Unfortunately, insurance companies play a central role in personal injury claims and litigation. Insurance companies are profit centric and put their interests ahead of yours. Keep this in mind when you interact with one and realize everything they do is rooted in that reality. For example, an insurance company will try and settle your case quickly. They do not care about your well-being, they just want to move on as quickly and cheaply as possible. If you refuse the insurance company claims adjusters will use every tool in their arsenal to get you to settle cheaply. In many cases, you will end up needing to file a lawsuit just to be taken seriously.
Many years ago, discovery in a case against Allstate Insurance showed that it hired a famous consulting firm called McKinsey and Company. McKinsey analyzed Allstate’s claims handling and business operations with an eye toward increasing profit and shareholder value. It observed two things correlated to the longer Allstate dragged a claim out:
- The insurance company’s claim funds accrues the company more interest money over the time wasted in them delaying and dragging out your case. This is called “the spread.”
- There is a correlation between your likelihood of giving up or settling for less than you deserve and the duration of your case. In other words, the insurance company dragging its feet increases weariness and willingness for a claimant to throw in the towel and give up.
There are many tactics insurance companies use to buy time and delay the claims process. They generally take much longer than necessary to respond to correspondence from you or your attorney. Once a lawsuit is filed, they drag it out for many years. Often, insurance companies keep their defense lawyers overworked so that they do not have any availability in their calendar to schedule a trial until months or years out in the future. This is in part because they have so many trials as it is.
The Tactics Insurance Companies Use to Payout Little–If Not Nothing
In addition to delaying cases to payout as little as possible, insurance companies employ other tactics to get you to settle cheap. They will threaten to “close their file”, which is absurd because of the statute of limitations.
In Washington state, the statute of limitations on most personal injury claims is three years. In some instances, insurance companies will not respond at all within those three years. They will hide information concerning the case, such as who the person was that harmed you. I have seen this happen in my own experience. In one case I handled, the insurance company would include the insured’s name on letters they sent but never the driver’s name. It was their attempt to hide information until the statute of limitations had passed. The case was almost lost because of it. If they can hide information and not provide it to you to protect themselves, they will.
Insurance companies will also make offers on property damage that is lower than the car is worth or damage estimated to cost. This would likely not make it worth the hassle of filing a lawsuit, but difficult enough to not be able to replace your car since you are not receiving the full value you would otherwise be entitled to.
So, Who Can You Trust?
Although the insurance company you deal with may seem nice and concerned with your recovery, they will use anything you say against you in court. The adjuster may be friendly and smile as they say nice things to you, but they can twist your reply to a simple greeting, “I am fine, thank you.” to argue that you are not injured.
Remember, the individuals you deal with in your personal injury case are there to do a job: save the company money. They have to answer to their company’s internal reviews and supervisors. In fact, most insurance adjusters or claims representatives have little to no authority to negotiate the case. Insurance companies often use committees and algorithms to set values on cases, then force the adjuster to negotiate within those values. View the role of insurance in a personal injury claim as the enemy of your recovery.
What You Should Tell Your Doctor
When communicating with your doctor, you must understand that your doctor charts everything you tell them. Your chart is not written for you but for the purpose of continuity of care and to document the treatment provided to you. Sometimes things can get into medical records that are not helpful. For example, if you talk to your doctor about your injuries from a collision and mention something else that happened to you years ago, that information may get into the medical records. You need to tell your doctor everything necessary to treat you for your injuries, yet, at the same time, realize what you say will be put into the medical records. The insurance company will eventually retrieve those records and use them against you however possible.
The Truth About Preexisting Conditions
Any preexisting conditions in areas of your body where your injuries occurred will be twisted to say that you were not hurt because of the accident that caused your injuries. The insurance company has the right to use private investigators to follow and film you. This happens more than you might think. It is critically important to be mindful that once you have a claim, it is possible the insurance company will do this to gather information to discredit your claim.
Anecdotally, in an apartment I used to live in, I regularly noticed what seemed to be someone monitoring me. Whenever I tried to confront them about it, they would run away. I finally called the police who eventually figured out who the individual was: an insurance investigator for a disability insurance company. He was trying to prove that my neighbor was not disabled. The investigator would sit in his car for hours trying to film her in the act of walking her dog, sweeping her porch, or doing other routine activities to this end. Be careful of these realities and the role of insurance in a personal injury claim you have initiated.
For more information on the Role Of Insurance In A Personal Injury Claim, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (206) 900-9342 today.