Unfair Determinations of Fault by Insurance Companies in Personal Injury Cases
When you are hurt in a wreck and have bills to pay and doctor visits you expect that the insurance company for the driver who hurt you should pay your damages. But in many instances the insurance company announces they are denying liability or blaming you for part or all of your injuries. This is a shock to many injured people, especially after it seemed so clear that the collision was caused by someone else’s mistake. Why does this happen?
The Claims Process is Not Neutral
First, the “claims process” is not neutral. The insurance company for the at fault person gets to keep every dollar they save by lowballing cases and paying less than they are worth. AND most collision victims do not know the value of their own cases. It takes someone who is in the business of assessing liability and damages to know what a case is worth and most collision victims are already traumatized by what has happened and more concerned about the disruption to their lives than with trying to figure out what the values are for various damaged property or body parts. When you try to negotiate on your own behalf with an insurance adjuster there is only one person in that transaction who does not do it every day for their job-you! How can you be expected to calculate past and future medical treatment, impairment of earning capacity or past and future wage loss on your own?
The Investigation Can be Biased
Second, since the insurance company does not usually share with you the products of their own investigation (see the section on giving a statement to the insurance company) you do not even know what factors they are relying on in deciding who was at fault and how much to pay. There may be three witnesses to a wreck and only the one who is biased against bicyclists was willing to talk about how the bicyclist was riding “too fast”. It may well be that there is no speed that this unfair witness would say was a safe one for a bicycle rider. And the insurance company may be ignoring the testimony of the other two unbiased witnesses.
The Investigation Can Be Non-Existant
Other times the insurance company may have conducted no investigation whatsoever and is basing their adverse liability decision on fault on what their insured driver told them. And sometimes that same driver freely admitted they were at fault at the scene of the collision but now when they realize that this is an “at fault” collision that will raise their insurance rates they come up with a self-serving story about what happened that makes them look blameless. This is why it is important to obtain the names, addresses and telephone numbers of occurrence witnesses who can verify that your version of events is correct.
Insurance Companies Don’t Always Know the Law
Third, some insurance adjusters do not know what the law is or do not like the law as applied to the facts of your wreck. If you were car doored even though the law is on your side [cite our article], or right hooked in a bike lane [cite our article and link it] when you had the legal right of way, the insurance adjuster may be ignorant about what the actually is, or unwilling to accept that a bicycle ever has the legal right of way. A bias against bicyclists or pedestrians is fairly common in auto liability cases. We always make sure insurance adjusters are sent the actual laws applicable to each collision in order to at least make sure they have the law available to review even if they choose to ignore it.
If it seems to you that the insurance company is being unfair in evaluating the fault for a wreck you are probably right. If you accept an evaluation that is not fair you will certainly regret it later, and your damages will be diminished so the insurance company has to pay less money than you deserve.