- Personal Injury
- Auto Insurance
- Auto, Truck and Motorcycle Accidents
- Catastrophic Injuries
- Medical Malpractice
Major insurance companies have adopted a take-it-or-leave-it approach with people filing minor-impact claims.
This latest CNN article about the hardball insurance practices was sent to me by my listserv: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/02/09/insurance.hardball/index.html
As this article candidly explains, these auto insurance carriers are paying less and less on injury claims, but still continue to increase the premiums for their customers. Meanwhile the insurance companies continue to inundate the media with advertising that casts them in the role of helper and hero. The result is this: more and more jurors are coming to jury duty with the preconceived notion that the plaintiff must be greedy, committing fraud, or looking for a big payday.
The CNN article even quotes a former juror who said she assumed that the plaintiff in the case that she heard had already received payment for injuries and other damages from the insurance company and that she brought the lawsuit out of greed. In reality, the accident victim’s insurance claim was never paid, and she lost in court.
The revelations in this article won’t surprise attorneys who represent injured people. Large auto insurance carriers have been using this hardball tactics for years when addressing claims. They have a huge incentive — profits — to continue to act this way in the future.
You couple that with the constraints of the court system and you have an unbalanced playing field that is considerably in favor of the insurance carriers. Consider the fact that the law prohibits reference to insurance during the course of the court proceedings. Point in fact, the caption only refences suit against the Defendant-driver, not the insurance company. What happens, which is noted in the CNN article, is jurors often draw the wrong conclusion that the Plaintiff must have already been paid by the driver’s auto insurance carrier and is just seeking more money by suing the Defendant-driver personally. This is false.
Furthermore, discussions about offers and demands for settlement may not be discussed in front of the jury. So even though it is routinely the case that the offer of the Auto Insurance Carrier is an amount less than the injured party’s medical bills, leaving the Plaintiff with no option but to file suit, the jury doesn’t get any of that information. These are just two examples of information juries routinely want to know, but are prohibited from receiving.
Then the Defense Attorney launches into an attack on the nature of the injuries, which invariably in these minor impact cases are soft tissue, muscular type injuries. Common sense would tell you though that there won’t be objective evidence of these musclar, sprain/strain injuries.
Think about when you have worked out hard at a gym, or injured you back moving furniture, or pulled a hamstring running. Would you be able to get objective evidence that showed your pain? Strain? No. Does that mean it doesn’t hurt or that you didn’t need treatment? No. Ironically, these are the exact kind of injuries you would expect a person to have in a minor impact case. Would you expect a minor fender-bender to rupture internal organs, break bones, or cause severe head trauma? Of course, not.
Naturally, Allstate and State Farm declined to be interviewed regading the content of the CNN article. Draw your own conclusions from that. Rather than participate in the discussion or defend themselves against the commentary in the article, they chose to simply issue one-sided statements. My guess is their hope is that the general public remains unaware of this ongoing problem, and just keeps paying their monthly premiums.