But, the insurance guy was so friendly…
Consider this scenario. You’ve been hurt in an accident. The other driver seemed concerned and friendly. His insurance adjuster seemed concerned and friendly. The adjuster promised they will pay for your medical bills and make sure you are taken care of. You hope you can trust him, because your treatment will be expensive and you’re going to miss time at work
The insurance adjuster eventually offers compensation of $7,500. He calls it a generous offer. He says his boss told him it was too high, but because the adjuster really cares about you, he stood up for you and got this amount approved.
You should take his word for it and agree to the offer (and sign paperwork?), right?
Wrong. Trusting an insurance company after an accident, without speaking with an experienced lawyer, is a mistake that could affect your health and finances for decades. And we see it happen all the time.
In this blog post, we pull the curtain back on some of the sophisticated tactics insurance companies use — here in Maine, New England, and around the country — to deny fair compensation to people who have been hurt in accidents.
Insurance companies are motivated by profit, not fairness
There’s a reason why the insurance industry spends billions of dollars each year on catchy jingles, celebrity endorsements, and wall-to-wall advertising intended to amuse you and convince you they have your best interests at heart. They want you to trust them.
But behind the curtains, these companies have one purpose: to maximize profit.
“An insurance company’s business model is to take in as much in premiums as possible, and pay out as little on claims as possible,” says attorney James O’Connell, a partner at Berman & Simmons since 2012. “If they’re paying out a large number of fair settlements, then they’re reducing their profit. As a result, shareholders would lose money and executives would lose their jobs.”
People buy insurance to protect themselves if they make a mistake and hurt someone else. In an ideal world, the insurance company would provide fair compensation to someone who was hurt by their policyholder.
There would be no need for lawyers, and no need for trials.
But in the real world, insurance companies realized they are more profitable by denying and low-balling all claims (referred to in the industry as forcing “smaller walk-away settlements”) and simply making the process miserable not only for the injured person, but also for the person who bought the insurance policy to protect themselves.
Common insurance company tactics and deceptive practices
These are four of the most common tactics used by insurance companies to deny fair compensation to people who have been hurt in accidents.
They make you think they are on your side
“This is a generous offer.” “You don’t need a lawyer.” These are some lines you might hear from insurance adjusters after you have been hurt in an accident. Effective insurance companies hire adjusters who are very personable. They are trained to get out to the crash scene and speak with an injured person as soon as possible, to develop a personal rapport. Down the road, this makes it easier for the company to deny your claim or offer a settlement that is far lower than the actual value of your case.
They low-ball your claims
In the past, when insurance companies were local businesses with employees who were local members of your community, you could often count on them to compensate you fairly for your injury claim. For the most part, those days are gone. Most people are insured by megacompanies that rely mostly on computers — not humans — to evaluate claims in order to maximize corporate profits.
“What the insurance companies have figured out is that if they low-ball everybody across the board, the vast majority of people would become frustrated and will cave in and give up because they can’t wait, or they can’t handle the frustration, aggravation, and delays,” O’Connell says.
They take advantage of your financial distress
Insurance companies know that if you have been injured in an accident, you are financially vulnerable. You might be missing work. Medical bills and other expenses are piling up. They also know that most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck to begin with. The companies know that accident victims are likely to accept a meager settlement offer, because they need cash now, and can’t afford to wait for the legal process to play out.
If those tactics don’t work, they blame the victim
When accident victims don’t accept low-ball offers, and take the dispute to court, insurance companies hire lawyers. Those lawyers often blame the victims for what happened to them and portray them as greedy for seeking compensation.
“They’ll accuse the plaintiff of lying, of looking a certain way, of having health problems that have nothing to do with the case. They will do everything they can to distract jurors,” O’Connell says.
“And the reason for distraction is because they know that many jurors have biases against people who make claims, and against the lawyers who represent them. It’s my job to make sure jurors are not manipulated or distracted by these false and demeaning smokescreens.”
Educate yourself and don’t be victimized again
As a consumer and someone who has been injured in an accident, what can you do to make sure you are not victimized by an insurance company?
- Never agree to a settlement for your injury claim without knowing if it’s fair.
- As soon as possible, contact an experienced lawyer that understands the entire insurance system, and the tactics
used by defense lawyers and insurance companies.
- Educate yourself about the process and ask questions. You need to make sure your rights are protected.
- Hold your ground and assume the insurance company will most likely delay
handling your claim, deny you
were hurt and defend
their decision in a court battle.
Why choose Berman & Simmons to handle your personal injury case?
Results. We have more combined experience than any other plaintiffs’ law firm in Maine, and have won many of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Maine history.
Reputation. Founded more than 100 years ago, the firm is recognized nationally for its record of success in trials, a fearless approach to litigation, and for standing up for working people against powerful defendants.
Relationships. We care about our clients. We listen. We follow through on our promises. You’ll have a team behind you…