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Insurance claims involving commercial trucking accidents are often among the most complex, and a common challenge trucking accident lawyers face is insurance company tactics to avoid paying out claims or at least reduce their financial obligations. Annual auto insurance loss in the United States nears $200 billion and continues to rise. Claims involving large vehicles are more expensive than the average claim, and these factors motivate many insurance companies to use strategies that improve their own bottom lines.
The bad advice to not hire a trucking accident lawyer or to not have other representation is among the oldest tricks in the book for insurance companies. Even an insurance company that is acting in good faith wants to pay out as little as possible within the context of what is legal and fair. An unscrupulous insurer wants to pay out as little as possible, period. This is much easier to do when negotiating with a layman who does have a nuanced appreciation of all the laws and regulations that apply. An insurer may try to paint an attorney as someone in it for themselves and who will only slow the process down. Industry statistics, however, reveal that claims involving legal representation finalize faster and for larger amounts than average, and even if a lawyer is in it for themselves, their self-interest aligns with your own.
Another common tactic used by insurance companies is to delay. There is a statute of limitations for accident claims, and the clock begins to tick down the moment the accident occurs. If the insurer can reach the end of the statute period without paying, then they are likely off the hook, and even if that is not the most common outcome, the less time there is, the more pressure there is on you to agree to a settlement that is favorable to the insurance company. While there are laws that stipulate how long an insurance company has to respond, there are ways that these deadlines can be extended, such as sending you additional paperwork that needs to be completed and returned.
In the event a victim has incurred life-threatening injuries in an accident, the responsible insurance company may seek to delay the entire process until that person passes. The death of the victim does not eliminate the financial obligations, but it may change them and may, in fact, alter them in a way that is more favorable to the insurer.
You should never sign any documents from an insurance company that you are making a claim with unless you absolutely understand with what it is you are agreeing. This is another reason why being represented by an attorney can be so beneficial to protecting your rights. These can be binding agreements, and you can relinquish your rights. It is not uncommon for dishonest insurance companies to send people documents in the hopes that they will just sign them and not read or understand them. While there may be recourse if this happens to you, you will save yourself time, money and headaches if you avoid signing any agreements that are not favorable to you in the first place.
It really is in your best interest to secure legal representation early in the process before a claim is submitted and any evidence is still fresh. If you do file the claim on your own and receive a settlement offer early in the process, you are likely best off not responding before consulting with an attorney. The insurance company has investigated the case at this point. If the company has made you an offer, then it has deemed itself responsible and does not believe it could win a lawsuit. Its goal now is to make you an offer that is high enough to tempt you but much lower than the projected cost would be if the case gets to court. A lawyer will typically be able to negotiate a better deal than the early offer you received.
New Jersey has a comparative negligence law. Consider that there are degrees of fault. Most auto accidents do not have one party who is 100% at fault and another that has no fault at all. You are allowed to recover damages as long as your fault is 50% or less. If your fault is higher than 50%, you are not eligible to recover damages. Even if it is less than 50%, your recovery will be reduced by your percentage. It is therefore in the best interest of the insurance company to shift as much blame as possible onto to you. In cases involving big claims, each percentage point can represent a lot of money.
You are entitled for compensation for both your physical and mental injuries. How much you are entitled to depends on an assessment of those injuries. The estimate will include both short- and long-term health care costs along with rehabilitation expenses but can also include ancillary damages, such as loss of income and reduced quality of life. How much you can claim will be based on that estimate within the context of the comparative fault discussed earlier. Therefore, another way that insurance companies are encouraged to reduce their financial obligations is to downplay your injuries. Their estimate may be much smaller, and they may used medical experts to support their assessments.
This issue is most common when a person has to make a claim against their own insurance policy. A common tactic is to make you believe that particular damages are not covered by your policy even though they are. An insurance company will usually not outright lie since that could be illegal, but it may attempt to mislead and otherwise confuse you in the hopes that you accept it and give up. If you find yourself potentially in such a situation, your best course of action is to consult with an attorney and have them review your policy in order to determine what is and what is not contractually covered.
Representatives of an insurance company are not allowed to threaten you or otherwise intimidate you, but it does happen. These people are often under a great deal of pressure and may not be very nice people to begin with, and they may take whatever upper hand is available to them. If you feel that you are being treated in an unfair manner, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, RAM Law is here to help. Our attorneys have handled many cases involving trucking accidents and have substantial experience both settling them out of court and going to trial. If you choose us to represent you, we will work diligently to protect your rights and to get you compensation for the harm that you have suffered. To schedule an initial consultation with a trucking accident lawyer, call our New Brunswick and Somerville offices at (732) 394-1549, or contact us online.
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