Few experiences in life are as terrifying or traumatic as a large commercial trucking accident.
The survivors are often left with devastating injuries and extremely costly damages.
Meanwhile, the families of those killed in these terrible crashes are left with a lifetime of suffering, not to mention the crippling expenses associated with a wrongful death.
“At least there’s insurance,” you might think. And that’s true — insurance policies exist to pay for damages that would otherwise be impossible to cover when disaster strikes.
Unfortunately, insurance companies aren’t always the “good neighbors” or “helping hands” they claim to be. Even in the most tragic cases, they tend to protect their own financial interests first.
As a matter of fact, there’s a lot they won’t tell you — things you’ll need to know to protect yourself and get the full amount of compensation you deserve.
Below, we present 8 truths about the truck accident claims process in New York. Keep these in mind from the moment you begin preparing a claim, because it’s unlikely the insurance adjustor will bring any of them up.
1. They’re Not on Your Side
Insurance companies are looking out for their wallets, not yours. Unlike an attorney, an insurance adjustor is not your advocate. While they do have an obligation to treat you fairly and to process your claim lawfully (more on that below), they don’t have the same duty to advance your best interests.
This is something insurance companies don’t like to advertise. In fact, if you watch enough of their TV commercials, you might be convinced they’re your best friends! Sadly, that friendship ends when a claim gets filed.
Your insurance adjustors may seem very friendly. They’re trained to be. Certainly, he or she might be a nice person, and they might genuinely care. But it’s the adjustor’s job to save their employer money, and they do that by using any available evidence against you. That includes your own words. So be careful what you say.
2. They Can Easily Afford to Pay All Your Bills
There is no way to undo a truck crash. The law is powerless to reverse your injuries, turn back time, or make up for the loss of a loved one.
But what the New York legal system can do is award you adequate compensation for paying your bills and putting your life back together. Indeed, that is the very goal of personal injury law: making victims whole again (or as close to whole as possible, with money serving as compensation).
Sadly, there are accidents for which no one is responsible, or for which the responsible parties are destitute and simply don’t have the money to pay. Those situations are rare, and they are extremely unfortunate because no one deserves to pay out of pocket for an accident they didn’t cause.
But insurance companies are not destitute. They are more than capable of paying you every penny of the compensation you deserve. So don’t settle for less than that.
The truck accident lawyers at O’Connor & Partners have recovered millions of dollars from insurance companies in settlements and verdicts in the past. That’s what makes it so preposterous when insurers resist a claim for much smaller amounts when it is clearly legitimate and worthy.
Mind you, not every truck accident case is worth a million dollars. It is simply impossible to predict a specific outcome for any given claim. But as a general matter, we want you to understand that commercial trucking insurance providers are fully able to meet their legal obligations — and you should expect them to do so.
An experienced Hudson Valley truck accident lawyer at O’Connor & Partners can help.
3. They Probably Already Expect to Pay You a Lot of Money For Your Injuries
Truck accidents tend to cause extreme and catastrophic injuries. Death is not uncommon. Financially, the damage awards in these cases tend to be very high.
The insurance companies know that. While every case is unique, and there are cases in which substantial damages are not appropriate, adjustors are generally aware of the high-stakes nature of many truck accident claims.
Still, that won’t stop them from making settlement offers that are entirely too low. Their first offer might not be anywhere near the amount they are actually prepared to pay. Don’t make the mistake of settling too early, or of agreeing to a settlement before talking to a lawyer.
4. You Don’t Lose Your Rights by Rejecting Their Offer
Insurance adjustors are trained to create a false sense of urgency when offering you a settlement.
They might imply that you need to act quickly or you’ll lose your chance to receive the payout.
That’s not entirely true. While the insurance company can (generally speaking) limit the time window for acceptance of a particular settlement offer, you don’t lose your legal rights by rejecting the offer or by taking your time to evaluate your options.
In fact, acting quickly benefits them, not you. The whole purpose of this “you have to hurry!” attitude is to pressure you into accepting a “quick cash” opportunity. But you’ll pay a price for doing so: accepting the settlement offer usually means agreeing you will never, ever claim more money from the insurance company (even if they owe it to you).
It is true that you shouldn’t wait too long to take action. A strict legal time limit, known as a statute of limitations, does apply to New York truck accident claims.
But the statute of limitations is a number of years (three years for most New York truck accidents, or two years if there is a wrongful death claim) — not weeks, as the insurance adjustor might imply.
To be clear: truck accidents require time to investigate, and claims need to be prepared properly to have the best chance of succeeding. So prompt action is important. But don’t let an insurance company pressure you into a rash decision. Take the time to talk with an experienced Kingston truck accident lawyer soon.
5. Giving A Recorded Statement Is Not in Your Best Interest
Adjustors often encourage accident victims to make a recorded statement. Be extremely wary of that suggestion.
Recorded statements help the insurance company. They are designed to get you on record making statements that conflict with your best interests or contradict your claim. Even if you are absolutely telling the truth, it is all too easy to misspeak under the pressure of a recorded statement.
You should only agree to giving a recorded statement under the advice of an attorney. Your lawyer should prepare you in advance and be with you the entire time.
6. Special Laws Apply in Many Truck Accident Cases
Under both state and federal law, the trucking industry is heavily regulated. Strict rules exist, for example, about how many hours truck drivers can spend on the road before stopping to get some rest. These Hours of Service requirements must be reflected in driver logs and in the work schedules set by their employers.
After a truck crash, your attorney can help to investigate the accident to determine whether any legal violations, such as an Hours of Service violation, might have been at play.
7. Handling Your Claim Unfairly Can Cost Them Big Time
While it’s true that insurance companies do not represent your best interests and are not required to act as your legal advocate, they are required to handle your claim fairly and in good faith.
Despite that obligation, each year, there are numerous cases of insurance bad faith. Examples include:
- Wrongful denials of a claim
- Unreasonably low settlement offers
- Inadequate investigations of a claim
- Excessive delays in processing a claim or issuing payments
- False or unfounded accusations of fraud
- Unnecessary disclosure of sensitive, private, or embarrassing information to third parties
- Making misrepresentations
If your provider engages in these or other shady practices, you may have a claim for insurance bad faith. The penalties for acting in bad faith are substantial… far more than would be available in a simple breach of contract case.
8. You Can Claim More Than Just Your Immediate Medical Damages
New York personal injury law allows victims to recover a wide range of damages, including but not limited to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages due to time away from work
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- The cost of ongoing and future care
- Property damage
- Loss of love and support / funeral and burial expenses (in wrongful death cases)
Depending on your losses and the terms of your insurance policy, you may be entitled to reimbursement for these and/or other damages after a truck accident in New York.
Talk to a Hudson Valley Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Don’t make the mistake of putting your full trust in an insurance company. They might seem friendly and professional, but in reality, they’re working hard to pay you as little money as possible.
At O’Connor & Partners, we work hard to advance our clients’ best interests despite the insurance company’s best efforts, fighting tirelessly to get our clients the largest amount of money possible.
Insurance companies in New York make a lot of money each year by denying claims unfairly or by paying victims less than they deserve. Don’t let it happen to you.
Before you accept a settlement from an insurance adjustor or trucking company, talk to an experienced Kingston truck accident lawyer and learn more about your options.
We are proud to offer no-cost, no-risk consultations. If you end up hiring us after the consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.
Our law firm serves clients throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond, including Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and New York City. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you!