Auto accidents are a part of life. According to Forbes.com, the car insurance industry estimates that you will file a claim for a collision about every 17.9 years. Additionally, the average driver will experience three to four accidents in their driving lifetime! The great majority of these auto accidents will not be deadly, as there are nearly 10 million accidents every year ranging from dings in the parking lot to huge multi-car pileups. Obviously you do not want to be involved in an accident, but as a protection to yourself, and others, the auto insurance industry exists. As drivers, we never want to use our insurance, but after a collision, the insurance coverage is there for a reason in order to assist in the payment of medical expenses, damage repair, and more.
Due to the nature of insurance companies being in a for-profit business, many decisions relating to coverage, payment, and premiums are determined based on the insurance provider’s ability to remain in business to continue providing insurance for everyone else. For this reason, sometimes vehicles are “totaled” even though they are still driveable. It can be frustrating when it happens, and create an inconvenience for the insured driver, though ultimately, it is a financial decision from the company.
In most situations, the medical bills are handled in the same way. A common practice from insurance adjusters is to attempt to settle the medical expenses shortly after the accident, before the medical care has been completed. For some individuals, a settlement makes sense, as they are able to manage their symptoms without the assistance of a board certified doctor. For others, a “low ball” offer puts their medical care in jeopardy if the offer is accepted, as the patient becomes the responsible individual for paying for future therapy, surgery, consultations, etc. If the adjuster is able to settle before the doctors complete treatment, then they are able to save the insurance company money, which is better for them, but not so good for the patient as the injured person now has the responsibility to pay for medical coverage that would have been provided by the insurance company.
In order to help understand insurance offers, and why the “low ball” offers are given, attorney Ed Hensley, from the Hensley Law Firm in Austin, Texas provides the following explanation to help both the doctor, and patient to ensure that appropriate expenses are paid by the insurance company after an accident:
Why do insurance companies always make such low ball offers in accident cases?
Being involved in an accident is a nerve-wracking experience, and every person with insurance hopes that their monthly payments to the insurance company will finally benefit them in their time of need. It is truly disappointing, then, when insurance companies make low ball offers that don’t begin to cover the costs of the damages and injuries. There are a few reasons why an insurance company might make a low ball offer, and a few things you can do to correct this problem. The most important thing to remember is that insurance is a business, they are in the business of making money. Thus every dollar that they pay out is one less dollar that they made for their stock holders and fat cat CEOs. In a word then, we are talking about corporate profits and greed.
Computer Based Estimates
Some insurance companies make their offers based on a computerized system that tells them what the payout was for similar accidents in your general area. The system, conceptually, allows the companies to make offers and process a lot of customers quickly. However, the offers aren’t accurate for individuals because they are based on trends and past history in a particular geo-location. Thus, when you do not agree with the low-ball offer they want to jam down your throat, the claim is denied and months have been wasted in fruitless negotiations. You may have submitted information detailing costs much higher than the compensation that your insurance company is offering but if they don’t see comparable values in their little computer system, you won’t get anywhere. The strategy is to delay, deny, and defend. This is why many attorneys do not deal with the insurance adjusters, preferring instead to go directly to suit in most cases.
Sometimes an insurance company will give you a low-ball estimate if you don’t document your expenses well. If you had some expenses that were abnormally high, your insurance company may think you’re stretching the truth unless you have good evidence to document your claims. This is why you must keep every receipt and financial document that you receive relating to your accident. You may then submit all of these to the insurance company along with calculations of your total expenses. When the insurance company can see your expenses for themselves, they may adjust their computerized offer to accommodate your higher than average costs.
What You Can Do About Low Ball Offers
No matter what reason the insurance company has for giving you a low ball offer (greed, stock holders, declining annual revenues, CEO salary), there are several things that you can do to get a better offer. Be in contact with your company and explain to them that your costs were much higher than their offer. Make sure that they have all of the documentation of your expenses. Ask plenty of questions to determine how the estimate was calculated, what costs went into the calculation, and so forth.
Importantly, never sign a release until you are satisfied with your results. Insurance companies have intentionally tricky releases that can deny you coverages that you may not be aware of; remember, they are pros at hurting people in order to maximize their earnings. Don’t let an insurance company pressure you into accepting any offer. As a repeat customer that would likely be continuing to pay for their services in the future, you have some leverage. Let the company know that you aren’t happy, and that if the issue isn’t resolved you will be letting everyone know to take their business elsewhere. It is always important to consult and retain a lawyer as soon as possible in these types of matters so they do not take advantage of the situation.
Insurance companies are there to make money. If they can get by with making low offers, they often will. This is why you must do your best to maximize all offers. Some companies are more willing than others to make compromises with their customers. If you have been offered a low settlement you should contact an attorney experienced in fighting insurance companies in court.
Synergy Chiropractic of Houston works with a network of local attorneys that can assist in process of protecting yourself against settlement offers after an auto accident. Together with the attorney, our office is able to provide the appropriate care to recover from the injuries sustained from the accident, while the attorney is able to protect against the injuries sustained to your pocketbook. For more information, the top ten things to remember after an auto accident can be found here.