Attorney schemes

Your attorney can be a valuable help with your insurance claim — and putting your life back together after an emergency. A good attorney works hand in hand with the insurer to help you settle your claim.

Just some of your attorney’s roles: Helps compile and file your claim ... negotiate the claim settlement. ... ensure you receive your insurance settlements ... pay urgent medical bills when you’re sick or injured in a car crash.

Most client attorneys are honorable. A dishonest handful, however, steal your insurance settlement for their personal use. You may urgently need those funds to help put your life together.

The scams

The price you pay

Fight back


The scams

Your attorney commits crimes such as these behind your back ...

Lowballs your insurance settlement. You’re forwarded a check for much less insurance money than you were awarded;

Says no insurance settlement has yet been reached, while secretly depositing your settlement funds in a personal account;

Forges your endorsement signature on the settlement check to illicitly deposit your money in the attorney’s personal account; and

Has correspondence or settlement checks your insurer intends for you routed to a false address such as a P.O. box.

 

The price you pay

You can lose part or all of the insurance funds when you need them urgently.

Your credit can be ruined by unpaid medical or other bills.

Urgent home repairs go unpaid after a storm, leaving you without a home.

Your life savings can be drawn down or wiped out if you must pay bills without your insurance settlement to handle the job.

 

Fight back

Find

Hire an attorney with expertise in helping obtain insurance settlements;

Avoid attorneys who are strangers and aggressively approach you to hire them after an auto crash or other calamity;

Back off it your attorney demands a contingency fee of more than 33 percent of any insurance settlement; and

Ask friends and relatives for attorneys they trust. Contact your state bar association to ensure the attorney has a clean discipline record.

Manage

You’re the client. Insist on seeing all settlement checks, signing them, and reviewing the insurer settlement breakdown sheets. The checks typically have your and your attorney’s name on it;

If delays in responses to your queries: Send a note saying you’ve been trying to contact the office about your claim. Request a prompt return call, with written update and specific responses to your questions;

Watch for warning signals: unreturned calls or emails, delays in finishing legal work, bounced checks written on your settlement escrow account;

Insist that all claim checks be made out directly to you;

Regularly contact the insurance company directly to confirm updates of your claim; and

Keep a phone log, all emails, paperwork and other correspondence involving you and your attorney and claim.

Deal

If your attorney settles for an amount that’s smaller than you believe is right or authorized, immediately inform your insurer that the settlement was reached without your consent;

Report any suspected theft to your insurance company and state insurance department; and

Contact your state’s Client Security Trust Fund to see if you’re eligible for compensation of stolen insurance funds.