Getting in an automobile accident is bad enough. There are often cases in which the at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to pay.
Being caught in this situation can be frightful, especially as you face the prospect of piling medical bills and lost time from work. Fortunately, the insurance company doesn’t always get the last word.
If the other driver’s car insurance won’t pay a claim for your accident injuries, it’s time to retain experienced legal counsel who stands up for the rights of victims. The car accident lawyers at Rikard & Protopapas in Columbia, SC can help with your car accident case anywhere in South Carolina.
Why Automobile Insurers Deny Claims
The most important thing to remember when dealing with an automobile insurance company is that it’s a for-profit business. Regardless of how sympathetic a claims adjuster or representative sounds over the phone, at the end of the day the goal is making money.
The more claims that are denied, and the less money paid out on approved claims, the higher the profits. Insurers are perfectly willing to underpay and deny claims if they can get away with it.
Insurance companies generally rely on several variables when dealing with an automobile accident victim. It is their hope that a victim will:
- Be anxious to settle the claim quickly, even for an unreasonably low amount
- Not fully understand the law and perhaps even be led to believe they don’t deserve compensation
- Not fully understand their own policy when filing a claim pursuant to it
- Trust what the insurance company says about the accident, even if it misrepresents the facts
- Not understanding their legal rights
- Not retain a personal injury attorney
If the insurance company can work these factors in their favor, it will be much easier to get what they want and leave you stuck with the medical bills and other losses — or at least a much higher share than you should pay. It’s critical that you don’t take the insurer at its word and that you speak with qualified counsel who can inform you of your legal options.
Tactics that Insurance Companies Use to Deny and Underpay Claims
If you’ve been in a car wreck, it’s likely that you will hear from the at-fault driver’s insurance company fairly soon after the incident. Retaining an attorney, and directing the insurance representative to speak with your attorney, is strongly advised.
These are a few of the ways in which insurers attempt to deny or pay too little on accident claims:
By intentionally taking as much time as possible, the insurer hopes that the victim will become desperate enough to accept whatever he or she can get just to be done with the ordeal. Unreasonable delays, refusal to return calls, and dragging out the entire process (often under the guise of continually “investigating” the accident) are all common.
If a filing deadline approaches, meaning the statute of limitations comes close to passing, the insurer may drag it out even more so a lawsuit becomes time-barred.
An insurance adjuster may call and ask you to give a recorded statement about the accident. The real objective of asking for a recorded statement is to try to obtain evidence against the victim.
Adjusters have been known to ask leading and misleading questions and even to speak with victims when they are still undergoing the shock of being in an accident. An adjuster may even ask how you are doing, and if you answer with the common pleasantry of “I’m fine,” the insurer may use that as a reason to deny or underpay the claim.
Insurers have even been known to hire private investigators to follow accident victims and try to catch them doing something inconsistent with their claimed injuries. The problem is that the evidence obtained through investigations is often manipulated.
For instance, a victim who has actually injured his or her back during a car accident may — out of force of habit or simply not thinking — accidentally pick up something heavy. Even if the victim follows the doctor’s restrictions nearly all the time, there’s a good chance the only video evidence that will ever see the light of day is that which depicts an accidental deviation from those restrictions.
How to Respond to a Car Accident Claim Denial or Low Payout
What happens if the other driver’s insurance company won’t pay what your accident is worth? First, bear in mind that even if an offer from the insurance company sounds fair, it is probably much lower than your accident is worth.
The insurer has likely not accounted for the full extent of your injuries, including future losses like medical bills and lost wages. Before agreeing to accept any offer, speak with a knowledgeable lawyer to ensure you are fairly compensated.
There is likely a process to directly appeal the denial or low payout with the insurance company. You will need to take a few steps such as gathering sufficient evidence and drafting an appeal letter. It is best to involve an experienced attorney, because insurers usually feel more pressure to negotiate in good faith when an attorney is involved.
Your attorney may send the insurance company a demand letter which states:
- Your version of how and why the accident happened
- The legal basis for asserting that the other driver was at fault
- A dollar amount that will fairly compensate you for your injuries and losses
If the insurance company will not make a fair offer, there’s also the option of suing the at-fault driver and forcing the insurer to negotiate in good faith.
Suing the Insurance Company for Not Paying a Claim
Finally, your attorney can pursue a bad faith action against the insurance company. Although South Carolina law does not allow an accident victim to directly sue another party’s insurance company, your lawyer can still force the insurance company to pay using a different legal strategy.
Your first step will be to sue the at-fault party for a verdict that is in excess of the policy limits. Then, you obtain permission from the at-fault party to assign you his or her rights against the insurance company in return for not pursuing the individual’s personal assets (such as a home) to satisfy the judgment.
Once the rights are assigned, your attorney can take direct action against the insurer.
Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys If the Insurer Won’t Pay
Recovering from an accident is hard enough without the added stress of dealing with insurance companies. If you were hurt because of another party’s negligent actions and the car insurer refuses to pay fairly for your damages, let the Columbia, SC car accident attorneys of Rikard & Protopapas go to work for you. Reach out to us today to get started.