Table of Contents
- Don’t Get Short-Changed By An Insurance Company
- Vehicle Damage is Not Indicative of Personal Injuries Suffered
- Making Sure A Claim For Benefits Has Been Filed With Your Healthcare Insurer
- How Will an Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Help in Settlement Negotiations?
- Negotiating With Your Own Auto Insurer for UM/UIM Coverage
Don’t Get Short-Changed By An Auto Insurance Company
If you’ve been in an auto accident and filed a claim, it is the job of insurance adjusters to settle for as little money as possible. Insurance professionals are highly trained and experienced at doing this, and they have a tremendous advantage over victims who try to negotiate the complex world of insurance claims on their own.
There is no question that getting a lawyer involved as soon as possible will significantly increase the value of your case.
Even after an attorney is involved, however, insurance carriers continue to employ certain tactics to try to diminish the value of your case. One such tactic is to judge the severity of the victim’s injury by the visible damage to the vehicles involved.
Vehicle Damage is Not Indicative of Personal Injuries Suffered
Our auto accident injury attorneys recently received a letter from an insurance adjuster in a case involving a collision and injuries to our client. In response to our settlement demand, the adjuster responded:
Please note that your client sustained slight damage to their vehicle and it is our position that a significant injury is less likely to be caused by a low speed collision. As such we will question any treatment beyond the initial consultation to get “checked out.”
Notice the language used—“their” — not “Mr. Smith,” “he” or “she”. This is a canned response they have in their computer systems that they can instantly insert into a letter and send without doing any real evaluation of the case, the medical records, or the victim’s injuries. For many lawyers, this is where they give up on a case. They look at the photographs of the vehicles, fall for the trick, and accept a low settlement.
This is a huge mistake. Basing a person’s injuries solely on the visible damage to an automobile blindly ignores a wealth of critical factors that are unique to each individual’s physical and mental situation. Furthermore, we see examples every single day that disprove the theory that significant injuries can only be suffered through some dramatic event. A NASCAR driver can hit a wall at over 200 miles per hour, flip ten times through the air, and emerge with virtually no injuries. By contrast, a person can suffer a broken ankle by simply stepping off a curb.
If the case is properly prepared and presented, the jury will understand this as well. At trial the victim can prove his or her injury and the impact on daily life through testimony from the victim and his or her family members, medical records and testimony, and other evidence.
Just because the vehicles were not destroyed during a collision does not mean no one was hurt. Juries understand that, and they are not afraid to fairly compensate victims accordingly.
File a Benefits Claim With Your Healthcare Insurer
Often times in auto accident cases clients end up in the emergency room for to receive treatment for injuries they suffered in the collision. Equally as often the hospital will collect our client’s health insurance information but neglect to file a claim with your health insurance company.
This is because hospitals fair much better financially if they file a lien against your auto accident injury claim versus the negotiated reimbursement rates they have with your health insurance company.
To prevent the hospital from profiting off of your losses and injury settlement, you should file a claim on your own, or preferably with the help of an experienced auto accident attorney.
How Will an Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Help in Settlement Negotiations?
The value of an attorney when negotiating a personal injury settlement with your insurance company is the assurance of fairness.
Firstly, you have the benefit of knowing you have a full and fair understanding of your losses (often a more complex determination than one might assume). Secondly, you have a legal team experienced in both Georgia injury and contract law analyzing the fine print of your insurance policy (which, after all, is a contract). Sometimes, this fact alone helps when settling a personal injury claim because agents know upfront you have knowledgeable legal advocates who truly ARE on your side.
Of course, your insurer doesn’t want to get slapped with a bad faith insurance claim. O.C.G.A. § 33-4-6 is the state’s statutory remedy for an insurer who acts in bad faith, which is defined as refusal of an insurer to pay a covered loss within 60 days of a policy holder’s demand.
Examples of bad faith include not just unreasonably denying or delaying a covered loss, but failure to communicate important information to you, failure to investigate the claim, refusal to pay the claim without investigating, offering settlement for substantially less than the claim is worth or refusing to negotiate at all.
A good Atlanta personal injury attorney understands the complexity of car accident claim valuation, is firm in demanding fair payment for your losses and will assert a claim for bad faith where applicable.
Negotiating With Your Own Auto Insurer for UM/UIM Coverage
Georgia is a fault state when it comes to auto insurance. This means that unlike the dozen states that have no-fault auto insurance, Georgia law does not require crash victims to purchase personal injury protection coverage that covers an insured’s initial damages no matter who caused the crash. In other words, if you’re injured in an Atlanta car accident, you’ll go directly to the at-fault driver’s insurer first for compensation.
That may not be your only remedy though, particularly for serious injuries. For Georgia uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, you’ll file a claim with your own insurer.
UIM coverage is pursuant to Georgia law in amounts equal to one’s bodily injury liability coverage. Let’s say you’re injured in a t-bone crash caused by another driver who ran a red light. They have the minimum 25/50/25 coverage. But your losses total $75,000. You would be entitled to receive up to $25,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurer. If you too had an insurance policy for the mandatory minimum amount, you could collect an additional $25,000 in UIM coverage. Or, if you purchased an auto insurance policy with higher limits, you may be entitled to collect the full $50,000 in damages (or whatever your policy limit).
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage works in much the same way, but steps in to cover losses caused by a driver who is uninsured (12 percent of Georgia motorists, per the Insurance Information Institute) or a hit-and-run driver who is not identified.
UM/UIM payments are negotiated with your insurer by proving not only that the other driver was liable but also that they were uninsured/underinsured and that your damages total what you allege. No matter how great of a customer you are, no auto insurer will be eager to pay that. Your attorney will fight to ensure they do. This is the value of an attorney when negotiating a personal injury settlement with your insurer.
Trust the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Apolinsky & Associates to be your advocates in a personal injury claim with your auto insurer.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.