Former Insurance Company Lawyers Reveal the 17 Secrets The Insurance Companies Don't Want You To Know About Your Car Or Truck Accident Case.

This article is intended to be a summary of the important points found in our book, 17 Secrets The Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know About Your Car Or Truck Accident Case.  If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve been injured in an accident, or are familiar with the many problems people experience following a serious crash.  You probably wonder how the insurance company will compensate you for your damaged car, your medical bills, your wage losses, and your injuries.  Now that YOU are making a valid personal injury claim, you will assume the insurance company will accept that the crash was the other driver’s fault, and that the other driver’s insurance company will treat you fairly.   Well, we are sorry to say that in our experience as both insurance company lawyers early in our career, and as victims’ rights lawyers for most of our careers, that’s not likely.

Here are seventeen secrets the insurance companies hope you don’t know.  If you don’t understand these basic tenets of the insurance company claims process and personal injury litigation, you should expect that the insurance company will exploit your lack of knowledge to the fullest extent allowable, and in some instances, not allowable, under the law:
1.      The insurance companies are not your friends.  Insurance companies are for profit companies.  They make the most money for their shareholders (it’s their fiduciary duty!) when they take in the most premium moneys from you and me, and everyone else, and pay out the least amount of moneys for claims for you and me, and everyone else.  Of equal importance, is what happens to the investments the insurance companies make with the premium moneys we pay them each for our policies.  In bad economic times, or when the investments the insurance companies make go down, the less money insurance companies have to pay legitimate claims and still show a profit.  That is when you are most likely to hear on radio or television, or read in newspapers or magazines, that our civil justice tort system (cases involving victims’ rights) is broken.

So, everything they do will be calculated to pay you the least amount of money, and preserve profits for them.

2.     The insurance company is not obligated to tell you much about your claim, the facts as they have learned them and understand them to be, the law that applies to your case, or whether they are legally obligated to do anything for you.  You are expected to know, protect and prosecute your legal rights.  In many instances, you may have to file a lawsuit against the other driver, before the insurance company will follow the law, and make a reasonable settlement offer that reflects those amounts of money that the law provides for your recovery.
If you communicate something to the insurance company that shows you don’t know what you are entitled to recover under the law, most likely, you will not recover what you are entitled to recover under the law.
3.     They don’t want you to hire a lawyer.  If the claims representative sounds really caring, and helpful, you are more likely to trust him or her, and forego hiring a lawyer experienced in handling these types of cases. If you feel that way, re-read paragraphs one and two.
If you don’t know your legal rights, and the insurance company is not legally required to explain them to you, and you don’t retain capable and experienced counsel, you most likely will not get everything the law allows you to recover, and that the insurance company is legally obligated to pay you.

4.       They want your information, all your information, to defeat your claim.  If they can’t defeat your claim, they want unnecessary and irrelevant information from you to diminish your claim, or make the claims process more aggravating.  If the claims adjuster asks you if you ever had back pain before the crash, and you tell him you had a backache during pregnancy fourteen years, ago, the insurance company adjuster will suggest that the back injury you suffered when their drunk insured failed to stop behind you at the red light and totaled your new Mercedes was probably caused by prior back problems that started fourteen years ago.  (Maybe not the most experienced adjuster-they keep asking questions until you they get you to admit you had three labors and three children, leading to the more experienced claims adjuster then suggesting your back pain is from “the three truly difficult and extraordinary labors.”)
5.     If you do not call the police, or if the police do come to the crash scene but do not write a report for any reason, and you fail to document the facts of the crash, such as the witnesses’ names, the statements made by the other driver, the locations of the vehicles, the weather conditions, the date, time and road address, the insurance company will diminish the value of your claim, and thus reduce any offers you may get, because of a lack of proof, and not because you are not legally entitled to the compensation.
6.     The secret described in paragraph five especially includes photographs of your damaged vehicle and where possible, the other vehicles involved in the collision, and where appropriate, the injuries.  Some insurance companies instruct their claims representatives to substantially reduce offers if the claimant does not have photographs of the vehicle (showing substantial damage) or of the injuries (that are horrific), even though we all know the injuries and damages were substantial and horrific.  That leads to secret seven.
7.     The truth is not what matters most in a courtroom.  It is the jury’s perception of the truth.  All you have to understand is the reality that what the jury ultimately feels and thinks, trumps the truth any day of the week  The insurance companies have had years and years to practice their most persuasive and effective half truths upon juries.  Most people injured in crashes have not.
8.     Insurance companies advertise on television and radio all the time, and the messages they send are very subtle.  They hire K Street lobbying firms and they contribute to congressional campaigns of candidates that seek to further their interests. They spend millions of dollars each year to persuade the public that most injury claims are frivolous or exaggerated, or even if the claim is real, that a jury award of full compensation as the law provides would bankrupt the company, destroy the industry, and contribute to the economic decline of our country.  Are you old enough to remember the Ford Pinto case?
9.     If you ever suffered injury to the part of your body you injured in this crash, the insurance company will argue, indeed they will hire medical experts to testify and thus prove to a jury that your injury was not caused by the crash.  The insurance company will do this even though they are fairly certain it is not true. Their duty to their shareholders to make a profit.  When you combine that fact with the nature of our adversary system, you will realize that the insurance company will always present this defense, provided they find a doctor who will testify your injury was not related to the car crash that totaled your brand new van.  Do you think, with all the doctors out there, they can?  If you don’t think so, re-read paragraphs one and two.
10.    When you deal with an insurance adjuster, you are dealing with a person trained to defeat and diminish your claim.   That person most likely has engaged in this type of negotiation hundreds, if not thousands of time.  You do not have the same training.  You do not have the same experience.  The insurance adjuster will seek to exploit that difference in training and experience.  In serious injury cases, that mistake can cost you dearly, and may lead to you not receiving all the compensation the law allows.
11.    If you don’t promptly get medical treatment, of if you do and fail to follow your doctor’s advice and obtain necessary treatment, the insurance company will offer you substantially less compensation than the nature of your serious injury would normally command.  Even if you are John Wayne or the Terminator, if you suffer serious injury and don’t receive all the necessary medical care your doctors prescribe, the insurance company will argue you weren’t seriously injured and that your injury was very minor.
12.    Even if you have little property damage, it doesn’t mean you could not have suffered serious injury.  The insurance company will tell you this when you present your claim.  Only competent, trained and experienced medical providers can make this determination, not an insurance claims adjuster.  Do not listen to a claims adjuster who tells you that if you continue to obtain medical care from your doctor, he will you’re your claim.  Only you and your doctor can determine when you have fully recovered from your injury.
13.   Remember all the premium payments the insurance companies take from all their insured drivers?  Many millions and millions of dollars each year.  The longer the insurance companies can keep their money invested in their investments, the more interest, dividends, and other income they receive.  Therefore, it is in their best interest to delay offering you a fair value for your claim.  They depend on your need for money now, or your desire to end the aggravation of the claims process, or your reluctance to file a lawsuit and go to trial, to offer you lower amounts of money than the law provides.  Only an experienced lawyer can tell you whether the offer is fair, and whether it is worth filing a lawsuit in court.
14.    The amount of money at stake in your claim is a lot to you; it’s not to the insurance company.  They hold millions to billions of dollars in reserve for major catastrophes should they need to compensate victims right away. They can and do ignore you and your needs.  This creates a stronger desire by the victim to resolve the claim, often for less than fair value.  Oftentimes you will suffer hardship at the beginning of your claim.  You may lose money from not working; you may have uninsured medical expenses.  You may have to make modifications to your life to accommodate your injuries that lead to more monetary losses.  The insurance companies count on your needs, and desire to resolve the claim when these needs arise, and hope you will settle for less money sooner, than more money later.
15.    The insurance companies hire the best lawyers, who tell them to settle the truly horrible cases.  Many cases can be defended by capable lawyers to try and keep the jury verdict down.  They hope you do not hire competent and experienced counsel. This is probably not a secret to most, but next time you see a case involving personal injuries in court, notice how good the lawyer hired by the insurance company is.  Why would they not hire the best lawyers to defeat your claim? After all, they have the most money of all the parties in these types of proceedings.
16.    Know your insurance policy’s benefits and the coverage offered to the at-fault driver-both coverage types and amounts.  Oftentimes people don’t know what insurance benefits they are entitled to receive.  As stated above the insurance claims adjuster for the other side is not going to voluntarily tell you what insurance benefits the law provides in your particular situation.
17.  Be prepared to be examined, scrutinized, challenged and viewed with suspicion by most, if not all claims adjusters, no matter how nice they seem.  In their defense, once you have seen a fraudulent injury claim from the insurance side, they look similar to many valid claims.   Provide the information they need to evaluate your claim, but don’t surrender all your privacy rights.  Consult a lawyer so you know what the insurance companies are entitled to receive from you in order to evaluate your claim.  Most importantly, don’t sign any papers from the insurance company without first consulting a competent and experienced lawyer in the field of personal injury litigation.
                                                                                                Allan W. Steinhorn
                                                                                                Robert V. Clark, Jr.
                                                                                                Clark & Steinhorn, LLC