Some insurance companies will notice that an injured claimant is going through hardship because of the car accident or truck accident, and on request, provide financial assistance in the form of an advance. An immediate hardship after an accident can be one of many difficulties after an accident. A hardship includes not having transportation because the claimant’s car was damaged when the injured claimant needs a car in order to drive to essential places like work. The insurance company representative may make a note that the injured claimant needs a rental car or some substitute vehicle so that the injured claimant can try to minimize the claimant’s damages, like lost wages.
Mitigation of Damages
This is worth noting because, even if the injured claimant did nothing wrong, the law places a duty to mitigate damages on claimants. Mitigating damages means that an injured claimant makes a good effort to try to prevent the injury from getting worse, or increasing the amount of damages by letting the situation get worse.
For example, if a person’s home floods because of a burst pipe, the homeowner should shut off the water to try to lessen the amount of damage caused as possible.
As part of preparing a settlement package to present to the insurance company, a personal injury attorney will collect statements and evidence about several important facts to help build the injured claimant’s case and convince the insurance company that liability is clear and that the insurance company should make a reasonable settlement offer that compensates the injured claimant for the hardships the claimant faced as a result of the accident.
If the car accident created a hardship in the life of the injured claimant, then the insurance company may give the injured claimant an advance for certain necessities. This includes receiving medical treatment for the claimant’s injuries, or to provide for particular things to maintain the claimant’s standard of living such as paying rent, buying food and more.
When there is proof that the injured claimant suffered hardships because of the accident at issue, the injured claimant’s attorney may include a statement in the demand letter explaining that an advance is necessary, such as:
“These advances are necessary due to [the injured claimant’s] financial hardships. He has no savings, no checking account nor money to pay his rent or buy food. Time is of the essence.”
Demanding an advance for an injured claimant right away may sound like a great deal. Injured claimants may get the insurance company to pay for medical treatment, which can be very expensive. Injured claimants may be able to get money for essential parts of their lives like food and rent. In addition, the insurance company is likely aware that it is liable for the claimant’s injuries and damages if they are willing to pay any kind of advance.
Unfortunately, when the insurance company knows an injured claimant needs money as soon as possible, the insurance company may try to manipulate the situation and use this in its favor.
Insurance companies do not make any money by paying claims any faster than they need to, which means they do not have an incentive to process an insurance claim as soon as possible. If an insurance company sees that an injured claimant was unemployed or struggling financially, the insurance company may think that it can get away with a lower settlement amount because the claimant urgently needs the money. This is one of many insurance company tactics.
When insurance company tactics cross the line, the insurance company may be liable for bad faith. Typically, bad faith claims come about when the insured person is mistreated by his or her insurance company. In a case involving bad faith, the insurance company can be liable for much more for causing the hardship.
For example, in Egan vs. Mutual of Omaha Co., the court found that the insurance company’s delay in paying for the insured policyholder’s living expenses actually created the hardship the insurance policy was bought to avoid. In this case, the insured person filed a disability claim with the insurance company. The insurance company knew that it would take several months for the insured person’s home to be repaired. The insurance company also admitted it should provide coverage.
Instead of paying the required living expense money, the insurance company refused to provide a copy of his declaration sheet and proof of loss form without a good reason. Then, the insurance company representative told the insured person they believed he was a fraud, and would cut off his benefits before Christmas in front of his wife and child. This bad faith intimidation and attempt to take advantage of a person going through hardships resulted in an award of $5,000,000 dollars against the insurance company. There are many examples of bad faith cases.
An insurance company can be held responsible for its bad faith even if it does not cause harm to its insured policyholder on purpose. In Weiner v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., the insurance company delayed paying a claim, knowing that they delay would cause the policyholder and his family hardship. The insured policyholder lost both of his legs as a result of an accident when he was in the military. When his wheelchair tipped, he was injured and eventually died as a result.
The insurance company ignored his requests for advance payments despite his hardship. After the policyholder died, the insurance company finally made a low-ball settlement offer. But the amount was not even enough to cover the cost of medical bills, and would have been paid in installments over time. The policyholder’s widow rejected the low offer and filed suit. While the trial court did not agree with her, the next level court, the court of appeals, sided with the widow because of the insurance company’s bad faith misconduct.
While not all insurance companies and their employees engage in conduct that counts as bad faith, there are many cases where insurance company practices were found to be harassing, embarrassing, infliction of emotional distress and deceptive. In some cases, insurance companies were found to be eavesdropping on private conversations, trespassing on private property and shadowing people who sued them. Some insurance companies engage in bad faith conduct accidentally because their employees were not properly trained, are overworked and spread too thin with a large case load, do not know the law or because the insurance companies negligently did not have policies and procedures in place to prevent acts of bad faith from happening.
However, other insurance companies act in bad faith on purpose with the hope that the injured claimant will accept a lower offer than the claim is actually worth, or that the claimant will abandon the claim completely out of frustration and lack of resources. For those who are not experienced in handling insurance claims, there is a lot of grey area as to what conduct is allowed under the law and what conduct is considered bad faith.
There are many insurance and legal processes that insurance companies can try to manipulate to take advantage of injured claimants going through a hard time. Claims adjusters have been encouraged to drag out unnecessarily long insurance investigations. The insurance investigation may be wrongfully dragged out when it comes to both the facts of the accident as well as the injuries and medical treatment. These investigations are designed to find any excuse to deny the claim, and force the injured claimant to sue.
Although not as widely and openly used as in the past, insurance claims manuals were used by insurance employees as guides to draw out depositions so that the injured claimants are embarrassed, harassed or forced to take on so much cost that the claimants eventually cut their losses and back out of an insurance claim or lawsuit. For the insurance company, it is a matter of business and the insurance company does not prioritize the needs of the injured claimant or sometimes its own client.
Finding the right lawyer can help you protect your interests, hold insurance companies responsible and ensure you use every legal option available to you.
Hire the best personal injury attorney for your car accident case. The right lawyer will help you fight for the compensation you deserve, and form a case plan to address your specific needs.
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