When individuals are injured by the negligence of a careless driver, irresponsible car owner, or another party while walking or cycling, the insurance company for the at-fault party might rely on the following strategies:
Minimizing the Seriousness of Injuries: Insurance companies often focus significant efforts on contesting the nature and severity of injuries experienced by the cycling or pedestrian victim. The insurer will cite facts like delays in seeking medical attention, missed medical appointments, and failure to complete the course of treatment. The insurance company might even have an investigator troll social media websites or conduct surveillance to obtain compromising photos. While even people with chronic pain will have good days and bad days, the insurance company will make efforts to obtain pictures that show an injury victim engaging in activities inconsistent with their injuries.
Obtaining a Recorded Statement: A representative of the insurance company or an investigator often requests that the injured party participate in a recorded statement. While this request might be masked in a veil of cooperation to expedite payment of a claim, the collection of statements and evidence actually serve to undermine the validity and/or value of the claim.
Intensifying Financial Pressure: Insurance company representatives know that injury victims face significant financial hardships that include medical bills, vehicle repair costs, and mounting unpaid household expenses due to time off work. Insurance companies often utilize tactics designed to delay resolution of the claim to amplify this financial pressure. The insurance company might leverage these monetary difficulties to persuade an injury victim to accept pennies on the dollar.
Blaming the Victim: Although the police report might provide the officer’s opinion regarding the party at-fault in a pedestrian accident, this conclusion is not dispositive. The insurance company frequently attempts to blame the victim for his or her own injuries. Under New York law, a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit has a duty to exercise ordinary care for his or her own safety. When an injury victim’s failure to fulfill this legal obligation causes injury or increases the seriousness of the victim’s injury, the amount of a damage award will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff. Insurers often assert that a pedestrian “darted into traffic” or advance other claims to avoid or mitigate liability.
Inadequate Early Settlement Offers: Because insurance carriers recognize the financial obstacles that injured pedestrians face, they sometimes make widely inadequate settlement offers. The insurance company tries to get the injured party to agree to a “lowball” settlement before the severity of any injuries are fully known, and the injured pedestrian can obtain legal representation. One study of personal injury cases that resulted in a recovery found that the average party who settled directly with the insurance company received $17,500, but represented parties received an average recovery of $77,600. Insurance companies are well aware of this data, so they often try to settle prematurely to avoid dealing with an informed and represented injury victim.
Insurance Company Advantages: Insurance companies know that the chance of avoiding any monetary payout increases dramatically if they deal with a party who does not have the benefit of representation by a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. Insurance companies have the advantage of a team of adjusters, experienced litigators, accident reconstruction experts, medical experts, and extensive litigation resources. In a study that analyzed the difference in outcome between injury victims with and without an attorney, represented parties received compensation in 91 percent of cases while unrepresented parties received no compensation in more than half the cases. The amount of the recovery obtained by clients with attorneys also was 4.4 times higher than unrepresented parties.
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