The Inside Scoop on How Insurance Companies Will Fight Your Personal Injury Claim
The twin pillars of personal injury claims are these facts: (i) most claims settle out of court, and (ii) insurance companies pay most claims. Since insurance adjusters are professional negotiators, you could be in way over your head unless you seek the assistance of an experienced Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer.
The Harsh Truth About Insurance Companies
The insurance company is not your friend, and it is not your “good neighbor.” It is a business whose sole purpose is to make as much money as possible. It makes money by collecting premiums from customers. It loses money by paying out claims. That reality puts you in an adversarial relationship with the insurance company. The more money you make, the less the insurance company makes, and vice versa.
Contrast your relationship with your insurance company and your relationship with your personal injury attorney. If your lawyer works on a contingency fee (and most personal injury lawyers do), then the relationship is the opposite. The more money you make, the more money your lawyer makes-–giving your lawyer every incentive to make you as much money as possible.
The Art of War
The ancient Chinese strategist Sun-Tzu famously observed that “every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” A bit of knowledge about insurance company strategies and tactics can improve your odds of winning before negotiations even begin. Following are descriptions of a few of them.
Playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop” With You
This strategy works by cultivating a misplaced sense of obligation in you. The insurance company may make statements suggesting their offer to you is unusually high or something to that effect. Beware if the insurance adjuster is too nice and “neighborly.”
The “Pre-Existing Injury” Excuse
The “pre-existing condition” defense is a way of disputing causation, an essential element of a personal injury claim. Suppose you are claiming a back injury, for example, and you had already hurt your back before the accident. The insurance company could claim your new injury was just your old injury flaring up and that it had nothing to do with the accident.
The Social Media Strategy
The insurance company can collect social media evidence and submit it in court. Don’t talk about your case online. Better yet, take your social media accounts offline until you resolve your case.
Hiring a Private Investigator
The more money your claim is worth, the more it will be worth it for the insurance company to hire a private investigator to spy on you. If you see prying eyes everywhere and fear the insurance company is “out to get you,” you may actually be right.
Nickel and Diming You to Death: Using Comparative Fault Against You
Blaming you for the accident is one of the insurance company’s favorite tactics. Even if you weren’t completely to blame, the insurance company can reduce their liability to zero if they can establish that you were at least 50% responsible. Anything below 50%, and they can reduce their payout in proportion to your percentage of fault.
Lulling You To Sleep While the Statute of Limitations Clock Ticks
In Oklahoma, the general statute of limitations deadline is two years after the date of the accident that injured you. If you miss the deadline, your claim will lose all of its value unless an exception to the deadline applies. The insurance company might try to use a series of small delays to lull you into forgetting about the statute of limitations deadline.
“Here, Sign This…”
Here are some of the documents the insurance company might want your signature on:
- A settlement and release agreement that favors the insurance company;
- An acknowledgment that you were at fault for the accident;
- A “payment in full” that you thought was a first installment; or
- Permission to view all of your medical records, allowing the insurance company to go on a ‘“fishing expedition” looking for something they can label a pre-existing condition.
Don’t sign anything that your lawyer doesn’t review first.
Recording an Interview With You
Never agree to an interview with the insurance company. Instead, have them direct all communication to your lawyer. Conducting an interview with an insurance company without a lawyer is a risky proposition because what you say could be used against you.
Lowballing You While You’re Weak and Desperate
Imagine you’re in traction, in pain, and missing work while your medical bills pile up. Now, the insurance company offers to pay you half of what your claim is worth. Would you take the offer? Insurance companies often try to take advantage of vulnerable people. A lawyer can help you find options, such as a medical lien in favor of your healthcare provider.
Misrepresenting the Law and the Terms of the Insurance Policy
This is particularly reprehensible behavior, but insurance companies sometimes do it if they think you’ll fall for it. They won’t dare, however, if they know you have hired a good lawyer to represent you.
Dispensing Medical Advice
Insurance adjusters are not doctors, and they are not qualified to draw medical conclusions. Even the insurance company’s doctor is likely to suffer from bias in favor of the party that’s paying them.
Issuing a Bogus “Take It or Leave It” Offer
Insurance companies don’t have the legal right to set their own deadlines for you to respond. The statute of limitations does that quite nicely already. Don’t let them intimidate you this way.
“You Don’t Need a Lawyer”
Sometimes you really don’t (for certain small claims). If they’re telling you that you don’t, however, it can only be for one reason-–because they know you do. If you didn’t, they wouldn’t bother trying to convince you of that. Insurance companies love unrepresented claimants.
Contact an Oklahoma City Personal Injury Lawyer ASAP
The earlier you get an experienced Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer involved in your claim, the more familiar they will become with the unique facts of your case. Moreover, personal injury lawyers typically charge nothing unless they win or settle your claim.
Yes, you will pay out a percentage of your recovery in legal fees, but that won’t matter if your lawyer doubles or triples the value of your claim. Call an experienced personal injury lawyer to set up a free initial consultation and learn about your legal rights and options.