Personal injury lawsuits are a threat to insurance companies' bottom lines, and it is not surprising if they show little or no interest in helping you to file a solid claim after you suffer from a legitimate accident. At the Law Offices of Ronald B. Laba, we have a different attitude—we do everything in our power to make you an informed claim-filer and to help you to receive full and fair compensation for all losses sustained due to the negligence of others.
Here are five pieces of advice that you probably won't hear from an insurer but that can greatly improve the chances that your claim will be honored:
- Take Immediate Action after an Accident – Your Rights Depend on It!
- Insurance Companies Don’t Want to Pay Money – The 3 D’s – Delay, Deny and Defend
- Photograph and Videotape Accident Scene – Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures
- Keep a Personal Diary about Accident / Recovery
- Keep Your Receipts – Documented Expenses Are Hard to Argue With
Now let us go into each of these five practices in more detail:
1. Take Immediate Action after an Accident – Your Rights Depend on It!
As soon as an accident occurs, the "timer" on the California statute of limitations (usually two years) starts running, after which point you will lose your right to file for any compensation. Furthermore, the longer you wait, the harder it is to collect the evidence necessary to winning your case and receiving a maximum, instead of a minimum, settlement amount.
With the passing of time, physical evidence from the scene of the crime will vanish or become difficult to access, being hidden away in some police department evidence vault. Witnesses will also be more difficult to contact, get depositions from, and to bring into court to testify in your behalf. In fact, you yourself will begin to find it more difficult to confidently recall the details of the incident.
Your legal options will also inevitably shrink when insurers use your lack of taking immediate action as an argument against your truly having been injured at all. You need physicians and specialists to examine your injury early on so they can accurately assess the extent of the accident's damage. Furthermore, if you try to press ahead without seeing a doctor or riding in an ambulance to the ER, insurance companies will likely as, "Why didn't he/she rush to the hospital or even see a doctor if the injury existed and was truly severe?" Thus, seeking immediate medical attention is important both for you own well being and for building a legal foundation on which to win just compensation. The hospital will provide documentation and witnesses as to the occurrence and the extent of your injury, quickly establishing two of the main points some insurers try to dismiss.
2. Expect Insurers to Use the "Three D's"
Quite naturally, insurance companies do not want to pay out claims—it is simply not in their financial interests to do so. It is not necessarily that insurance companies are "villains and shady characters"—usually they're not. Nonetheless, insurance companies are in business to make a profit, and the more they pay out in claims, the smaller that profit becomes. Therefore, the temptation exists for multi-billion-dollar insurers to put profits and keeping their stockholders happy above making good on their promises to their clients. Startlingly, the average insurance provider pays out only 6% of the money they get in premiums to cover injury claims, while 45% of those funds cover overhead and profit-margins.
A 2010 book by Jay Feinman, entitled Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don't Pay Claims and What You Can Do About It, exposes the all-too-common play book of some insurance companies. They often never even offer to settle on a claim, instead using the "Three D's:" Delay dealing with the claim, hoping that foot-dragging will frustrate claimants into giving up; Deny that the individual was ever injured, hoping he/she will lack the necessary proof; and Defend the denial in a lengthy legal action, especially if the claimant lacks the services of a good lawyer. In the beginning, the Three D's were a strategy used only against fraud claims, but by extending these tactics to legitimate claims as well, insurance companies can greatly boost their bottom lines.
Many people assume that, although other people's insurance companies may act in this manner, their own surely will not. To their chagrin, when an accident occurs and they file for compensation, they are met with the Three D's. This is sad, considering the record profits of insurers and the tough economic situation of many working families who have been financially crushed by medical bills and loss of income stemming from a serious injury. Many times, the injured party, already stressed by the effects of the injury and unsure how to fight effectively against a big corporation, simply takes a low-ball settlement offer if any is offered at all. But it doesn't have to be this way. We at the Law Offices of Ronald B. Laba have the expertise and the clout to force insurance companies to "play fair" and honor their commitments to their insurees. We know how to negotiate for a higher settlement and how, if necessary, to win for you in court.
3. Photograph and Videotape Accident Scene – Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures
In many cases, taking photographs of the accident scene, of your resultant injuries, and of all manner of important evidences can make the difference between a maximized settlement and a merely average one. Insurance companies know this, and therefore, they tend to make more reasonable settlement offers when they know they will be facing visual evidence in the courtroom. Video tapes are even more effective at revealing the truth about what happened during and after the accident. They can be used to portray things like the position and path of moving vehicles, the timing of an impact, and the range of motion of an injury. Photographs and videos are one of the best ways to "recreate the past" for the judge and jury.
Pictures and/or videotapes can also be taken of accident reconstructions. One example might be proving how hard of an impact is necessary to break a particular type of auto glass. Just get a piece of that kind of glass, hit it with, say, a baseball bat (while all is being recorded), and show that a serious injury could still be sustained even without a tough piece of auto glass actually breaking. Another example could involve sliding objects on top of a solvent puddled on a cement floor to prove that the substance was slick enough to easily cause a slip-and-fall accident. Whatever the details, the point is to force the insurance company to come to terms with the hard facts of the case instead of simply speculating that the injured party must have been careless or was not really injured.
Also consider getting some help form a professional photographer. Professional photos/videos will give close-ups that show the details of scars and wounds and will use the correct lighting and camera angle. If it is worth taking pictures at all, it is worth making sure they are clear and relevant enough to count as serious evidence in the courtroom.
4. Keep a Personal Diary about Accident / Recovery
Some may worry that keeping a diary or journal of his/her experiences following an injury will be of little value since, after all, a person could hypothetically write down anything they please. In reality, however, a written account of the accident and recovery process is of great value. First, it helps the plaintiff remember important details that would likely be lost if relying on memory skills alone. Among the first assignments Ron Laba will suggest to his clients is to take time to recall everything they can about the pain and suffering associated with their accident and put it all down in writing. When injuries hinder their ability to write, it is customary for to take a tape recording, which Attorney Laba's staff can later transcribe into written form.
When negotiating with insurance companies, as well as in court, a diary of the victim is a very effective tool. Quoting from such documents in discussions with insurers can give them an idea of what kind of testimony they would be facing in court since they are hearing the victim's very words. In court, quotes from a "pain diary" are an effective way of emphasizing precisely what it is that the injured party has suffered and laying the foundations for a better settlement than would otherwise be obtained.
5. Keep Your Receipts – Documented Expenses Are Hard to Argue With
An undocumented expense never happened as far as the insurance company and the judge are concerned. While it may be a frustrating and tedious mountain of paperwork, keeping proof of all expenses incurred as a result of your injury is one of the most effective ways to keep insurance companies honest.
Examples of relevant expenditures you may need proof of include:
- Hospital bills, doctor's fees, prescription medication costs, and all other medical expenses
- Pay stubs from just before the injury along with tax returns to prove how much you made previously and determine loss of income
- Transportation and communication costs associated with the logistics of dealing with physicians, specialists, attorneys, court hearings, and insurance companies.
- Payments for services you were no longer able to do following the accident, such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the house
It is easy to forget to keep receipts and to completely overlook some of the expenses that the accident, even if indirectly, has caused. Doing so, however, will not only get you higher reimbursement but will also serve to give the jury a clear idea of what the effects of your injury on your lifestyle truly have been. More basically, it is added evidence that you truly were injured and a good negotiating tool when facing insurers who are naturally disinclined to pay out a substantial settlement.
At the Law Offices of Ron Laba, we deal with big insurance companies every day, and we know the tactics that they sometimes use to prevent paying out on legitimate claims to accident victims. If you have suffered harm, financially, physically, or emotionally, due to the negligence or misconduct of others and are having difficulty getting an insurance company to recognize your claim, do not hesitate to contact us for help at 844-439-8969 24/7/365.