By Brian Lew of Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie
Look in the yellow pages or take note of television advertising during the middle of the day. What you will find there are a multitude of lawyers. Interestingly, the vast majority are personal injury lawyers. Why is that? When viewing television dramas about the courtroom, you never see personal injury lawyers. There have been hundreds of shows about criminal lawyers, prosecutors and defense lawyers, but if you wanted to locate a prosecutor or defense lawyer in the phone book, you would be hard pressed to find one.
In any yellow page book the personal injury section has by far the most advertisers. Is it that there are more injuries than crimes? Maybe so, but the main reason there are so may personal injury lawyers is because few claims are handled fairly by insurance carriers. If the insurance adjusters handled the claims fairly, they would put the personal injury lawyers out of business. You wouldn’t need one.
The reality is even with a lawyer, it is difficult to get the full true value of your claim. I recently had a conversation with an adjuster from a well known large carrier regarding an accident our client was involved in. Our client and another driver were involved in an accident at an intersection in Walnut, California. The other driver ran red light after becoming confused because of a passing train (the guard rail had come down and the lights and bells for the train were going off). After the accident, the other driver apologized to our client for running the red light, and explained that she was confused by the train. A few minutes after the accident, my client’s parents arrived at the scene. Again, the other driver apologized, this time to her parents for causing the accident.
After contacting the adverse party’s insurance adjuster, the adjuster informed my office that the other driver no longer was accepting responsibility for the accident. I reminded the adjuster that her insured apologized at the scene to three people and admitted fault at the scene. The adjuster replied that since there were no witnesses to the accident and we would not be able to prove who was at fault, the insurance company decided to deny the claim. I told the adjuster that this decision was contrary to what was right, and to what the truth of the matter was. I asked the adjuster to question her insured about the admission and she refused. The adjuster said she didn’t care what the truth was, and that the only thing that mattered was what we would be able to prove in court.
What a sobering moment. I always believed that insurance companies were in the business of saving money, but this was ridiculous. This adjuster admitted that she didn’t care about the truth. How could that statement be consistent with fair claims adjustment as a whole? Clearly it couldn’t.
This is the type of mindset and policy that you are up against when presenting a claim to the insurance company. Forget about having the claim handled fairly and promptly, many of these carriers are looking to either minimize your claim or have it go away all together. If they handled the claim fairly, why are there so many legal specialists out there with the only goal of representing claimant’s interests? Think about it. You will need help when up against the insurance industry.