How do auto insurance companies make money year after year? Simple. They take more money in than they pay out. And, the money that they do take in is invested in stocks, bonds or other investment products to achieve a healthy return. More or less, insurance companies accumulate cash from the insurance premiums that it receives from their insureds (drivers insured by insurance companies). The insurance companies then try to pay out as little of that cash to innocent persons or entities that have been harmed by their insureds as is legally possible.
The question then becomes what factors help the injured victim recover as much as possible from the insurance company? Is there anything that makes an insurance company tremble in its golden boots? Let’s take a quick look at five (5) factors that–if present–are helpful to the injured party in his/her recovery against the insurance company.
1. Liability of the Insured
In most car collisions that occur on public property, a police officer is dispatched to the scene of the collision. At the collision, the officer typically takes the statements of the opposing drivers; reviews the physical evidence; inspects the scene of the collision; speaks to any independent witnesses; draws his/her conclusion as to which driver was at fault; and issues a ticket (citation) to the at-fault driver. Obviously, the insurer would not like to see their insured driver cited for causing any collision because any such citation is an indication of responsibility for which the insurer is financially responsible. What can be better than having the officer (typically the only independent witness and an expert at that) testify in his/her uniform about his findings.
2. High Property Damage to the Vehicle of the Injured Party
At the scene of the collision, the police officer inspects the damage to both vehicles and subjectively assesses a numerical value to represent the damage. In Georgia, officers typically employ a numbering system of 1-5 to categorize the property damage as listed on the Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report. The numeral “5” represents fire present to vehicle and is the highest category of damage. The numeral “4” represents “extensive” damage and is the second highest category of damage. The numeral “3” represents “moderate” damage. The numeral “2” represents “slight” damage and the numeral “1” represents no damage. Obviously, the insurance company prefers to see collisions that have caused slight or no damage to the vehicle to bolster its argument that the impact of the collision was minor and therefore repair costs should be low and any bodily injury resulting therefrom is suspect.
3. Complaint of Injury at the Scene of the Collision by the Injured Party
Police officers are required to assess injury to motorists and their passengers at the scene of the collision. Unfortunately, this assessment does not always take place. If any driver or passenger complains of injury, then the officer is supposed to indicate injury on the Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report by using a numeric system. A report of injury at the scene of the collision is important inasmuch as it documents the immediate effects of the impact of the collision upon the body of the victim.
4. Consistent and Timely Medical Treatment by the Injured Party
It is imperative that an injured person seek medical care and treatment as soon as possible after an auto collision. Generally, the majority of injured persons seek hospital treatment or other treatment from a health care provider as soon as practicable after the collision. Most often this treatment is secured on the same day of the collision or the day thereafter. From that point on, it is important to follow the advice of the health care provider as to follow-up care and treatment guidelines. Insurance companies like to see a large gap (or delay) in days between the date of the collision and the first date of treatment inasmuch as large gaps may tend to help the insurer argue that the injury was minor and unworthy of any treatment. Additionally, and particularly with regard to physical therapists and chiropractors, the insurance company likes to see gaps of a week or two between treatment dates/sessions for the same reasons as noted above.
5. Experienced Lawyer Helping the Injured Party
An experienced car accident lawyer can help the injured party for several reasons. First, the lawyer has substantial knowledge of the settlement value of particular cases with particular injuries with particular insurance companies in particular jurisdictions, and can best advise the injured party as to any settlement offer from the insurance company. Second, the lawyer generally has an economic incentive (by contract) to achieve the highest settlement or verdict for his/her client. Third, under Georgia law and bar regulations, the lawyer owes his/her client a fiduciary duty to do what is in the client’s best interest versus the insurance adjuster; an employee of the insurance company whose only duty is to save his/her company as much money as he/she can. Fourth, an experienced lawyer has the leverage to use against a cheap or uncaring insurance company by ultimately filing a lawsuit and presenting the claim to an impartial jury. Fifth, an experienced lawyer has the knowledge and training to fight the insurance defense lawyer, follow the guidelines of the law and keep the timelines of the court.
The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting car accident and truck collision cases throughout Georgia. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of the negligence of a motorist, then please contact an experienced automobile injury attorney for a free consultation.