Dec 3, 2010

Of all the questions I am asked by people injured in car accidents, this is the one I hear the most. I suppose I could respond with something like, "well, insurance is a highly specialized business with its own language and it can get complicated." Or perhaps I could blame the economy, like everyone else these days, and respond with "well, in this economy of corporate cutbacks, these adjusters are likely handling more files than they did 10 years ago, and their lack of communication is a result of that." But ultimately, instead of one of these speculations, I just respond by telling what I believe to be the truth.

The reason you can't get a straight answer from the insurance company is because they benefit from you NOT fully understanding your rights.

Do you doubt my answer? Does my answer offend some level of political correctness? To be honest, my nature is not normally that of an alarmist. In fact, most of my writings emphasize understanding the other side's point of view. But trust me when I tell you that my glib answer to this question is founded upon thousands of empirical examples and years of careful thought.

I submit that it is nearly impossible to arrive at any other conclusion. With the uniformity in how insurance companies treat people filing injury claims, to come to any other conclusion other than this motivation is impossible. There are certain systemic traits that these insurance companies display over and over again. At some point one has to conclude that these are not isolated oversights and are much more of across-the-board institutional operating procedures.

I suggest that you compare your own experiences with insurance companies to the following examples. Ask yourself if they volunteered any of this information to you in your case?

1) When you are injured in a motor vehicle collision caused by another driver, that driver purchased insurance to protect himself up to a certain amount of monetary coverage.

Minimum coverage limits in Colorado are $25,000 per person injured and $50,000 per accident. But many drivers have liability coverage limits far in excess of the state minimum limits.

The law says that an insurance company must disclose its policy limits within 60 days of the filing of a lawsuit. So, it stands to reason that if you are injured by a negligent driver and make a claim with his insurance company that you can also request and reliably receive information about coverage limits...right? WRONG!

It goes without saying that you should never settle your case without knowing the value of the actual insurance policy the at-fault driver purchased. However, even though you have a legal right to this information, without a lawyer pressuring the insurance company, they will almost never volunteer this vital information. Yes, you are entitled to it. Yes, you need it to properly assure that in settlement you are not leaving money on the table. But they usually won't share this information with you.

Why? The insurance company worries that if you know what the policy coverage is then you will ask for that amount. They figure that if you take less because you don't know better, what's the harm? The old adage is true: Knowledge is Power. Insurance companies want to keep all the power for themselves, because to them, power is money.

2) When a negligent driver destroys your car, it is his insurance company that is obligated to determine the replacement value of that vehicle and to offer you the fair replacement value. Every insurance company has access to databases to undertake market research of comparable vehicles. Like any other appraisal, valuing comparable items "apples to apples" is really the only way to learn of a true value.

However, when the insurance company calls you to discuss the value of your total loss vehicle, it seems fair that upon request they would share the market research that they did to arrive at their replacement value, right? WRONG. Usually, rather than share their research, often they will suggest that they didn't actually do any market research (they probably actually did, but don't want to share it). After all, if they agree to share the market research, then it will be easy for you to see how badly they are low-balling you on your vehicle.

3) If you are a passenger in a vehicle involved in a crash, there is almost always at least $5,000 of Medical Payment coverage to which you would be entitled simply because you were an occupant of the motor vehicle. You would think the insurance company would diligently notify injured passengers of their right to MedPay. Makes sense that the insurance company would want to make sure you had this money to pay off hospital and medical charges, right? WRONG!

It is important that you understand that the insurance company's number one goal is not to help you get better; it is to pay out as little money as possible. If you know this, it then makes sense why they won't tell you about your MedPay policy, because then you will use it, and they will have to pay.

4) When a passenger is hurt in a car accident because of the negligence of the driver of the car in which they were a passenger, the insurance company is obligated to not only pay out the liability money, but also the under-insured motorist coverage.

This doubles the amount of money available to an injured person for recovery. You would think an insurance company would make sure you had this information, right? WRONG! Again, why would they want to lead you to more money, when they could possibly get away with paying you less?

5) When a negligent driver causes you loss of use of your vehicle, the insurance company for that at-fault driver should inform you of your right to obtain a comparable rental vehicle at no cost to you. You would think that the insurance company would want you to know this, right? WRONG. The insurance company wants to save the almighty buck. That is why they will stay mum on the rental car.

Each of the above is an example of the many ways that insurance companies try to avoid paying benefits to which an injured person is entitled. Make no mistake--insurance companies have no fiduciary duty to you and are not looking out for you. That is why it is so important that you hire an attorney who will fight these battles for you.

At Anderson Hemmat we know that insurance companies hire people to work very hard for them to ensure that they pay as little money as possible. We believe that you deserve to have someone working even harder on YOUR side to make sure they pay fair compensation. Please speak with one of our attorneys today if you have questions about your rights and are not getting answers from the insurance company.


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