People who have been in a serious car wreck can find their lives turned upside down in an instant. Suddenly they’re facing car repair bills, medical issues and expenses, time lost from work, an uncertain future. The more trusting may be counting on the at-fault driver’s insurance company to make things right. But there’s ample evidence to suggest that trust is often misplaced.
Whether they call themselves good neighbors or good hands or use celebrities or cute reptiles to tout their services, insurance companies are not charities. They are money-making enterprises, and that means taking in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims — a lot more. Although some companies may have approaches to settling claims that are considered “tough but fair,” others are simply tough and unreasonable; if they can get away with paying you far less than your claim is worth, they won’t hesitate to do so. You can almost always count on the insurance company’s first offer to be lower than market value, yet some people readily agree to it.
Perhaps those people who settle their claims on the insurance company’s terms don’t realize how insurance companies work or that they have other options. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are six tell-tale signs that the insurance company is trying to get you to accept a lowball offer — and what you can do about it.
- The company is in a big hurry. You’re still shook up from the crash, and the insurance rep is already waving a check under your nose, offering to fix your car and toss in a few hundred bucks for your trouble. Isn’t that nice? Beware of signing anything or making a statement about the accident, especially if you’re still in the hospital or taking medication. Any settlement is premature if you haven’t had a chance to take stock of your damages.
- The company has no interest in the details of the crash or the actual damages involved. Sometimes insurance companies try to pressure injured people into a settlement with take-it-or-else ultimatums with a short expiration date. Why the rush? If they don’t seem willing to wait until a police crash investigation has been completed or a full medical evaluation has been done, maybe it’s because they could be facing greater liability and costs down the line than they’re willing to admit.
- The company minimizes your injuries. It’s not unusual for insurance companies to try to justify lowball offers by insisting that you’re not as injured as your doctors say you are, or that your pain is due to some pre-existing condition rather than the impact of the crash. To a badly injured person, it’s adding insult to injury; to them, it’s just a negotiating tactic.
- The company tries to shift the blame. No canny insurance company attorneys are going to readily admit that their client was responsible for the crash — not if there’s a chance of blaming others for doing something wrong and thereby reducing their client’s liability and the amount offered. That’s why it’s important to be able to fully document the crash, locate witnesses and establish liability before settling any claim resulting from that crash.
- The company is ghosting you. Although the insurance company’s employees may seem solicitous (and in a big hurry to settle) right after the crash, they can become more elusive as you get a better sense of the extent of your losses — ignoring phone messages, failing to respond to emails, and so on. They could be waiting you out or hoping you’ll give up. While they make it convenient to settle on their terms, a fair settlement can be difficult to achieve without the help of a professional attorney…which brings us to a final warning sign of a lowball offer.
- The company tries to discourage you from hiring an attorney. The harder the company tries to convince you that it’s best to “settle everything right now,” the more skeptical you should be. They may claim that seeking the advice of a personal-injury lawyer will needlessly prolong the process and be very expensive to boot. But most personal injury cases are handled on a contingency basis — you pay nothing unless you receive a settlement. And studies show that injured people represented by an attorney recover approximately 3.5 times more money than those without an attorney. That’s after deducting the fees paid to the attorney.
In addition to making sure you get a proper medical evaluation, an experienced accident lawyer will know how to assess other ways the crash has impacted your life, including losses you’ve incurred that you may not realize are compensable, such as lost wages and pain and suffering. Attorneys know how to negotiate with an insurance company to obtain fair compensation for these claims. No attorney can guarantee a certain outcome in all cases. But your chances of maximizing your settlement to receive all the compensation you deserve increases greatly when you have an experienced personal injury attorney by your side.
THE CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS AT FDAZAR
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032 or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.