Some people involved in car wrecks choose to handle their claim without the assistance of an attorney. While you certainly can handle the claim yourself, statistics show that you are likely to recover less compensation than had you hired an attorney to handle your claim. There are many challenges and nuances involved in handling a claim and getting fair compensation for injuries and losses. An attorney experienced in handling wrecks and premises liability claims will be able to help identify and respond to common pitfalls in the claims and settlement processes.
Below are some of the common tactics an insurance company may use to deny or reduce the value of your claim.
Denying and limiting liability
The easiest way for an insurance company to avoid paying an injury victim is to simply deny the claim outright. A personal injury claim arises when a victim is injured through another person’s negligence. If that person was not negligent, then he or she was not legally responsible (i.e. liable). As a result, that person’s insurance carrier has no obligation to compensate the victim for his or her injuries. Even when it appears that it’s insured is at fault, some insurance companies will still deny liability and try to avoid paying anything on claims.
An insurance company can also limit liability. The insurer may claim that you were partially at fault for causing the wreck, or the resulting damages. If the insurance company claims that you are partially at fault, liability will be apportioned by that amount. In Oregon, a person found to be more than 50% at fault cannot recover damages.
A person can also be injured through the negligence of a property owner. If unsafe conditions at a store, restaurant, recreation center, or other public area cause a person to become injured, the business owner can be held liable for negligently maintaining the premises. A person injured due to a defective condition on another’s property must prove that the business owner knew or should have known about the unsafe condition, and failed to address it appropriately. An insurance company may deny liability, claiming that the dangerous condition was “open and obvious.” In such a case, the injured person may be forced to defend his or her own actions which lead to the injury.
Devaluing pain and suffering
Even when an insurance company does not deny liability, it may still defend by attacking the value of the claim. The claims adjuster may challenge what type of treatment was obtained by the victim and whether or not the treatment was reasonable and necessary. This is especially common with less traditional treatment, such as chiropractic care or acupuncture. The claim adjuster may also challenge the extent and duration of treatment.
Pain and suffering is often the largest component of a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, pain is difficult to measure. It also varies greatly from person to person, and is largely subjective. Because of this, insurance companies will almost always try to devalue the amount of pain and suffering a victim suffered as the result of an accident. Other subjective losses, such as loss of enjoyment of hobbies, interference with your normal and usual activities, or the loss of companionship a family member experiences as the result of a victim’s injuries, are also common areas of attack.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help stave off such attacks, as well as articulate how the injury personally affected you. If necessary, an attorney will also be able to effectively present the value of such claims to a jury in order to improve the victim’s chances of being awarded the full value of his or her subjective losses.
Prior medical condition
A very common tactic used by insurance companies in devaluing claims is to look into pre-existing medical conditions or injuries. A claims adjuster may simply state that a prior injury caused the victim’s current suffering, and therefore the insurance company is not responsible to compensate the victim for the current injury. However, this is an incorrect statement of the law.
The law requires defendants to for all pain and suffering that was caused by their negligence. If a victim had a pre-existing injury which was exacerbated by the defendant’s negligence, the defendant is nevertheless obligated to compensate the victim for the increased pain and suffering. This is commonly referred to as the “eggshell skull rule.” Simply put, you take your victims as they come. Even if a victim was particularly vulnerable to injuries, or experienced more severe injuries than another person would have, the defendant is still obligated to compensate the full value of this increased suffering.
Get the right representation for you
The attorneys at Dwyer Williams Cherkoss are experienced in handling all matters of personal injury claims. We have decades of experience in negotiating and litigating claims. We ensure that victims are fairly compensated for their injuries and losses.
Call the attorneys at Dwyer Williams Cherkoss today and get a free consultation. We may be able to help you with your claim, so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.