If you were seriously injured and either you or the at-fault party carries insurance, you’re probably hoping the applicable policy will cover at least a portion of your medical bills, lost income, and other damages. Unfortunately, insurance carriers will go to great lengths to reduce the amount of compensation they have to pay or to deny claims outright. After all, their profits increase with every dollar they don’t have to pay out.
Insurance bad faith laws are intended to prevent insurers from engaging in unethical and fraudulent practices to delay, deny, or reduce the value of claims. Despite these laws, there are many tactics insurance companies still use to protect their financial interests.
In this blog, we’ll discuss a few of those tactics including:
- Disputing the necessity or value of injury-related expenses;
- Stalling the proceedings;
- Offering quick settlements;
- Arguing the injured party was responsible;
- Asking for recorded statements;
- Requesting unlimited medical authorization; and
- Telling the injured party that an attorney is not needed.
1. Disputing the Necessity or Value of Injury-Related Expenses
When conducting the investigation into your claim, the insurance adjuster will want to see evidence of the damages you’ve incurred—for example, medical bills, paystubs, income tax returns, receipts and invoices for property repairs, and other documentation of injury-related expenses. To reduce the value of your claim, the adjuster might argue that certain medical treatments were unnecessary or that certain costs were unreasonably expensive.
To overcome such a dispute, your attorney may bring in medical experts to provide statements regarding your diagnosis or treatment, as well as documentation that demonstrates the typical cost of the medical care you underwent in your area.
2. Stalling the Proceedings
Insurance companies are required to process claims in a reasonable amount of time, but it’s not uncommon for insurance adjusters to find reasons to delay the proceedings. Unfortunately, you only have a limited amount of time in which to file a lawsuit if a settlement cannot be reached, so if the investigation or negotiations take too long, you might lose your right to recover compensation altogether.
Another reason why the claims adjuster might try to delay the proceedings is to increase the debt you incur in order to pressure you into accepting a low settlement. A skilled personal injury lawyer can monitor the insurance company’s activities and make sure they don’t cause unnecessary and unjustified delays.
3. Offering Quick Settlements
Rather than delaying settlement negotiations, the insurance company might offer an early settlement in the hopes that you’ll take the money and release them from liability for any covered damages you might incur in the future. This not only could reduce the amount of compensation the insurer has to pay out, but it may also reduce the expenses they would have devoted to investigating your case. Unfortunately, these early settlement offers are often unfair, and if your damages are extensive, accepting a low payout could put you on the path toward serious debt and potential bankruptcy.
4. Arguing the Injured Party Was Partially Responsible
The insurance company may attempt to shift part or all of the liability to the injured party. They may also contend that the injured party has failed to mitigate their damages—for example, by participating in physical activities or returning to work against their doctor’s orders, or by failing to fill prescriptions or attend doctor’s appointments.
The insurer might also argue that your injuries were caused by something else or that they existed before the accident. However, even if you had a pre-existing condition, you may still be entitled to compensation if your condition was worsened due to another person’s negligence. Proving such a claim may require statements from medical specialists and accident reconstruction experts.
5. Asking for Recorded Statements
The insurance adjuster will ask for your account of what happened and inquire about the damages you’ve incurred. Your statements will very likely be recorded.
This may seem harmless, but don’t forget the insurance company has incentive to find reasons to dispute your claim. Any recorded statements may be used to challenge liability or the value of your damages. Your answers to seemingly benign questions such as, “How’s your recovery going?” may be used to demonstrate that you have been exaggerating the severity of your injuries. The bottom line: You should direct all correspondence from anyone affiliated with the insurance company to your lawyer.
6. Requesting Unlimited Medical Authorization
The insurance company may ask you to agree to an unlimited medical authorization. You should never provide such authorization without first speaking to a lawyer. These authorizations allow insurance companies to obtain medical records over your entire lifetime. Information learned about prior injuries, conditions, or pain may be used to argue that your injuries were pre-existing.
7. Telling the Injured Party That an Attorney Is Not Needed
Insurance companies know that most claimants aren’t experienced negotiators, nor are they well-versed in the statutes and case law pertaining to tort claims. That means insurance carriers usually have the upper hand, and they want to keep it that way.
The insurance adjuster might try to convince you that hiring a lawyer won’t be necessary. But failing to seek legal counsel could prove to be a costly mistake. You might overlook certain types of damages such as future medical bills, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. Also, important evidence might not be available unless an investigation is launched immediately. And if you don’t have a seasoned litigator by your side, the insurance company may think you wouldn’t be willing to take your case to trial if they offer an unfair settlement. For these reasons and many others, it’s in your best interests to speak with a lawyer at the earliest possible point in time.
Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Suffering an expected injury or death in the family is a tragic event that can cause tremendous stress, depression, and financial uncertainty. Unfortunately, the insurance company may try to take advantage of your vulnerable situation in order to protect their bottom line.
Attorney Michael D. Waks can protect your rights through every stage of the proceedings. He is well-versed in the strategies used by insurance carriers to reduce the value of claims, and he will do everything in his power to help you fight for the full compensation you deserve.
Michael can thoroughly investigate your case, gather evidence, and bring in expert witnesses if necessary. He will aggressively represent you during settlement negotiations and is not afraid to go to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached.
Michael holds an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell. He has over 30 years of experience providing personalized, dedicated representation to victims of personal injury and their families. You will have a direct line of contact to Michael throughout the proceedings, and he will make himself available to you after office hours and on weekends.
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