Some car accident victims elect to file a claim for compensation without the assistance of an attorney. While an injury victim certainly has the right to proceed on their own, statistics show that they will likely recover less compensation than they would have with an attorney’s guidance. There are many challenges a victim can face on the path to obtaining compensation for injuries and losses sustained as the result of a car accident. An experienced St. Petersburg auto accident attorney will be able to help you identify and respond to common pitfalls in the settlement process.
Here are some of the common tactics an insurance company will use to deny or reduce the value of your claim:
The easiest way for an insurance company to avoid paying an injury victim is to simply deny the claim altogether. 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 (“liable”) for causing the accident. As a result, that person’s insurance carrier will have no obligation to compensate the victim for his or her injuries and other financial losses.
There are many ways in which an insurance company can deny liability. In the event of a car accident, the insurer might claim that the victim was also negligent, and contributed to causing the accident in whole or in part. Florida law allows victims to recover compensation for only that portion of financial losses (“legal damages”) which were caused by the defendant’s negligence. Thus, if a plaintiff and a defendant were each fifty percent liable for causing the accident, the plaintiff would only be able to recover half of the value of his or her financial losses from the defendant’s insurance company. Insurance companies will use this rule in order to limit the amount of compensation they must pay a victim. In some cases, they will simply deny the claim altogether, claiming that the plaintiff was entirely at fault for causing the accident.
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 patron to become injured, the business owner can be held liable for negligently maintaining the premises. An injured patron must prove that the business owner knew – or should have known – about the unsafe condition and failed to address it appropriately. An insurance company can attempt to deny liability by claiming that the dangerous condition was “open and obvious”. In such a case, the injury victim may be forced to defend his or her own actions. Homeowners are held to a different standard of care, but their insurance carriers can attempt to deny liability in much the same manner. A person who was injured in a private home must prove that he or she was injured by a hidden, dangerous condition which the homeowner know of and should have warned the injury victim about. Again, an insurance carrier can claim that the condition was open and obvious and that the victim should have seen the danger.
Devaluing Pain and Suffering
When an insurance carrier cannot deny a claim altogether, the next line of defense is to challenge the value of the claim. By attacking the value of financial losses claimed by the victim, the insurance company is ultimately able to pay less on the claim. The claims adjuster may challenge what type of treatment was obtained by the victim. This is especially common with less traditional services, such as chiropractic care or acupuncture. The adjuster may also challenge the extent of treatment that was rendered. This, too, is particularly common with chiropractic care, and other services aimed at reducing pain.
Pain and suffering is often the largest component of a personal injury award. Unfortunately, pain is subjective, and cannot be accurately measured. It also varies greatly from person to person. Because of this, insurance companies will almost always try to devalue to 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 and daily activities, or the loss of companionship a family member experiences as the result of a victim’s injuries – are also common areas of attack. It is important for victims to defend their claims from such attacks with the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney. A skilled attorney will be better able to effectively counter such claims. 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.
Claiming that a Prior Medical Condition Caused the Current Injuries
One particularly devious tactic used by insurance companies is to question pre-existing medical conditions or injuries. Often, a claims adjuster will imply that a prior injury caused the victim’s current suffering, and the insurance company, therefore, has no obligation to compensate the current injury. This is simply an incorrect statement of the law.
The law requires defendants to compensate injury victims for all pain and suffering that was caused by their negligence. Thus, if a victim has a pre-existing injury which was exacerbated by the defendant’s negligence, the defendant is obligated to compensate this increased pain and suffering. This is commonly referred to as the “eggshell plaintiff” rule. Even if a victim was particularly vulnerable to injuries, or experienced more severe injuries than another plaintiff would have in the same accident, the defendant is still obligated to compensate the full value of this increased suffering.
The Right Representation For Your Car Accident Case
The Dolman Law Group protects residents and visitors of St. Petersburg to ensure that accident victims are fairly compensated for their injuries and losses. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have decades of experience in negotiating and litigating personal injury claims arising from car accidents in and around the St. Petersburg area. Call (727) 451-6900 to schedule your free consultation with a personal injury attorney today. Our friendly, professional staff offers the personalized service which will help you through this difficult time.
Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712