Sketchy tactics used by insurance companies after an accident
Car accidents happen every day. In fact, over 150,000 injury accidents and fatal auto accidents happen in California every year. If you were involved in an auto collision and sustained injuries, you can pursue compensation by filing an auto insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Unfortunately, dealing with an insurance company can be a very slow-going and frustrating process. An insurance company is a business and is not on your side. Their goal is to pay accident victims as little as possible or deny their claim altogether. However, by learning what to expect from working with an insurance company and the common tactics an insurance company will try to use, you can protect yourself against bad faith practices. Of course, the best way to protect your claim and ensure you receive the compensation you’re owed for your injuries and other damages is to work with a skilled and experienced accident lawyer.
How to Deal with Insurance Companies to Get the Compensation You Deserve
Regardless of how severe the collision was, someone will always be assigned fault. In some cases, who was at fault for a motor vehicle accident is very obvious, such as an accident involving a drunk driver. But in other cases, fault is not always clear.
Pure Comparative Negligence
No matter how minor the accident is, someone will always be assigned fault.
After an accident in which fault is not clear, things can get very complicated. In the end, it’s the job of the insurance agent to determine what or who caused the accident.
Every insurance company handles accident claims and coverages differently. Additionally, every state has its own negligence laws.
California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means, that even if you were 99% at fault for the collision, you are still entitled to damages. However, your compensation will be reduced, based on your level of fault. For example, if you were speeding through a yellow light and were hit by a driver who was driving under the influence, you would still be held partially at fault for the crash. The insurance adjuster must assign you a percentage of fault. If you are entitled to $20,000 in damages, but you are 10% at fault for the accident, your compensation would be reduced by 10%.
How an Auto Insurance Company Assigns Fault in an Accident Situation
During the insurance claims process, a claims adjuster will be assigned to your case and will investigate the accident to determine who caused it and assign each party a percentage of fault. Fault determination in auto accidents is based on California’s legal definition of negligence.
Accident Investigation and Fault Determination
To determine fault and assign a percentage, auto insurance teams must first investigate the accident. They will obtain the accident report, and interview eyewitnesses, accident scene evidence, video footage, and other pieces of evidence to make a determination.
Once the insurance agent has determined which party caused the accident and has assigned a percentage of fault, they will contact you or your attorney.
Handling an Insurance Claims Adjuster
You must avoid calls from insurance adjusters. After you file an accident benefits claim, a claims adjuster will continue to call until they have spoken with you or your legal representative. They have a job to do and part of that is to obtain a statement.
The claims adjuster will want your side of the story to learn the extent of damage you sustained and which party was at fault. It's important that you avoid speaking with the insurance agent, especially if you have not contacted an accident attorney. If you already have an auto accident attorney, give the insurance agent their contact information and let your attorney handle it.
Speak With a Personal Injury Attorney As Soon as Possible
While you are not required to hire an attorney when you file a claim for accident benefits, doing so will give you the best chance of receiving the fair compensation you deserve. Contact an accident lawyer to schedule a consultation as soon as possible after an accident.
An attorney is familiar with the common tricks insurance companies use and they will not allow an insurance company or claims adjuster to take advantage of you. They will also conduct an investigation of their own that will allow them to gather evidence and build the strongest case possible. An attorney will take an insurance company head-on and ensure you get the settlement amount you’re entitled to.
The damages you're entitled to will depend on the circumstances surrounding your accident. In most cases, when a person files a personal injury claim, they often pursue the following damages:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Vehicle damage cost of repair or replacement/personal property damage
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium,
A personal injury attorney will gather evidence and determine which damages you're entitled to. If you sustained catastrophic or long-term injuries, they will work with experts to determine the true cost of future medical bills and other damages.
What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage?
If you were involved in an accident with a hit-and-run driver or an uninsured driver, you may still be able to recover compensation. If your automobile insurance policy includes uninsured motorist coverage, you can file an insurance claim with your own insurance company. However, despite it being your own insurance provider, an insurance representative will still try to deny your claim or minimize your payout, especially if you have an accident history. Fortunately, you can obtain legal representation in this type of accident scenario.
An attorney can help you file a claim for accident benefits and will hold your insurance company responsible for damages.
An accident benefits claim can cover the cost of medical bills, including hospital bills, vehicle damage/property damage, lost wages, and other damages.
Damage Claim for Underinsured Driver
If you were involved in an accident with an underinsured driver, if you have underinsured driver insurance coverage, an attorney can help you pursue compensation from your own insurance company. This insurance coverage can be invaluable if the other driver's liability insurance coverage was not enough to cover your claim for damages. This means that your insurance company would end up paying any remaining damages that the other driver's insurance policy did not cover.
The bodily injury claims settlement process is very difficult to navigate if you have no personal injury law background. Insurance agents are trained negotiators and will pressure accident victims to accept their meager settlement offers.
If you decide to work with an accident attorney, the insurance adjuster will communicate exclusively with them during the settlement negotiation process. Keep in mind, that just because the insurance adjuster assigned a percentage of fault does not mean your attorney will agree with their findings. It will be your attorney's job to conduct their own investigation and determine your percentage of fault.
If the insurance adjuster does not agree with your lawyer's findings and their settlement offer, they will make a counteroffer.
Settlement negotiations can be a very time-consuming process and it can take several weeks or months before both you and the insurance adjuster agree on a fair settlement. If you are not able to agree on a settlement offer or the insurance adjuster denies your claim or refuses to offer the compensation you deserve, your attorney may advise you to pursue compensation in court. If you agree, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit and prepare your case for trial.
During this time, your lawyer will still be negotiating with the insurance company. Most cases settle out of court. An insurance company does not want to pay for a costly, time-consuming trial.
Schedule a Free, No-Obligation Legal Consultation Today
If you were injured in an auto accident contact MVP Accident Attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We can meet with you to go over the facts of your case and explain your legal rights and options. If you decide to work with us, we can begin an accident investigation right away to help you receive the compensation you’re owed for your losses.
Brett S. Sachs graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with Cum Laude Honors. While attending Michigan State, Brett was awarded for his service in the Michigan State University College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented prisoners of the Michigan Department of Corrections from injustices brought upon them. Learn more.
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