In many personal injury cases, the responsible—that is, negligent—party will be large enough and soluble enough to satisfy any damages that a judge or jury orders it to pay. Big companies like supermarkets or shipping companies or larger chain retail establishments can be depended on to satisfy any judgment that is entered against them.
In many cases, smaller companies—or even those bigger ones that are seeking to minimize their out of pocket exposure—will utilize insurance. In almost every personal injury suit (especially auto accidents), there will be an insurance company involved, which will speak on behalf of, and negotiate for, the party being sued.
Find a Good Attorney
But how do you know you are being treated fairly by the insurance company? First, it goes without saying that you should find a good personal injury attorney immediately upon suffering an injury. Insurance companies are trained in working with people who are unrepresented, and they know more about the law than you do. Not to sound like a commercial, but the best way to know if an insurance company is treating you fairly is to ask your attorney.
But for now, let’s presume that you have not yet hired an attorney. Many people who are injured in accidents will find themselves being contacted by insurance companies even if they have not made any claims or made any contact with the negligent party. For example, if you fall in a store, you may get a call from an insurance adjuster—even if you have never threatened to sue, and you do not have a lawyer.
Insurance companies are trained to reach out to anybody who could represent a potential lawsuit against them. In doing so, they often seek to get you to settle potential claims early, and before you have hired an attorney.
Insurance companies (represented through insurance adjustors) will often present as very nice and helpful. They may even seem like they have your best interests at heart. But their ultimate job is to minimize exposure to the insurance company and their insured. These motives should not be forgotten, no matter how kind they may seem.
Disputes Over Facts
One way to determine if an insurance company is treating you fairly is the obvious—do they disagree with you on who is responsible for the accident? Or, is their version of the facts different from how the accident actually happened? If you believe a store or another driver is at fault, and the insurance adjustor disagrees with you, there is a chance they may not be playing fairly.
In many cases, the insurance company may want to get a “statement” from you about the accident to get the facts. It seems fair—after all, they have a right to know what happened before they pay you any money.
These statements may seem very informal and relaxed—even just casual over the phone interviews (although some may be in person, under oath, in the presence of a court reporter). But in many cases, the questions they ask during these interrogations are targeted, leading, and may have important legal ramifications that you do not recognize, but the insurance company does.
Insurance companies will almost never tell you the importance of these statements beforehand. The statements are often recorded, meaning that if you did not understand a question, or were uncertain of a response, your statement is now “locked in,” on paper.
Paying for Medical Bills
One way that insurance companies seem to be playing fair is by offering to pay for some medical expenses. They will often offer to pay for certain immediate out of pocket expenses that you may have as a result of the accident—usually, medical expenses.
This may seem fair and generous at first. But if you need ongoing, or more serious (and thus expensive) treatment, you will often find the insurance company’s “generosity” ceases. In many cases, the insurance company will refuse to pay for any expense that may be more expensive.
This is a great clue that the insurance company is not playing fair. Paying for a visit to the ER, but not for a followup surgery you may need, or paying for a visit to your primary, but not for expensive prescription medications you may need, is not playing fair.
Even if the insurance company seems to be generously paying for all your medical expenses, are they paying for more than just out of pocket expenses?
The law requires that you be compensated for “non-economic” damages. These are damages that can not be counted with solid numbers, the way a medical bill can. Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, frustration, or sadness, are all elements that do not have an easy price tag, but are compensable.
When an insurance company refuses to recognize those damages, and only offers payment for what dollars are out of your pocket, they are not playing fairly with you. They are ignoring a crucial element of an injury claim.
The Quick Settle
Even if they do offer payment for all kinds of damages, they will often seek to settle quickly. The problem with this is that you may not know the severity of your injuries until time goes on. But by getting you to take a small amount of money quickly, the insurance company is foreclosing your ability to get any more payment, even if your injuries turn out to be more severe or long term than you thought.
Having good representation from the very beginning is crucial to receiving full value for your injuries, and making sure you are not being taken advantage of. Call the injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation about your injury case.