipts, bills, invoices or written estimates. Adjusters have to explain how they value your claim, so be sure to give them all the help they need.

Mistake #8 - Settling too cheap. If you settle your claim for an amount far below the actual value of your loss, you are probably making a big mistake. It seems like getting a little bit of what was promised is better than nothing - and, after all, you are hurting for coverage NOW. But you have paid for insurance and you are legally entitled to all the benefits that that policy provides. If you feel that your insurance company is putting you in a position where you have no choice but to settle for an amount far less than you believe to which you are entitled, you should at least talk to a lawyer to see if they can help.

Mistake #9 - Agreeing to waive a bad faith claim just to get your coverage claim paid. It is not unusual for insurance companies to require that policy holders not represented by a lawyer sign away their right to bring a bad faith action. Usually, when a policy holder has a lawyer, insurance companies won't try this. That's because it's bad faith. If you agree to waive a bad faith action in order to get a check for your loss, you are making a mistake. You are not required to do this and the insurance company knows it. Ask them why you must agree to waive your rights before they will pay you what they obviously know they owe you. Then ask for your check without any conditions.

Mistake #10 - Letting your frustrations get the better of you. When you are in need of money or health benefits, time is critical. Whenever anyone is placed in a situation of stress or struggling with their health, it is natural to have very little patience for game playing or long unnecessary demands on their time. Don't let these understandable emotions govern your behavior. Although it seems like a good idea to let your insurance company know that you will sue them if you have to, it rarely helps your case. Insurance companies already know the law. And they know that the odds are in their favor because most people can never afford to bring a lawsuit. So, resist the urge to blow off steam. If you really need to communicate your feelings, do so by telling your insurance company how their unreasonable delay or denial of your claim is affecting your life.

Mistake #11 - Signing a document without understanding it. If you assume the contract you are signing says what you have agreed to and only what you have agreed to, you are making a mistake. It sounds elementary, but if you are given anything to sign, be sure that you understand it. Don't just read it; understand it. You may be signing away rights or future claims that will surprise you later. Most contracts offered by insurance companies contain many provisions that you never discussed. Some won't be a problem, others will. You need to be able to tell the difference. Be sure that you understand and agree to everything that is written in the document you sign. If you don't understand a clause or language in the proposed contract, either change it so it says what you have agreed to, or ask someone to explain it. If a contract doesn't say what you mean it to say it wont be enforced like you want it to be.

Mistake #12 - Going it alone. You've anticipated that life is unpredictable and so you've done the responsible thing by insuring yourself against life's curveballs. You've paid your premiums month after month, year after year. Now you find yourself in the unenviable position where you are injured or are suffering. This is a tough place to be for anyone. You should be focused on getting better or recovering from this loss. Instead, much of your energy is being spent arguing with the very insurance company that you hired to protect you. At such a difficult time, this can get overwhelming. During crisis, people make mistakes. If you have tried to comply with all of your insurance company's requests - or if you simply can't handle the ongoing stress, don't try to be as my father would put it, a "macho man". There are people who can help you. Consider contacting a lawyer.

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