While the automobile insurance companies flood the airwaves with clever commercials and catchy jingles about their low rates, accessibility, and commitment to “being there” for their customers, the reality is a much less personal, more anonymous, and an entirely bottom-line profit-maximizing business model, when it comes to claims adjusting, that far too often boils claim evaluation down to, “Don’t like it? So sue me.”
One of the most common complaints amongst our clients who have suffered injuries as the result of auto accidents is that they end up being made to feel more like a wrongdoer than a victim. This is especially common in claims like the ones on which this CNN article focuses – i.e., those accidents involving relatively minor property damage to the vehicles, but still resulting in injuries (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/02/09/insurance.hardball/). The insurance companies know and love the popular misconception that only catastrophic or "serious" car crashes can cause real bodily harm, despite the countless cases where the impact of cars colliding (even at low rates of speed) causes damage to the people inside even when the bumpers do their job in protecting the cars (and insurers) from major damage (i.e., repair costs). For these lower impact accidents, insurance companies scoff at medical records and doctors’ opinions as to degree of injury, with insurance adjusters often relying instead upon their own “medical expertise” to determine that the resulting injuries couldn’t possibly be so severe as what the medical evidence says. In other words, the accident victim must be lying. Adjusters are trained to evaluate low impact accidents where treatment goes beyond 6-8 weeks as being medically unnecessary without any further consideration.
Insurance companies will frequently make a play to offer nominal settlement amounts to victims of their customers’ driving mistakes as soon as possible to avoid having to pay more if/when the injuries turn out to be more serious than just a bump or a scratch, which is especially common with the types of spinal injuries that often result from car accidents. And if you think that initial offer was unreasonable? Tough. An insurance company gets no benefit out of paying more or paying earlier. So the mantra becomes, "deny, delay and defend." (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2007/02/insurance-companies-fight-paying.html); (http://www.cnbc.com/id/36178055).
While popular opinion seems to be unkind to those individuals who hire lawyers to pursue insurance claims and take these insurance companies to court, what other options do the insurance companies give victims in these kinds of claims? As the CNN article poses it, the position has increasingly become, “Take it or leave it...” or, perhaps more accurately, “Take it or spend time, money, and energy fighting for more.” That uphill battle for fair compensation is a tough pill to swallow for anyone who’s already suffered due to a car accident. It’s unlikely to change anytime soon, but articles like this CNN report help raise public awareness regarding what those “good hands” and “good neighbors” are really up to, aside from collecting premiums.
If you or a loved one are injured in an automobile collision and are getting this kind of run around from an insurance adjuster, call the attorneys at NRS Injury Law.