Around 40 million patients visit U.S. emergency rooms every year due to injuries. Some of these wounds result from accidents caused by other people, and these injured victims can seek compensation from the guilty parties for various damages through personal injury claims.
You might not realize that insurance companies play a pivotal role in personal injury cases. Unfortunately, they rarely have your best interests in mind. The Jeffcoat Firm explains.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
Whether resulting from accidental or deliberate causes, injuries you sustained through no fault of your own usually make you eligible to file a claim for compensation. Common injury sources include:
- Car, truck, motorcycle and other motor vehicle accidents
- Defective products
- Nursing home abuse or medical malpractice
- Workplace accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
Someone else’s negligence is the basis for most personal injury claims.
What Is an Insurance Company’s Role?
Suppose Joe’s negligent driving caused an accident that injured you. Although Joe is ultimately personally liable, the chances are that Joe has car insurance. While Joe is responsible for his actions, his insurance company is responsible for paying your compensation. The insurance carrier is your opponent.
People pay insurance premiums expecting the carrier to cover eligible losses. You may think that insurance companies will treat you fairly. After all, their policyholder injured you. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.
Many types of policies should provide personal injury payouts, including:
- Business liability or umbrella
- Medical malpractice
- Worker’s compensation
The nature of your accident or injury determines which insurance policy should pay.
What Is a Claims Adjuster?
Insurance companies employ adjusters to investigate claims made against their policies and make settlement value recommendations to the company. During the investigation, adjusters typically:
- Interview their policyholder, witnesses and law enforcement personnel
- Contact injured accident victims, often attempting to trick them into making statements that damage their claims and recording these conversations
- Search for and request documents and evidence related to the accident and your claim
- Investigate the claimant’s history, looking for existing medical conditions, previous lawsuits and other evidence that the claim may be false
You might believe an adjuster is trying to help you uncover the facts, but their loyalty is to their employer’s bottom line. Even saying, “I’m sorry,” is construed as admitting fault. Personal injury attorneys typically advise their clients not to speak to insurance company representatives alone.
The adjuster then uses the results from their investigation to recommend a settlement amount. Adjusters use several factors to make these calculations, such as:
- Your credibility
- The amount of your economic damages and estimated non-economic damages
- Each party’s percentage of fault
- Concrete evidence, such as video surveillance footage, showing the accident as it happened
- The likelihood of winning a trial and the estimated amount a jury would award you
Most insurance companies then make an initial settlement offer that is much lower than the settlement amount adjusters propose. Insurance companies often use underhanded tactics to entice claimants to accept these lowball offers so they don’t have to pay what claims are actually worth.
How Can You Stop Insurance Companies From Taking Advantage of You?
Consider anything you provide to an insurance company as ammunition they may use to lower the amount of compensation they must pay. The best way to protect your rights and personal injury claim is to hire a competent attorney. We understand how insurance companies operate, their goals and the tactics they use to trick unwary claimants.
Total compensation varies significantly, and your actions are a factor in determining the amount you receive. We will share several things you should be aware of in your dealings with insurance companies to prioritize your best interests.
Don’t Allow Early Access to Your Medical Records
You will need to release your medical records at some point during your claim process, but allowing insurance companies to access them too early may reduce your payout amount. Only sign a release close to the end of your treatments. Your lawyer knows the right time.
Never agree to have a recorded conversation. Adjusters and other insurance company employees are not your friends. They can and will use anything you say against you. Seemingly innocent inquiries about your family and friends likely have an ulterior motive.
Your best course of action is to let your personal injury lawyer handle all communications to eliminate the risk of inadvertently damaging your claim. If you do speak to insurance company representatives, ask your attorney to be present.
Insurance companies may interview friends and coworkers. They might examine all your social media posts. They will know if you refuse further recommended medical treatments before your healthcare professional releases you from their care.
Be wise with your conversations and actions. Before you say or do anything, ask yourself if someone could use it to undermine your claim or damage your credibility. Don’t discuss or post details about your accident and injuries. Continue to accept medical attention.
When you hire The Jeffcoat Firm, we will provide case-specific advice.
Don’t Accept Initial Settlement Offers
Settlement agreements are binding legal documents. Once you sign on the dotted line, you typically lose any rights to seek further compensation for your injuries. Your signature ends the company’s liability. Even if you later develop medical complications as a direct result of your initial injury, you are unable to obtain additional reimbursement.
Many injured accident victims don’t realize how much their case is worth and are unaware that they can negotiate for higher compensation amounts. An experienced attorney can calculate how much compensation you might receive and fight to ensure you obtain it.
Most claimants receive compensation through negotiated settlements, but insurance companies don’t always cooperate. We can file a civil lawsuit and take your case to trial if necessary.
What Compensation Can You Obtain?
South Carolina laws allow eligible injured accident victims to receive three kinds of damages, typically paid by insurance companies. Amounts vary depending on your specific circumstances. Ask your attorney how much your case is worth.
Accidents and injuries cause various expenses. Economic damages reimburse you for eligible costs, such as:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Replacement services
- Property damage
You may qualify to seek compensation for future medical expenses and earnings, but insurance companies usually don’t offer these payments voluntarily. Ask your attorney if you are eligible.
Injuries often have long-term consequences that dramatically affect quality of life. Non-economic damages compensate for things like:
- Pain and suffering
- Anxiety, depression and PTSD
- Losing your ability to enjoy life
You are unlikely to receive non-economic damages without an attorney’s assistance.
In rare cases, courts may award punitive damages to victims as an additional punishment to the guilty party. Ask your attorney if you qualify.
Why Choose The Jeffcoat Firm?
The competent attorneys at the award-winning Jeffcoat Firm have an impeccable track record of winning personal injury cases since the firm opened in 1999. Advocating for your rights is our priority, and our experience and in-depth knowledge of local laws provide the tools we need to fight against greedy insurance companies on your behalf.
Contact The Jeffcoat Firm today to request your free, no-obligation consultation. With offices across South Carolina, we have a location convenient for you. You can reach us at (803) 200-2000, via live chat or by submitting our online case review request form.