If I Knew Then What I Know Now
Long before I became an attorney, I was involved in a car wreck when another person pulled out in front of me. Thankfully I wasn’t injured but my car, although fixable, suffered serious damage. As a result, I had a property damage claim against the other driver. I remember that the other driver’s insurance company seemed very helpful, talking me through the claims process, taking responsibility for the accident and promising to repair my car. I had no experience with insurance companies or property damage claims and was all too happy to let the insurance company handle the claim. Like most people involved in accidents, I trusted the other guy’s insurance company to do right by me. After all, they admitted that the crash wasn’t my fault and they were there to handle my claim. At the time, it felt like they were looking out for me. While it took longer than I expected, my car was eventually fixed and I was mostly satisfied with the repairs. In reality, although an inconvenience at times, I really had no complaints. So, was I right in placing my trust in the other driver’s insurance company? In hindsight, knowing what I know now, I might be a little less trusting.
What I Know Now
At the time of the crash, I didn’t quite understand an insurance company’s duties and motivations and where I stood in relation to them:
First, the insurance company is required to protect its insured.
When you purchase car insurance (or home) you enter into a contract with the insurance company who, in return for your premium, agrees to protect you, their insured. In terms of my accident, the other guy’s insurance company is obligated to protect him from my claim, even though the crash wasn’t my fault. While the insurance company had a responsibility to treat me fairly, their principle duty was to their insured. This means that given a choice between him and me, they will always do what’s best for him. This is understandable since the other guy paid the premiums, but it’s important to remember that even though the accident wasn’t my fault, the insurance company’s primary purpose is to look out for its insured. Ultimately, the insurance company does this by getting me to settle my claim for as little as possible.
Second, the insurance business is a for profit business.
That is, they like to make money. You might have noticed from all the commercials on television, that the insurance business is a very competitive business. Let’s face it, they are basically selling us the same product for which we want to spend as little as possible. This explains why almost all insurance companies market their products based on cost. How then do insurance companies make money? They use a number of different strategies but one of the most important is keeping the cost of claims low. Just like any smart shopper, the insurance company wants to pay you as little as possible for your claim. The less they pay the more money they make. This is one of the primary reasons insurance companies like to quickly resolve claims. They have learned, the longer a claim stays open, the more likely it will cost them more to resolve.
In Reality, I Was At The End of the Line
Going back to my accident, I now know the insurance company had a number of competing interests when it came to my claim that included its obligations to its insured, its bottom line and me. In my ignorance, I was unaware of this and just assumed that the insurance company would gratefully and happily take care of my claim. What I didn’t realize was that when it came to its competing interests, I was at the end of the line. For example, since the other guy wrecked my car, his insurance company was required to pay me loss of use damages while my car was in the shop. Typically, this would involve the insurance company providing me, the claimant, with a rental car. Since my car was in the shop for nearly 3 weeks and I drove to school every day, this would have been good to know. The insurance company, however, never bothered to mention this and I was too ignorant to ask. Hence, I ended up having to beg, borrow and plead with family members for rides while the insurance company saved the cost of the rental.
Has This Happened To You?
I understand that in the grand scheme of things, my experience wasn’t a complete nightmare but it is a cautionary tale for those who place their trust in the other guy’s insurance company. Unfortunately, as an attorney, I have seen this same scenario play out time and time again. Clients come to me after months and months of waiting for the insurance company to fix a car, pay a medical bill or reimburse for lost wages only to be ignored and their bills turned over to debt collections. Even more disturbing are the clients that come to me having been offered settlements that are pitifully inadequate or deficient. For each client I meet with, I wonder how many have actually gone ahead and accepted a paltry offer without knowing what they were agreeing to. While this might be the first time you have ever had to go down this road, the insurance company has done it thousands and thousands of times and knows every negotiating strategy to minimize your claim. Over the years I have learned that when seeking fair compensation for your claim from an insurance company, there is no substitute for understanding your rights, knowing your claim and tenaciously fighting for what you deserve.
Are You Dealing With An Insurance Company?
If you have been involved in an accident and are dealing with an insurance company, do not hesitate to give us a call at (304) 845-9750. We offer free consultations and are happy to meet with you to discuss your claim. Unlike the insurance company, GKT is really on your side. We have helped thousands of people injured or killed in crashes, and we can help you too.