Anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident or other type of accident will certainly come into contact with an insurance company. While most auto insurance companies portray themselves on television commercials or radio advertisements as friendly and caring businesses that are there to help, this is not entirely accurate. Insurance companies employ the use of certain tactics and strategies to minimize injury claims and try to pay as little as possible. Here’s a look at a strategy that insurance companies use and what you can do to protect yourself if you are seriously injured in an accident in Massachusetts.
Delay, Delay, Delay – A Common Tactic Used By Insurance Companies
A common tactic insurance companies use when dealing with bodily injury claims is to delay the claim or stall negotiations. There is some speculation that insurance companies want to delay the resolution of an injury claim to keep money in their bank accounts for investment purposes. Another reason to delay, is to frustrate the injured person in hopes that he or she will just accept a low settlement offer which in turn saves money for the insurance company. We find that this tactic often works with accident victims that did not use an attorney.
Most people injured in a car accident have much more going on in their life than focusing on handling their own injury claim. They have a job, families and other personal obligations at hand. Being injured in a car accident really adds to the stress of life in general. We all know how busy life gets. Now imagine adding in frequent doctor’s or physical therapy appointments on top of all of the other responsibilities that life brings. In more serious situations, having surgery to treat serious injuries from an accident places a lot of strain on the injured person and their life. This usually results in missed time from work and lost wages as well as very expensive medical bills.
In addition to all of this, imagine the frustration and stress of dealing with an insurance company that is delaying any settlement or resolution in the case. Remember, during the pendency of an injury claim the injured person is responsible for paying their medical bills. While their auto insurance company pays a portion of the medical bills through the PIP benefits and their health insurance also pays some of the medical bills, the injured person will be responsible for the co-pays and deductible payments. If someone is out of work due to their injuries it is hard to keep up with the regular bills, never mind having to worry about paying all of the extra medical bills and expenses.
I have met with many clients that were extremely upset dealing with the insurance company on their own and chose to hire a lawyer. In those specific cases I have seen the delay tactics used by insurance companies. Here are a few examples:
- Claiming the injury is pre-existing and demanding prior medical records. In some cases I have seen insurance adjusters argue that the injury was pre-existing and asking for five or more years of prior medical records. In one particular case that our office was hired to handle, the adjuster from a well-known national insurance company continued to maintain that a neck injury was pre-existing and that in order properly evaluate the claim they needed 10 years of prior medical records. This really sent this client on a wild goose chase trying to get 10 years of medical records. Of course, the claim was delayed for months and months until the injured person got so frustrated that he hired us.
- Sometimes, adjuster may simply avoid you. When life gets busy with work, family and other obligations it is not easy to find the time to stay on top of insurance adjusters to push for a resolution of your claim. Some clients of ours have explained how they have tried to make calls to the insurance company during their breaks at work and home only to get voice mail. Clients have also shared how insurance adjusters have waited weeks to return a phone call only to leave a message, which starts this repetitive game of phone tag over again. This can go on for months and months. In some situations the injured person grows completely frustrated with the process and just gives in and accepts a low offer only to get it over with and move on with their life.
- Your claim may get “reassigned” to another adjuster. Sometimes, insurance companies will use the tactic of reassigning the claims to another adjuster. The new adjuster claims to need additional time to review the claim and get up to speed on the facts and damages of the case. Of course, this maneuver causes a delay in the claim and ultimate settlement of the case. After taking significant time reviewing the newly assigned claim, the new adjuster may claim to need additional evidence or documentation to properly evaluate the claim. Again, this may send the injured party on a wild goose chase looking for the additional documentation or evidence the adjuster wants. Combining this “reassignment” tactic with the other ones above can create a significant delay in resolving your case.
How The Delay Tactics Work
In some cases an injured person may try to handle their injury claim themselves. While in some cases an injured person may be able to do it themselves, but, it is not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to use the above delay tactics to wear down the injured person in hopes that he or she will just accept a low settlement offer.
The insurance companies know that when someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident they may be out of work due to their injuries, have medical bills coming in the mail and piling up and be in desperate need of money. Just because someone is injured in an accident doesn’t mean the mortgage or rent payment stop or that other bills, such as utility bills, car payments and credit card bills stop coming in. We know how frustrating it can be for someone, who was hurt as a result of someone else’s negligence, to incur significant medical costs and fall behind on their own bills.
Insurance companies often sense the frustration in the injured party and then try to act like a friend and make a very low settlement offer in spite of needing additional information, almost like they are doing a favor. They know that most times the injured person gets so irritated and annoyed with the process that they will just give in and accept the low settlement offer. Believe it or not, it does work.
Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself From Insurance Tactics
If you are the victim of these delay tactics from the insurance company, make sure you protect yourself and your claim. You should document each and every time you call the insurance company or adjuster. Get the insurance adjuster’s email address and send them an email every time you have to leave a message and be sure to note that you have not received a call back. You can also mail or fax them a letter that documents how many times you have called and not received a call back. If an adjuster makes a settlement offer verbally over the phone and never follows it up with a letter, you should send a letter, fax or email to memorialize it. There are laws in place in Massachusetts that hold insurance companies responsible for unfair and deceptive settlement and claim handling practices. The emails, faxes and letters can all be used, if needed, to establish that an insurance company may have acted unfair and deceptive in their handling of your claim.
Another way to protect yourself is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. While insurance adjusters may tell an accident victim that they do not need a lawyer, in many cases it is the best thing for an injury claim. We have previously wrote about how studies showed that car accident victims who hired lawyers received 3.5 times more money in the settlement of their accident case than those who did hired an attorney. Also, a lawyer or law firm that is devoted to representing accident victims is experienced in dealing with insurance companies and know how to handle the delay tactics and other strategies used to minimize an injury claim. Furthermore, an experienced accident attorney will know the true value of a case, which may be much higher than even the accident victim thinks. See an example of why you should speak with an experienced injury attorney.
Speak With An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Massachusetts and you feel you are getting the run-around from an insurance company, you should consult with an experienced injury firm. A personal injury lawyer can explain how these cases are pursued, handled and settled.
We offer free initial meetings where we will review your case, answer your questions, and explain your rights and legal options. Feel free to call (508) 879-3500 or contact us online.