- André Rembert
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When you've been in an accident that you didn't cause, it is important to remember that the at-fault driver's insurance company is NOT your friend. They’re there to keep the amount they pay to you as low as possible. They’re required, by law, to pay for the medical bills, but your pain and suffering are subjective. As such, their negotiating tactics can be somewhat harsh. Having a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of these cases is imperative. Even so, they will try to use a number of things against you to lower the value of your case. A good lawyer knows how to navigate around these issues, but they are important to know.
Gap in Treatment
It is absolutely vital to get yourself checked out as soon as possible after an accident. If you wait, even days, the insurance company will assert that your injuries came from another source and reduce their offer to you accordingly. The longer you wait, the more they reduce their offer. This is also true if you get checked out immediately after the accident but then take a substantial amount of time to seek treatment (weeks or months). While a good personal injury attorney tries to get your case settled as quickly as possible for the most amount he can, ultimately, he needs to be able to prove your case to a jury, should it proceed to trial. The reason the insurance companies reduce so much is that they feel comfortable that juries will view gaps in treatment as someone trying to cash in on an accident they weren't really hurt in.
If you were not wearing a seatbelt in the accident, the insurance adjuster will try to claim that you contributed to your injuries and reduce their offer or refuse to pay. However, SC state law states that violations of seat belt law can't be used in court: SC Code 56-5-6540(c) "A violation of this article is not negligence per se or contributory negligence, and is not admissible as evidence in a civil action." Your lawyer will know this and set the adjuster straight.
Lack of Damage to Car
Where someone is claiming significant injury, but there is not visible damage to the car, juries will often find for the defense instead, believing that the plaintiff is faking his or her injuries in order to get paid. While that may not be true, that's a bias that juries have tended to show and so must be taken into account. While lack of damage to the car is not a case-killer, per se, it does make it more difficult for the attorney to prove to a jury and can involve using expert witnesses who will add to the costs of your case substantially. The insurance company knows this and will try to leverage those increased costs against you by lowering their offer.
Discounting Physical Therapists or Chiropractors/Not Counting Certain Costs
If there are not broken bones, most accidents result in injuries to "soft tissue" (muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, etc). Depending on your injuries your physician will usually refer you to a physical therapist or a chiropractor so that you can get follow on treatment. While physical therapists and chiropractors are absolutely vital healthcare industry providers, the insurance companies are aware that many potential jurors view them as being "less than" or "not really" doctors and will therefore try to reduce their offer for your treatment. Additionally, sometimes the insurance company will argue that while the physical therapist or chiropractor treatment was overall acceptable, there were unnecessary treatments involved that they are not willing to pay for.
What all of these factors the insurance companies try to use against your case have in common is that they ultimately are implying that a jury will side with the insurance company. Because of that, it is vitally important to have a lawyer who not only knows the issues involved but also has the experience to explain them to a jury and help you attempt to prevail should your case need to go to court.
At the Rembert Law Firm, we represent you and make sure you get every penny you deserve for your pain and suffering. Call us at 833-REMBERT to have your case reviewed for free.