Fact # 1: Giving a recorded statement helps their case, not yours.
Insurance companies want you to give a recorded statement as soon as possible after your accident — often before you have the whole story. Holding you to your earlier testimony means they have more leverage to reduce the amount of money they have to pay. Many people think they have to give a recorded statement or that it is required before their insurer acts on their claim. When your friendly neighborhood insurance adjuster asks you to speak on the record on your own behalf, always delay doing so until you have retained a qualified personal injury attorney.
Why are recorded statements of your car accident such a bad idea? Oftentimes, a person will say something — or omit a detail — that can be used against them later. Insurance adjusters are trained to draw out speculations or details that compromise your claim, often by asking things that you have no way of knowing.
How can auto insurance insurance adjusters twist your words? Let’s say they ask you how fast a vehicle was going when it hit you. If you greatly underestimate the speed at which you were hit, for instance, the insurance adjuster might say that the damage couldn’t really be that bad if it didn’t feel like the other driver was going so fast. Conversely, if you overestimate the speed you were hit, the insurance adjuster has leverage to say you are exaggerating your injuries. Finally, if you say you don’t know how fast they were going, the claims adjuster may say your testimony is unreliable.
The fact is: there is no “safe answer” in a recorded statement; this is why we highly recommend not offering any answers at all — until you have a car accident lawyer in your corner.
Fact # 2: Insurance companies want juries to think that lawsuits are “frivolous”.
Have you heard about the McDonald’s hot coffee case? Chances are, if you have, it was the work of a “tort reform” activist; insurance industry insiders often cite this case to drum up ire over “frivolous lawsuits” that allow people to shirk “personal responsibility”.
The truth is: that the insurance industry relies on this public perception to keep their profits high. Through a multi-million dollar public relations campaign, they falsely claim that lawsuits are on the rise (they aren’t), that plaintiff verdicts will increase insurance premiums (they don’t), and that injured people are just scamming the system (false). Insurance companies are for-profit entities; it is in their financial interest to make the public believe that any compensation for an accident is undeserved.
Fortunately for injured people, the law is on their side. Colorado law stipulates that anyone injured through someone else’s negligence is entitled to financial compensation. Financial compensation is the very least that can be done to fix an unfortunate situation; these monies may go to medical bills, physical therapy, or prescription medication costs. In our many years of representing injured people in Colorado, we know the relief an insurance settlement can bring. It is a sad moment when an insurance company turns on its own insured, just to keep its profits high. We have seen this happen often.
Far from being “frivolous”, in fact, personal injury lawsuits counterbalance this wave of propaganda set in motion by the insurance industry; filing suit against an insurance company that refuses to pay sets the tone for how insurance companies can treat their policyholders. More lawsuits actually mean quicker, fairer settlements — as insurance companies do not actually want to go to trial. Many times insurance companies are simply looking to deter a payout by delaying or wrongfully denying a claim; a lawsuit pushes back against these manipulative measures.
What is insurance bad faith?
“Bad faith” refers to an insurer’s attempt to renege on its obligations to its clients. This could be either through denying a policyholder’s legitimate claim, an undue investigation or a lengthy process in resolving that claim within a reasonable period. Bad faith also occurs when an insurance company: misrepresents their contract (either in the selling of a policy or in the avoidance of a payment); fails to disclose limitations or exclusions within an insurance contract; or intentionally misleads their policyholders about their business practices. There are multiple ways insurance companies may act in bad faith; if you suspect this of your insurance company, always consult an insurance bad faith attorney in your area to learn about your legal recourse.
It is not uncommon for large companies — say for instance, trucking companies — to operate right at the margins of legality. To maximize profits, many companies provide the bare minimum (if that) in terms of care and maintenance of their fleet, or training and evaluation of their staff.
Can you imagine what would happen if they knew they could get away with more: if they knew any lawsuit against them would be thrown out as “frivolous”? When big businesses are not punished for evading their responsibilities, our Colorado roads become more dangerous for everyone. Part of law enforcement is providing a financial incentive for trucking companies, insurance companies, and other big businesses to look after the well-being of everyone, not just their shareholders.
In fact, Colorado law allows injured people to bring claims against multiple parties. This could mean an individual, an insurance company, a trucking company or broker, or even a municipality that failed to act with due care or provide a safe environment. A personal injury claim is simply a means to seek compensation for any damages caused by these negligent parties. We rely on these laws — and lawsuits — to encourage businesses to take responsibility for any damage they cause.
Fact #3: Insurance companies don’t want you to talk to an attorney.
Did you know that claimants who an attorney represents receive higher settlement values than claimants who are not represented? It’s true — and insurance companies know this. In fact, internal documents show that insurance companies actually evaluate your case based on whether or not you are represented and the caliber of your lawyer.
A trial lawyer on your side increases your claim’s value, whereas the presence of a lawyer known for settling cases out of court will not increase your claim value as much. Most lawyers operate on a quality-over-quality basis, settling cases quickly and for low sums, because they do not want to take on the work and risk of a trial. Their business model serves themselves first, and their client second.
Why should you hire a lawyer?
Having legal representation can lead to higher settlement values. A study from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) showed that average insurance payouts were much higher when a claimant had legal representation. The study consisted of 6,000 auto accident claimants and controlled for types of injury, financial losses, treatment received; and settlement offer. Those who had legal representation received 40% more in their settlement offers, on average, than claimants who remained unrepresented by legal counsel. A separate report by the IRC reported that a full 85% of all insurance settlements were awarded to represented claimants, and that these settlements were more than three times higher than settlements paid to victims without legal representation.
Fact #4: You should always tell your doctors everything on the first visit.
Another fact that insurance companies don’t want you to know is that the best way to get a fast and fair settlement is by fully documenting your injuries and symptoms in your medical history. We recommend seeing a doctor as soon as you can after you have been injured or hurt, as it is crucial to begin the documentation process. When you speak to your doctor, tell them everything concerning you, even if it seems trivial or unrelated. Should any of your symptoms worsen, making note of them early on will give credence to your case, should your insurance company claim that you are malingering. Seeking and receiving medical treatment in a timely manner is often the only way your insurance company will take your injury seriously. (For the same reason, always follow your doctors’ medical advice, complete any prescription regimens, and avoid medical treatment gaps.)
In the wake of an event like a motor vehicle crash, you will be preoccupied with one symptom or condition. Perhaps you are worried about having a concussion and seek treatment for concussive symptoms (perhaps lethargy, brain or tinnitus). If you are also experiencing shoulder or back pain, these issues may go unaddressed in those first medical exams — even though they were present.
When it comes time to make your claim, your insurance company can use those earlier medical exams against you and deny payment for your shoulder and back pain. In the best-case scenario, your medical exam history is your best defense; in the worst-case scenario, it becomes your downfall. This is why it is critical to give a full medical history, and a complete list of symptoms, at every medical examination. When it comes to your medical history, there is no such thing as “TMI”.
Fact #5: Insurance companies want to make it look like you’re lying.
Malingering means faking or exaggerating one’s injuries or symptoms for personal gain — and, if your case goes to trial, it’s often your insurance company’s trump card. If your insurance company suspects that you are lying about your injuries, they will push the case to trial, and let the jury punish the dishonest injured person. Juries are notoriously unforgiving in cases where the plaintiff is found to be malingering — and rightly so!
Your insurance company will do everything in its power to make it look to a jury that you are lying or exaggerating. This is why it is critically important that you always tell the truth: to your insurance adjuster, to your doctors, to your lawyers, and, should the need arise, to your jury. Reputable law firms will not represent clients who they believe are malingering; not only would this be highly unethical, but it introduces far too much risk. Honesty is truly the best policy.
We hope these insurance facts are of value to you as you navigate your personal injury claim. Be aware that these facts do not just apply to auto insurance coverage; they also apply to health insurance claims, life insurance claims, and any instance where an insurance company has an incentive to delay or deny a full, fair payment to their policyholders.