We see auto collisions on our roadways every day. In fact there are so many, auto accident attorneys find insurance adjuster indifference and juror apathy two of the largest hurdles to overcome. Some insurance companies go so far as to strongly suggest that most auto accident injury claims are too inflated or the result of fraud.
Aggressive representation by an auto accident attorney can make a huge difference in these types of cases. Most people have no idea what they are entitled to or what their legal obligations might be even if the collision was not their fault. Here are some common tricks adjusters use:
Insurance: Adjusters will tell you that your are not entitled to general damages if the car you were in was not insured. This is not always true. An experienced auto accident attorney knows there are several key exceptions to this general rule. Adjusters will also frequently tell an injured claimant that their insured vehicle only carried a 15,000 policy. Frequently they carry much larger policies. There could also be additional policies that the adjuster just forgets to look for. Together, these half truths can cost a claimant hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Liability: Adjusters frequently tell a motorist a collision was their fault when it wasn’t. The ploy is simple: stonewall and hope the claimant fails to file a complaint on time.
Causation: Causation is a fifty cent word that simply means an auto collision did not cause a particular injury as you claim. Adjusters will often claim the injury was the result of age related degeneration or other trauma.
Damages: Damages simply describes the compensation you are entitled to for pain, suffering, etc. associated with a collision. Frequently, adjusters will tell you that since your insurance company paid a bill, they shouldn’t have to. Once you get a settlement you think is fair, you realize you owe thousands to your health insurance company. Or, the adjuster tells you they have to reimburse your health insurance company and they never do. Either way, you owe thousands. In nearly every case, a client will get better medical care and will net more money with aggressive representation than without it.
Medical Liens: When evaluating the value of your case, be sure to consider any medical liens that might affect your settlement. Almost every health insurance company, Medi-Cal and MediCare have a reimbursement provision in their policies. If you obtain a recovery from a third party you might have to reimburse your health insurance company. A man once came to me with a $20,000 settlement offer on the table. However, the insurance company also told him after he paid back Kaiser $7,000 and his med-pay carrier $4,000, he would net $9,000. He thought the offer looked good but wanted a second opinion. I was able to get the carrier to up the settlement offer by about $2,000. Furthermore, I reviewed his med-pay policy and realized he was not required to reimburse his med-pay carrier at all. The result was another $4,000 in savings. I was also able to get Kaiser to accept $1,000 in lieu of the $7,000 lien. If you add the $2,000 increase in offer to the $4,000 savings on med-pay and the $6,000 savings with Kaiser you realize that I was able to double his net recovery to $18,000. So, if you think hiring an auto accident attorney doesn’t pay off in the end, think again.
Future Medical Care/Future lost earnings: Most people think the majority of personal injury victims inflate their claims. In fact, the opposite is true. Most people are working their tails off and are way too busy with their career, their family and their lives to take months or years off to recover from damages caused by an auto collision. Many of my clients have worked very hard to minimize their care and “tough out” an injury. That approach, while noble, can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. You need to factor in future medical costs as well as lost earnings when evaluating your claim. An knowledgeable auto accident attorney can help you evaluate the worth of your claim.
Another client came to me with a significant cervical disc herniation. The injury was causing numbness in her fingers. The insurance adjuster had offered what he claimed was a policy limit of $25,000. She did not want surgery and had about $15,000 in medical expenses and lost earnings. When she came to me she was still receiving physical therapy so her medical expenses were increasing. She admitted to me she was leaning toward taking the offer because she would have netted $10,000 and her doctor told her she would probably recover just fine with no further care past the therapy.
I convinced her not to take the offer because she was still receiving medical care and her symptoms were not really getting any better. Two months later, she turned her head to look at her daughter and she felt a pop in her neck. Her pain became much worse. She wound up having a successful surgery the following week. Her medical expenses shot to over a $100,000. She lost another six months of work in post-surgery rehabilitation. Had she accepted the original settlement offer, not only would she would have netted zero but she would be out the six months of wages as well.
As it turned out, the adjuster was also “mistaken” about the policy limits. They weren’t $25,000, they were $300,000. Never rush to accept a settlement if you are still receiving, or should be receiving, medical care or if a doctor has told that you might need future care or surgery!
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