Be Smart About Automobile Insurance
Vehicle insurance, in the United States, is designed to cover the risk of financial liability or the loss of a motor vehicle the owner may face if their vehicle is involved in a collision resulting in property or physical damages. Most states require a motor vehicle owner to carry some minimum level of liability insurance. States that do not require the vehicle owner to carry car insurance include Virginia, where an uninsured motor vehicle fee may be paid to the state; New Hampshire, and Mississippi which offers vehicle owners the option to post cash bonds. (Wikipedia)
- Liability Coverage. Auto liability is mandatory in most states.
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
- Comprehensive Coverage.
- Collision Coverage
- Medical Payments Coverage.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
What Kind of Insurance Coverage Do You Need?
One of the most important categories of insurance coverage in an auto policy is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, over the past 15 years, the percentage of uninsured motorist has been between 13%-16%. Never assume that the person who caused the car crash has insurance or has enough insurance. Nobody protects you like you.
The time to get good coverage is before you need it. Before you get into a crash, max out your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. It is best to have as much as coverage as you can afford. If the other person has no insurance or inadequate insurance, your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage will be the only source of insurance available to compensate you for injuries.
Make sure that your auto insurance has med pay 0r Personal Injury Protection, sometimes referred to as PIP coverage. PIP generally pays for things that typical health insurance doesn’t cover. For example, co-pays, patient responsibility, deductibles, medications, and chiropractic treatment. If your policy does not have PIP or med pay coverage, get it.
GET AN UMBRELLA POLICY.
Umbrella insurance refers to liability insurance that is in excess of specified other policies and also potentially primary insurance for losses not covered by the other policies.
When an insured is liable to someone, the insured’s primary insurance policies pay up to their limits, and any additional amount is paid by the umbrella policy (up to the limit of the umbrella policy).
These Umbrella policies are surprisingly inexpensive and provide extraordinary coverage. They extend the limits on your automobile policy and your home-owner’s policy.
If the insurer offers it, make sure that your umbrella policy extends your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as well as your liability coverage. If you are a homeowner it is particularly important that you get an umbrella policy.
Again, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage covers you when the other person has no or inadequate insurance. If your umbrella extends your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, you will have up to the full limits of your umbrella coverage (usually in the millions) PLUS the full limits of your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage available to compensate you for injuries and lost earnings. This can be critically important if your injuries are serious or disabling.
In California, one out of four drivers on the road is uninsured. Think about that. As you drive down the road, someone in front of you, behind you, to the left of you, or to the right of you has no insurance. If they injure you in a crash and you do not have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, you will be out of luck.
The Insurance Company is not Your Friend
When it comes to paying bodily-injury claims, insurance companies generally employ a strategy known as the three D’s: delay, deny, and defend.
- Reassign your case
- Refuse to return phone calls
- Delay paying settlement
First, delay. You may notice when you’re making an insurance claim that it seems to take forever to resolve. The insurance company might reassign the file several times to a new adjuster so you may experience talking to a new adjuster who tells you they are not familiar with your file, and that they will have to review it and get back to you.
You may experience that the insurance company refuses to return your phone calls for weeks. Even after a settlement has been reached the insurance company may delay sending the money.
These sorts of delays have a built-in economic incentive for the insurance company. Simply put, the insurance company is holding on to your money as long as it can because it’s making interest on your money in its bank account.
If you’re thinking to yourself that is unlikely, after all the delay of six months of paying your claim might result in the insurance company earning $0.17 of additional interest or something nominal like that, well you are forgetting that your claim is one in millions across this country. If the insurance company is earning nominal sums on millions of open claims that could be open for years, those nominal sums aggregate into literally millions of dollars, so there is a powerful economic incentive for the insurance company to delay giving you your money.
Secondly, insurance companies tend to deny claims. By denying the claim they are actually delaying the inevitable payout earning further interest on your money. By denying claims many claimants may simply give up and go away, in which case the insurance company gets to keep all the money without paying you anything.
There are a few things you can do to lower the chance that your claim will be denied.
- Contact your attorney for guidance as soon as possible after the incident
- File the claim immediately after the incident
- Get medical care immediately
- Keep all related documents, including accident reports
If your claim has been denied don’t just accept the ruling. Contact your car accident attorney for advise.
Finally, they engage in a tactic known as defend. In other words, they may offer a very small amount to satisfy your claim or deny your claim altogether which would encourage claimants to have to file lawsuits. The insurance company than defends the lawsuit, often denying liability right up until mere weeks before trial and then they make an about-face and suddenly admit it was their fault and offer a settlement. This tactic is designed to discourage claimants, and many will give up along the way and the insurance company gets to keep the money.
Retaining an accident law firm to represent you is the best approach because it evens the playing field. The insurance company has plenty of lawyers on its side. Put one on your side to make it a fair fight.
The Defenses Insurance Companies Use To Avoid Paying Injury Claims
There are five classic defenses that we see insurance companies employ.
The first is to attack causation. In other words, the attorney will imply that the crash you were involved in could not have caused the injuries that you reported. Often times the attorney will point out for instance that your car only sustained minor damage.
If a car merely incurs $500 of damage in the crash, the argument goes that the crash could not have caused the injuries that the claimant alleges.
Insurance companies also point to what they call gaps in treatment. In some cases immediately after an accident, you may not realize you have been injured so you don’t bother to see a doctor. As time passes you begin having back and neck pain. You realize that you were injured and go to the emergency room.
The emergency room doctor gives you pain medication and muscle relaxers and tells you to follow-up with your primary care physician as needed. After you complete all the medication you are feeling better and assume you need no additional treatment. But after a month or so you began having back and neck pain again so you schedule a visit to your primary care physician.
All you were doing was following doctor’s orders and trying not to run up unnecessary medical expenses, but later when you’re trying to argue that you have a righteous claim the insurance adjuster will say: “Well, what are these unexplained gaps in the timeline? It looks like you delayed three days getting to the emergency room and then it looks like you delayed another month before you finally saw your doctor.”
From this, the insurance company will infer that you were not hurt at all and therefore offer you a very small settlement.
Additionally, insurance companies will argue that you received excessive or unnecessary treatment. For example, let’s say that after your crash you went to your primary care physician. Your primary care physician, out of concern for your health, ordered an MRI and then sent you to a pain management specialist.
You may face the argument by an insurance adjuster (who is NOT a doctor) that the MRI was not medically necessary. That is a common ploy that insurance companies use by second-guessing medical decisions even though they have no medical training whatsoever.
Another tactic they use is accusing you of having pre-existing conditions. Let’s say you fell off a horse two years before your car crash and strained your lower back. In the two years since the fall your lower back healed completely and you no longer have any symptoms. Then later you are involved in a car crash in which you injure your lower back again.
The insurance adjuster might argue that the pain you are experiencing is really connected to the horse fall and therefore not the fault of their insured at all and offer you little or no money as a result.
The insurance adjuster may accuse your lawyer of “building up” the case this is the fifth classic insurance ploy used. This acquisition insinuates that your lawyer referred you to multiple doctors with the goal of artificially inflating the total amount of medical bills to manufacture a bigger damage claim.
Usually, when claimants obtain medical service paid for by giving the healthcare provider a lien—a right to collect—against the third-party settlement, that’s when we see insurance adjusters argue that the case is “built up.”
But that argument is most often unfair. Even if you have medical insurance, there may be many legitimate reasons you chose not to use it, and chose instead to obtain healthcare service on a lien.
For example, your medical insurance might not cover the treatment you need—like chiropractic care—which is not covered by most health insurance plans. You might have a high deductible and cannot afford to pay it.
Your health insurer might delay approval of the treatment you seek—an MRI or a visit to a specialist—and the same treatment is available with no delay on a lien.
The best approach to obtaining medical treatment after a crash is to only get treatment that is reasonable and necessary. If using liens is preferable to using your health insurance, use liens. If using health insurance is preferable to using liens, use your health insurance.
If you are sincere in your approach to your treatment, you will have nothing to hide. Never exaggerate your symptoms or seek unnecessary treatment, and you should not have anything to worry about. But that still might not prevent the insurance company from accusing you of building up your claim.
Your best response to all of these defenses is to retain counsel. Survey results have confirmed that insurance claims are far more successful when the claimants are represented by car accident attorneys.
The Three Things That Insurance Companies Don’t
Want You To Know About Your Claim
There are three main things that insurance companies don’t want you to know about your claim. Number one, you are being judged. The insurance company is looking for fraud. This is understandable. If you owned an insurance company, wouldn’t you employ a system to detect fraud? Of course you would. I would. It’s only natural.
As mentioned above, one of the things insurance companies are looking for is minor property damage resulting from the accident. The implication here is that if there was little damage done to the car there must be little potential for injury to the occupant of the car.
They are also looking for delays and gaps in the medical treatment timeline as a way of inferring that you must not have been hurt at all if you delayed medical treatment.
Another thing they are looking for is the credibility of the claimant as a trial witness. This one seems totally unfair. If you are somebody who has tattoos visibly covering your entire body or a felony in your criminal background, yet you were involved in a high-speed, high-impact injury producing car crash, the insurance company may point to the tattoos or the felony and offer you very little money for your injury by insinuating that you would make a bad witness at trial.
The third thing that insurance companies don’t want you to know about your claim is that a computer program will likely review your claim, instead of a human being.
Fifty percent of insurers’ nationwide use a computer program called Colossus to evaluate claims. If people knew that their claim was going to be evaluated by a computer program as opposed to a human being it would probably shock them.
My accident law firm has researched Colossus for the last ten years. Over that time, we have learned what makes it tick. When you retain our firm to represent you, one of the benefits you receive is that we understand how to give Colossus what it wants. This is not trickery. All Colossus really does is place monetary values on numerous aspects of your bodily-injury claim. But we know which aspect of your claim to emphasize, and why Colossus places more value on some claims than on others.
Morality and Personal Injury Claims
After you are involved in an automobile accident you may be unsure about whether you want to pursue a claim. Step back and take a serious look at why you may be hesitating to file the claim.
Some people believe that there is a moral dilemma involved in making an insurance claim, even if they were the victims of someone else’s negligent driving. To them, I would say there is no moral issue when it comes to asserting a righteous insurance claim.
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence that person should be responsible for your injuries. Asserting your rights to be compensated does not involve opportunism or immorality.
Why should the loss lie with you, the person who was innocently driving their car and injured by someone else’s negligence?
Their insurance company has been paid millions of dollars to assume the risk that their customer may hurt someone. If that someone is you, then you should shift the loss from you to the insurance company who has been paid often thousands or millions of dollars to assume that very risk. Our system is rooted in civility. We resolve our disputes among our citizenry with the court system and through insurance.
If our system were uncivilized, you would seek vengeance against the person who crashed into you by harming them or their property. That is not an acceptable solution. Asserting the insurance claim is a civilized way of resolving the civil dispute and there is no immorality involved in doing so. Only if you exaggerate your claim or assert a fraudulent claim would that be immoral.
At the Levinson Law Group, we take a very firm stand against fraud and never advise our clients to exaggerate their injuries or symptoms. We only ask that they correctly document the symptoms they have and to get medical treatment that is reasonably necessary to heal from their injuries. Doing so is fair and intelligent.
About The Levinson Law Group
My firm is not a typical kind of ambulance-chaser accident firm. Our stand is actually that we are dedicated to making this a safer community by fighting back against drunk drivers, impaired drivers, texting drivers, distracted drivers, and generally reckless drivers that cause harm in our community.
We are dedicated to making this a better community by involving ourselves in charity and volunteer work, to making our clients’ lives better by supporting them through life-altering tragedies from their injuries through recovery to closure and ultimately to peace.
We support our clients through these unfortunate tragic events and help them achieve closure, and at the same time we are making this a better community by providing a disincentive for people who choose to drive while distracted, people who choose to drive while impaired, people who choose to drive recklessly, and people who choose to drive carelessly.
We accept cases on a contingent fee. That means that if we recover no money on your case, either by judgment or by settlement, you pay no fee. It’s that simple and it’s guaranteed.
By offering our services on a contingent fee we level the playing field so everyone can afford legal representation and fight against the biggest insurance companies and corporations in the world. Justice should be available to everyone, rich and poor alike, and cases should be decided based on who was right and who was wrong, not based on who can pay their lawyers the most money.