Make a personal injury claim early – but do not negotiate until you are ready.
Opening the claim with the insurance company soon after the accident is usually a good idea. By opening a claim early, you are putting the insurance company on notice that a claim will be made against their insurance policy. Many insurance carriers will push to attempt to settle a personal injury claim in specific cases very early as a method to keep their exposure to a minimum.
If you attempt to negotiate a settlement while you are still treated medically, you are, in effect, shifting the risk of the magnitude of the injury off of the insurance company and on your back.
Insurance companies are not in the business of paying fair value on personal injury claims and always try to minimize the amount they pay.
If the insurance company is trying to settle your claim while you are still getting medical attention, you can bet the reason is they want to save money. In short, the best personal injury attorneys suggest you do not consider settling your case until you are certain of your medical future.
Information is power in negotiations
You must gather the vital information necessary for the insurance company to evaluate your claim. This would include photographs of such things as the vehicle damage, accident scene, or evidence of your injuries.
Obtaining the crash report in an automobile accident and independent witness information is always advisable. Strategic information regarding the potential defendant and their companies can also be compelling in more significant claims.
You should know that the insurance company will have gathered information to use against you, such as your claim history (prior accidents), your previous medical treatment, and anything else that may be used to make you look bad. Most personal injury victims do not realize the extent of information about them that is available to insurance companies in this digital world.
Be careful with social media.
It is now common practice for adjusters to investigate the claimant, and part of that trend is to check social media posts. Even the most innocent post can be turned against you in a personal injury lawsuit by a skilled defense attorney. And rest assured, if the case is large enough, the defense will look for every opportunity to make you look bad or less than candid.
Acceptance of liability does not equal a fair offer.
One technique that is utilized every day by insurance companies is after a claim is opened, they will communicate to the victim that they are “accepting liability.” This leads the injured person to believe that the insurance company will make a reasonable settlement offer for their claim. Assuming “accepting liability” means a fair offer is forthcoming is a big mistake.
Insurance adjusters know that by telling the claimant that they are accepting liability, there’s a much higher chance that the injured will not take the steps necessary to protect their claim, such as retaining a qualified personal injury attorney or doing the investigation usually needed.
It is usually right after the subject of money comes up from a claim where the insurance carrier “accepted liability” or “accepted responsibility” that the victim understands they need an attorney. Because they get a lowball offer. Unfortunately, in many cases, the injured have taken steps that hurt their case before they realize they need a lawyer. Read about the top 10 tricks for car accident victims.
Insurance companies do not fear a lawsuit.
Insurance companies are in the business of handling claims, and that necessarily involves litigation. While an insurance company would prefer to settle a clear liability claim early, they will do so only if it is in their best interest. In other words, they will pay less today than they may have to pay later.
The situation has been exacerbated in Texas, which allows insurance companies to defend claims against their insured with employee lawyers. While the conflict of interest is clear, the ability to use an in-house employee attorney reduces the costs to the insurance company of defending a lawsuit.
Do not threaten a lawsuit unless you are prepared to follow through, and even then, nothing will worry the insurer. If you have been injured in a car accident, at the minimum, speak with a car accident attorney near Houston before you do the adjuster. Most of the better attorneys offer free consultations to injured accident victims. Houston car accident lawyers will handle your case on a contingency fee basis.
Some insurance companies require a lawsuit to get reasonable.
Much has changed over the last few decades in the personal injury arena. Probably the most significant change has come from the computerized valuation models utilized by many insurance companies in settling claims.
Insurance companies understand the costs of litigation and that smaller cases are very hard to prosecute through trial economically. Insurance companies will use this knowledge to lowball many claims with the intent to force a lawsuit to offer anything in the reasonable range.
Attorneys must evaluate each case based on a business model that considers the value of the attorney’s time, the estimated expenses, and the likely outcomes. The economics of trial makes it difficult for some personal injury victims to obtain quality representation in smaller cases.
Frequently, by filing a lawsuit, the evaluation process changes from the pre-litigation strategy to the in-litigation group, which may result in a closer look at the real value of the claim.
Medical bills matter.
Insurance companies are much more likely to give weight to the total amount of medical bills and the treating physician’s diagnosis than they are to what the victim may claim to the insurance company in the way of pain and suffering. The most crucial evidence on damages will probably be what the treating physicians have to say and objective findings on tests.
Insurance companies give more weight to medical doctors than they would say a chiropractor.
On filing a lawsuit, the defense may be entitled to a defendant’s medical doctor examination by a doctor of their choosing. These defense doctors make big bucks by always claiming that the injured is exaggerating, treatment was unnecessary, or the medical was excessive. Do not assume that the treating physician’s opinions will be unrebutted or that the defense doctor will be objective; they are not.
Properly documenting the necessity of future medical bills is critical in negotiating a fair personal injury settlement.
The insurance company will always find issues.
In negotiating a personal injury settlement, the insurance company will always find issues with the plaintiff’s claim. An example would be someone who needed a lot of treatment after the accident – the insurance company may come back and say the medical care was excessive in amount or cost.
Conversely, for someone who puts off going to the doctor trying to tough it out, the insurance company may come back and say they waited too long to go to the doctor. And, of course, the adjuster attempts to “disallow” part of the medical treatment.
Preexisting injury can be a big issue in many injury cases. In Texas, one can still obtain compensation if the accident aggravated an existing injury.
On liability, you can be expected to hear arguments that attempt to make the accident partly your fault, such as going too fast, not applying your brakes soon enough, not wearing a seatbelt, not keeping a proper lookout, or other issues.
Recognize these techniques for what they are and be prepared to address them in your negotiation process.
Some cases are more valuable than others.
As stated above, insurance companies have been trending toward the use of computerized models to evaluate personal injury claims. While this approach has served the industry well in reducing the amount they pay for injuries, some cases are more valuable than others.
Cases, where the value is enhanced can include those where the liability factors are particularly bad for the defendant. Examples would be a drunk driving accident an 18-wheeler accident involving a violation of federal standards, or other bad conduct on the defendant’s part. If punitive damages might be awarded, that can impact the settlement value of your case.
On the other hand, some cases are subject to reductions in value by the insurance company. Examples would be minor damage to the vehicles in a car wreck or slip and fall cases without proof of advanced knowledge by the property owner or user.
If you have questions about the fairness of an offer, speak to a good injury attorney.
Serious injury cases always need a good lawyer.
Insurance companies rate attorneys, and who you hire matters. Do your homework about the attorney before you sign up with them. Get the best attorney who specializes in the type of accident where you were hurt. Look for the best Houston truck accident lawyer if you were hurt in a truck accident.
Contact a Leading Accident Lawyer in Houston at Baumgartner Law Firm for Help with Your Case.
Call (281) 587-1111