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insurance company tactics to pay you less

Tactics Used by Insurance Companies During a Personal Injury Case

Obtaining full and fair compensation from an insurance company can be a challenging and confusing process. Most injury victims have never been involved in a car accident and are unfamiliar with the claims process. The insurance company adjusters, however, are professional claim handlers who handle car accidents claims every day. Insurance companies are not in business to lose money, and their goal is to pay out as little as possible for the injuries caused by their insureds. Insurance adjusters are also professional negotiators who handle claims like yours for a living. This puts you at a significant disadvantage when you file a claim, especially if this is your first time doing so and you are not familiar with the process.

Insurance carriers have numerous strategies and tactics that are designed to trip up claimants and undermine their claims, and it is very important to be aware of these before going into the process. Here are some of the most common tactics used by insurance companies during a personal injury claim:

Acting Like your “Friend”

One of the strategies adjusters commonly use is to try to quickly establish rapport with a claimant, so the claimant will trust what they say. Very soon after the injury (often within just a couple of days), you may be contacted by an adjuster on what appears to be a courtesy call to introduce themselves and find out how you are doing. The adjuster will typically be very nice and polite, and they will act like your best friend.

The main purpose of this call is to catch you off guard and earn your trust before you have had a chance to find out what your legal rights are. They will reassure you that you will be “taken care of”, and they may even imply that you should not talk to a lawyer. While talking with the adjuster, keep in mind that they represent the insurance company, and their interests are not aligned with yours. Be polite and courteous with them but be very skeptical of what they tell you.

Requesting a Recorded Statement

Once the insurance company believes they have earned your trust, they may follow up with you and ask you to give them a recorded statement about the accident or event that caused your injury. They may present the recorded statement as a “formality” that is necessary to process your claim.

The truth is that a recorded statement is not required, and the main reason the insurance company wants it is so they can have you on the record saying something that could be detrimental to your claim. For example, during the recording, you could say something that implies that you are at least partially at fault for getting hurt. And under California’s comparative negligence laws, this could cause you to lose a portion of the compensation you are entitled to.

Requesting a Medical Release

Another request that an insurer might present as a formality needed to move your claim forward is to ask you to sign a medical release. They will probably tell you that they need this in order to start paying your medical bills. The problem is that these releases are usually all-encompassing, giving them the right to review your entire medical history. This will allow them to go on a fishing expedition in hopes of finding a pre-existing injury or something else they can use to claim that your injury (or at least the seriousness of it) is not the fault of their client.

Giving You a Quick and Unfair Settlement Offer

Insurance companies are well aware that those who suffer personal injuries are often short of cash. The combination of high medical bills and being out of work for a period of time can put a major strain on household finances, and injury victims are often motivated to get a settlement check as soon as possible. Insurers may look to capitalize on the situation by giving you a quick settlement offer.

The problem is that this offer will most likely be for far less than your claim is worth, and in fact, you may not even know the full extent of your injuries at this point, which you will need in order to accurately calculate the value of your claim. Before accepting any type of settlement offer from the insurance company, at the very least, have your case reviewed by an experienced personal injury lawyer. A reputable lawyer will be able to tell you whether or not the offer is fair and what legal rights and options you have going forward.

Needlessly Delaying Your Claim

If you have not accepted their lowball settlement offer, another tactic the insurance company might use is to delay your claim without any valid reason. Again, they know that you want to get paid, so they may simply stop communicating for long periods of time in hopes that you will get frustrated and finally give in and accept their offer. By delaying the claim, the insurance company gets to hold onto their money longer, and at the same time, they can “run out the clock” on the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit.

In California, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years. This may seem like a long time, but it can go by fast when the insurer is communicating with you infrequently. If an insurance company is needlessly delaying your claim, get in touch with a seasoned personal injury attorney right away to discuss your case and assess your legal options.

Not Telling You That You Don’t Have to Give a Statement

One of the tricks insurance companies use in car accident cases is to influence the victim to make a recorded statement before they have had a chance to hire a car accident attorney. When you are in a physically and emotionally vulnerable position, the insurance adjuster will attempt to prompt you to say things or make guesswork about the circumstances of the accident which could all be used against you later.

Contacting Your Insurance Provider after an Accident

After you report your accident to law enforcement and receive the necessary medical care, you will need to inform your insurer about the incident. When speaking with your insurer about an accident, be forthright but do not volunteer unsolicited information and do not admit fault, even if you think that you are at least partially responsible for the crash.

Your insurance agent should only seek the basic details on the incident, such as:

  • The date, time, and venue of the accident
  • The name of the responding law enforcement entity
  • The names and contact details for other involved motorists and passengers
  • The insurance details for other involved motorists

It is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident, but it is also a good idea to speak to an attorney first if the accident resulted in major injuries or if there are doubts on who caused the crash.

Contacting the Other Motorist’s Insurers after an Accident

In the days after a vehicle crash, the insurance companies for other involved motorists may reach out to you. Under the law, you are NOT required to provide a statement to the other motorist’s insurer.

It is best to politely decline to address their questions and to refer them to your own insurer or your car crash attorney. Don’t agree to give a recorded interview, do not discuss responsibility, and do not offer information about the seriousness of your injuries.

Do Not Settle for the Initial Offer that Comes Your Way

Often, accident injury victims are faced with skyrocketing medical bills and time away from work. Insurance providers understand that many injury victims require funds for damages promptly, and they may put pressure on you to accept an ostensibly substantial settlement.

However, the initial settlement offers from insurance companies are rarely enough to cover the long-term necessities. Even injuries that seem minor may warrant extensive rehabilitation or time off work resulting in lost income.

Contact Garmo & Garmo LLP for a Free Consultation

If you or someone close to you has been injured through no fault of your own, you need a strong legal advocate by your side who is looking out for your interests. If you are in San Diego, El Cajon, or anywhere in Southern California, call Garmo and Garmo, LLP today at 619-441-2500, or send us a message through our online contact form to schedule your free consultation and case assessment.

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How are Damages Calculated in CA Accident Cases?

When an individual is injured or killed due to the reckless acts or omissions of another party, they are entitled to compensation for their injuries. The term commonly used for this is known as “damages”. The party that is at-fault is responsible to pay damages to the injury victim. In some instances, there may be more than one responsible party, and in a large number of personal injury cases, damages are paid by the responsible party’s insurer.

Compensatory Damages in California Accident Cases

Damages to compensate an accident injury victim can be divided into two general categories; economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are actual costs incurred to treat and recover from the injury. Non-economic damages are those that you cannot assign a dollar value to.

Economic Damages

There are several categories of economic damages that an injury victim may incur. These include:

  • Property Damage: In many CA accident cases, there is property that is damaged or lost. For example, in a car accident case, there is usually severe damage to the vehicle the injured party was driving; and in many instances, the car is totaled.
  • Medical Bills: One of the largest expenses an injury victim incurs is for medical costs. This may include medical attention and/or hospitalization immediately after the accident, rehabilitation costs, and ongoing medical expenses when the victim suffers a debilitating injury. Where there is a serious and catastrophic injury, medical costs can quickly add up to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Lost Wages: Injury victims who are employed may have to miss several days or even weeks from work to recover. If the injury is severe and debilitating, they may no longer be able to work, or they may have to leave their current job for something that doesn’t pay as much. Injured parties should be compensated for lost wages and loss of future earning capacity resulting from the injury.
  • Funeral and Burial Costs: If the victim was killed in the accident, it becomes a wrongful death case. In such cases, the victim’s loved ones should be compensated for funeral and burial expenses.

Non-Economic Damages

Categories of non-economic damages may include:

  • Physical Pain and Suffering: Those who suffer serious injuries usually have frequent, even ongoing physical pain that continues for an extended period of time. It is hard to put a price on the physical pain and suffering an injury victim has to endure, but in the most severe cases, juries have been known to award large amounts in this category.
  • Psychological Trauma: Another component of a serious injury that is hard to quantify is the emotional distress the victim suffers as a result. For example, many individuals have to deal with anxiety, fear, sleepless nights, and similar problems.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: Suffering a serious injury often deprives the victim of being able to participate in certain activities they used to enjoy. For example, if someone enjoyed going surfing at Ocean Beach and was no longer able to because of their injury, they may be entitled to compensation for loss of enjoyment.
  • Loss of Consortium: A close relationship of the victim may be able to pursue compensation for loss of consortium due to the victim’s serious injury or wrongful death.

Punitive Damages

There is a separate category of damages that are not intended to compensate the victim for injuries, but rather to punish the responsible party for their actions or omissions. These are known as “punitive damages”. These types of damages are rare and only awarded in cases in which the injured party was harmed by especially egregious or reckless conduct.

California Pure Comparative Negligence Laws

The damages awarded in a CA accident case may be reduced if the injury victim shares some responsibility for the accident. Under California’s pure comparative negligence standard, victims are still able to recover compensation even if they are partially at fault. However, their damage award is reduced in direct proportion to the percentage they are determined to be at-fault. For example, if the total amount of damages calculated equal $200,000 and the injured party was 10% at-fault, their award would be reduced by $20,000.

Contact a Skilled San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone close to you was injured or killed in an accident in California and the accident was caused by another party, you need experienced legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interests. At Garmo and Garmo, we have extensive experience successfully representing personal injury victims in San Diego, El Cajon, and surrounding Southern California communities. We understand the complexities of these types of cases and how to accurately calculate damages. This helps ensure that you are fully compensated for your injuries.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our office today at 619-441-2500. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

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How Are Damages From a Personal Injury Case Calculated?

If you have sustained injuries due to the negligent actions of another party, you may be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. Under California’s statute of limitations, you must do this within two years. You may also be wondering how much financial compensation you could potentially recover, and how the legal system determines amounts and categories of damages.

The first thing to understand about a personal injury lawsuit is that you must prove that the injuries have significantly impacted your life and that you would not be in this position if not for the actions of the other party. Secondly, the categories of financial compensation you can receive are either economic or non-economic damages.

Punitive damages, which is an additional amount the defendant must pay if he or she acted with reckless disregard for safety, are less common in California. When awarded, you must demonstrate clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s reckless behavior. Additionally, the court considers his or her financial situation before awarding punitive damages.

Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Economic damages include financial losses you have experienced due to the accident as well as potential financial losses. The most common examples include:

  • Medical expenses: This includes doctor and hospital charges, physical therapy, prescription medication, travel costs to receive treatment, medical equipment, revisions to your home or vehicle if necessary, and anything else directly related to injuries you sustained from the accident. Since many accident victims suffer permanent injuries, the judge and jury consider your future cost of medical care as well.
  • Lost income: If you had to miss work due to your injuries, your personal injury settlement should include payment for that time. This is true even if you did receive sick or vacation pay from your employer.
  • Loss of earning capacity: Some injuries are significant enough to force employees to retire, work part-time, or accept a less-demanding position that also pays a lower salary. In these situations, the judge and jury would consider what you currently make and set your compensation accordingly. They would also consider whether you would have qualified for promotions if not for the injury.
  • Property damage: You’re entitled to sue for economic damages if you need to replace or repair your vehicle or any of its contents. For example, perhaps you were on your way to work and had a compute laptop in the vehicle with you.

If you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit, it’s important to retain records of any out-of-pocket costs you paid so you can seek reimbursement later.

Examples of Non-Economic Damages

Unlike economic damages that have an actual cost correlated with them, non-economic damages are subjective. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not real. Some common examples of non-economic damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits include:

  • Pain and suffering: This can cover a wide range of issues such as physical pain, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, damage to reputation, and feelings of humiliation. You must prove a direct connection between the pain and suffering you’re currently experiencing and the accident that caused it.
  • Loss of enjoyment: A good example here would be someone who previously enjoyed going for long walks every day but who can no longer walk because the accident left him or her a paraplegic. This type of non-economic damage can include anything you once enjoyed but can do longer do.

In some cases, family members may be able to recover non-economic damages if your injuries severely or permanently altered the relationship they once enjoyed with you. Because everyone experiences pain and loss differently, it is impossible to say upfront the potential award for this part of your personal injury lawsuit.

Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation

Garmo & Garmo, Attorneys at Law, have helped thousands of accident victims recover the financial compensation they deserve to help get their life back in order. Please call our office in El Cajon, California at 619-441-2500 to request an appointment with a personal injury attorney today.