The Inside Scoop on How Insurance Companies Will Fight Your Personal Injury ClaimClick For Your Free Consulation
No matter what the advertisements may tell you, insurance companies are businesses. They exist for one purpose: to make a profit. When you file a claim with an insurance company, your interests and the insurance company’s interests are adverse to each other. You want to receive money, and they want to save money. Insurance adjusters use many tactics to save their employers money at your expense.
Below, we discuss some of the ways insurance companies will fight your personal injury claim:
Suppose you suffer a serious injury in a slip and fall accident. If the insurance company succeeds in blaming you for the accident, they’ll limit their financial liability. They might do this by claiming that you were intoxicated during the incident.
In a motorcycle accident, they might argue that you weren’t wearing a helmet, you were lane-splitting, or you ran a red light.
Under New York’s pure comparative negligence law, a court apportions fault and liability among the at-fault parties on a percentage basis. For example, if a court holds you 30% at fault for the accident or your injury, you will lose 30% of your awarded damages. This system gives the insurance company every motivation to blame you for as much of the accident as they possibly can.
New York’s “no-fault” auto insurance system requires you to first turn to your auto insurance company for compensation, no matter whose fault the accident was. This no-fault system does not apply to motorcyclists or out-of-state drivers who did not purchase New York no-fault insurance.
New York also requires its drivers to purchase bodily injury liability insurance. If your injuries are serious, you can file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy. Fault becomes relevant under these circumstances.
Regardless of which insurance company you’re dealing with, they’ll try to push as much blame on you as possible to limit how much they have to pay.
New York’s personal injury statute of limitations allows you to file a lawsuit in court within three years after an accident. If you miss the deadline, your claim will be barred. Some exceptions apply under certain circumstances. Insurance companies know this, but if you don’t hire a lawyer, they are likely to bet that you don’t know this.
They might subject you to numerous delays, hoping to lull you into missing the statute of limitations deadline. Without the ability to file a lawsuit, you will lose your bargaining power against the insurance company.
Your safest choice is to suspend your social media accounts until your personal injury compensation is in your bank account. At the very least, don’t talk about your case online, and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. The insurance company can use a photo of you enjoying yourself at a party to prove that your injuries are not as serious as you say they are.
Don’t agree to a recorded interview with the insurance company without your lawyer present. In fact, once you hire a lawyer, you should direct all communication to your lawyer so that you never speak directly with the insurance company. Insurance companies have many ways to elicit statements from you that they can use against you later.
If the insurance company knows that you don’t have a lawyer, they might attempt to intimidate you by taking advantage of what you don’t know about personal injury law. They might, for example, issue a “take it or leave it” offer with an arbitrary deadline for you to either accept or reject it. Remember, your only real deadline is set by the New York statute of limitations for personal injury claims.
Insurance companies must compensate you for necessary and reasonable medical treatment. If you go to a chiropractor or rehabilitation therapist, for example, they might claim that these treatments are unnecessary. This is especially true if you demand compensation for an unconventional medical treatment such as homeopathy.
Don’t sign anything the insurance company asks you to sign without speaking with your lawyer first. One of the documents the insurance company would like you to sign is permission to access all of your medical records. If you give them this permission, they will scour your medical records in a “fishing expedition” looking for a pre-existing injury.
If they find an old back injury, for example, and you suffered a back injury in your accident, they might claim that the accident did not cause the injury. This will give them an excuse to refuse to pay your claim.
Words can be interpreted in more than one way. Nevertheless, since the insurance company drafted the policy language, a court will likely interpret the policy language in your favor if there is any ambiguity. The insurance company is likely to assume that you don’t realize this, especially if you don’t have a lawyer. They might rely on a creative interpretation of ambiguous policy wording to try and deny your claim. Don’t fall for it.
This is probably the most insidious tactic an insurance company can use on you. The insurance adjuster will be happy to let you believe that you cannot afford a lawyer. In fact, you almost certainly can afford a lawyer, at least if your claim has merit, because most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis.
In a contingency fee arrangement, you agree with your lawyer that your legal fee will equal a certain percentage of the money your lawyer recovers for you, either at the bargaining table or in court. If your lawyer recovers nothing, you will owe nothing in legal fees. Since there are no upfront fees, this system allows you to hire a lawyer without worrying about how you will afford them.
The foregoing represents only a small fraction of the strategies an insurance company might use to fight your claim. If you believe you might have a valid personal injury claim, contact an experienced NYC personal injury lawyer at Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers for help calling (212) 564-2800 today. An attorney will help you negotiate with the insurance company and ensure you get fair compensation.
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