When you get in a car crash or are injured by someone with insurance coverage, the other person’s insurance company is supposed to pay for the harms caused by the careless person. A lot of people assume that insurance companies will do the right thing and fairly pay a claim. Afterall, insurance companies make really great commercials to seem funny and kind.
The truth is that insurance is a multibillion-dollar industry. According to one report, some insurance companies spend over one billion dollars per year on advertising. It is truly unfortunate that an industry whose purpose is to pay for harms caused by people who pay them are more concerned with saving a penny than doing the right thing.
Insurance companies want to pay you as little as possible.
It’s no secret that insurance companies want to pay as little as possible.. But how? Well, for one, it’s easy – the insurance companies decide if, when, and how much they will pay. The more information you give them, the more they will use that information to devalue you. Did you tell the insurance company about a prior surgery on the same body part the got hurt in the wreck? If so, be prepared for the insurance company to mention that every time you try to resolve your case.
Let’s look at what happens when you get into a crash. Imagine a person isn't paying attention and the next thing you know they crash into you. That person slammed into your car when you were least expecting, which caused your body to jolt forward only to have your seatbelt violently catch you and slam you back into the seat. Your car is all smashed up. The police investigate and give the person who hit you a ticket.
You get the insurance information of the other and file a claim with their insurance company. You agree to give a recorded statement and sign a medical records authorization. After a few months, the insurance company either denies your claim or offers you a tiny amount to settle the claim, even though you have more medical bills and your life has changed because of the crash.
Why should I care?
You may be thinking “not me, the insurance company will treat me fairly. I’m just going to give them my medical bills and they will pay them.” Unless you were hit by a drunk driver, the insurance company is unlikely to even offer you your medical bills. There is always an excuse to treat you unfairly.
But I signed a medical records authorization and gave a recorded statement. Shouldn’t the insurance company be fair to me since I did what they asked?
A signed medical records authorization gives the insurance company access to all of your medical records. Once they have those records, they will point out anything that, to the insurance company, appears to lessen your claim. Pre-existing medical issues are one of the insurance companies’ favorite facts.
They also twist your words from your recorded statement to deny paying you. You might think talking to the insurance company can help your claim. We’ve heard people say things like “I didn’t say anything to the insurance company that can hurt my claim.” The truth is you really don’t know how an insurance adjuster is going to use the information you give them. Just remember – insurance adjusters are not your friends and they’re not there to help you with your claim.
Insurance companies hate lawyers.
There are a lot of lawyer jokes out there. Although we think a few of them are pretty funny, a lot of those jokes are not very flattering. Those negative views and jokes actually help the insurance industry. If a person is injured and not represented by a lawyer, the insurance companies will take advantage. Lawyers are typically able to get better results from insurance companies.
Insurance companies often use their bullying tactics on lawyers, too, but generally, they know how to fight against those tactics. When an insurance company offers pennies because they view your claim as a nuisance, for example, a lawyer can evaluate the claim and determine if filing a lawsuit can significantly increase its value. If you tried to settle a claim without a lawyer, you might either take the pennies while signing away your rights to file a lawsuit or simply give up and not do anything until after it’s too late.
What does a jury do and why does it matter?
The U.S. Constitution doesn’t protect an insurance company’s right to minimize your claim and belittle your pain, but it does give you the right to a jury trial. Our right to a jury trial is uniquely American. The jury system is what keeps insurance companies honest.
It’s also important to remember something very important – in a lawsuit against a careless person who hurt you, the word “insurance” is rarely ever allowed to be spoken. Instead, the lawsuit is you versus the person who hit you. This sounds unfair – and it is. The insurance company’s delay, deny, and deflect tactics are typically kept away from a jury. On the flip side, you can present your case to a jury who don’t evaluate claims from the point of view of an insurance company. An insurance company determines how much to pay you based on computer systems and other valuation methods. That all goes away with a jury. Instead of greedy insurance companies determining how much to pay you, members of your community get to make that choice.
Some of the tactics insurance companies pull before filing a lawsuit can be defeated in front of a jury. Let’s say the insurance company devalued you because of a previous injury. Insurance companies tend to brush aside the fact that the incident made your injuries worse or that you’re in more pain because you re-injured yourself. Jurors typically understand that a person who was hurt before can be more sensitive to pain. After all, how many of you tell friends and family not to touch you after hurting yourself? We do that because something as slight as a pat on the back could make your pain worse.
Here’s another example. Insurance companies love to claim that minor visible property damage to a vehicle means that you couldn’t possibly have been hurt. The silly argument doesn’t consider that a two-ton hunk of metal slammed into another two-ton hunk of metal. Most jurors know this is a BS argument. Although there is no guarantee you will prevail in a jury trial, presenting your case to a jury can often be the best way to fight back against bullying insurance companies that give low ball offers. The U.S. Constitution gives us that right and while insurance companies have tried to take that away, we still have the right to a jury trial.
The Bottom Line
The insurance industry isn’t there to help you if you’re injured. They trick you into giving recorded statements that they use to diminish and devalue your claim. They take anything about previous injuries and turn it against you despite knowing that won’t fly in trial. When this happens to you the best thing you can do is hire a lawyer who will fight on your behalf and stand up to the bullying insurance companies.