When you have been injured in an accident, you want to be compensated for your medical expenses and other damages. You assume that when you file a claim with the appropriate insurance company, they will want to be helpful and pay you what you deserve.
Whether you are attempting to file a claim against your own insurance policy or against the liability policy of the party responsible for causing the accident that led to your injuries, know this one truth. Insurance companies are not your friends.
The main goal for insurance companies is to make steep profits. They can’t achieve that goal if they pay every claim that comes their way. Instead, they work very hard to assign fault to you, to minimize the value of your damages, and if possible, to deny claims entirely. In other words, they usually operate in bad faith, hoping to emerge having paid you as little as possible.
At Fitzgerald Law, I have seen it all in my 30-plus years as a personal injury attorney representing clients in Glendale, Los Angeles, Burbank, and throughout the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Valley in California. As with anything else, some insurers are more difficult than others to work with, but you should recognize some common bad faith tactics they use in personal injury claims.
Lowballing the First Settlement Offer
There are some cases when insurers will come out of the gate with an offer to pay policy limits; however, those cases are usually the worst ones. This tends to occur when you are injured so badly, and the policy limits are so low, that you will never be compensated fairly.
In other cases, the insurer will offer a low amount in full settlement of your claim. They hope you will be desperate enough for money to accept the offer. They will extend the offer before you even know how much your medical expenses or lost wages will be. They will offer it before you have made the fullest recovery possible, referred to as “maximum medical improvement,” or know the extent of any permanent injuries.
Agreeing to an offer too soon is a mistake, no matter how much the insurer preys upon your desperation. You can count on that first offer being far too little to provide just compensation.
Once you refuse that initial offer the insurer extended right after the accident, you may not hear from them for long periods of time. You may contact the adjuster again and again, get their voicemail, ask them to contact you, and hear nothing back. Unfortunately, you are at the insurance company’s mercy, which is what makes this unfair practice valuable to them.
Feeling like your claim is lost in limbo may make you begin to feel desperate about settling your claim because the company is so unresponsive. The insurer will be counting on this sense of worry and panic, hoping you stop pursuing a claim or tell them you’ll accept that previous low offer.
Failing to Fully Investigate the Accident
One of the primary roles of an insurance adjuster is to fully investigate the accident. A thorough investigation should result in a finding of fault among those involved, including their insured.
Although an investigation may make a determination of fault clear, the insurance company may avoid admitting its insured’s fault by making unsubstantiated statements. Among them would be an attempt to assign a significant amount of comparative negligence to you to reduce the amount you can receive in a settlement.
California observes pure comparative fault, so a party in an accident is only responsible for paying the percentage of fault assigned to them. The more fault their insurance company can assign to you, the less they have to pay you.
Misrepresenting Insurance Coverage
Insurance companies will not simply give you a copy of their insureds’ liability policies, which means you rely on them to fully disclose what is and isn’t covered by those policies. Some insurance companies may not tell you an outright lie about coverage, but they may omit information or mislead you about exemptions and other issues.
If the adjuster will not disclose policy limits, you may agree to settle for far less than the coverage available. Moreover, if your injuries are severe, you need to explore other potential coverage the negligent party may have, for example, an umbrella policy that could be applied in a car accident as well as the auto insurance policy.
What Is My Attorney’s Role in a Personal Injury Settlement?
Your personal injury attorney is motivated only by your best interests. Your attorney not only knows bad faith tactics an insurer may use but how to counteract them.
An experienced personal injury attorney has ways to force a delaying insurance company to respond, knows how to thoroughly investigate accidents and compile evidence of fault against the negligent party, and knows where to look for coverage and ask the right questions about it.
One of the best actions a personal injury attorney can take when faced with a hostile insurer is to file a lawsuit. The civil justice system promotes fairness, honesty, and full disclosure from everyone involved.
Legal Advocacy You Can Trust
Trust is the foundation of any beneficial relationship. You know you cannot fully trust the insurance company because you and the insurer have competing goals. However, you can trust that I will use the benefits of my experience and knowledge to provide you with reliable legal advocacy.
I have been successfully representing personal injury clients like you from Glendale, California, and the surrounding areas for over 30 years. I know the unfair practices some insurance companies use, and I won’t let them benefit at your expense.
The best tactic you can employ is to call Fitzgerald Law now to schedule a free case consultation.