What Insurance Companies Won’t Tell You After a Car Accident
We all know what their commercials say: they’re like a good neighbor, they’re there when you need them, they’re on your side.
But the truth is that insurance companies are not on your side.
As a matter of fact, there’s a lot they won’t tell you — things you need to know.
Below, we present seven truths you should keep in mind when dealing with insurance carriers after submitting a claim for car crash compensation.
1. They Don’t Work for You
It’s easy to assume that the insurance companies are working hard to “get to the bottom” of an auto accident or to “do the right thing.” You might even believe that your own insurance company has an obligation to represent your best interests.
Unfortunately, they don’t — and they won’t.
Insurance companies are for-profit corporations. Their biggest concern, above all else, is their bottom line. They would rather pad their own pockets than yours. And at the end of the day, they care more about their shareholders than you.
That doesn’t mean insurance companies don’t have any obligations at all. They do. Specifically, they must abide by:
- The terms of the relevant insurance policy
- Applicable state and federal law
- Any promises they’ve made you
- Their duty of good faith (which we’ll discuss more below)
But don’t make the mistake of confusing those obligations with a duty to work toward your best benefit. That’s the kind of duty you can expect from an attorney — but insurance companies never act as your agent. (Remember: an insurance agent is an agent of the insurer, not the insured!)
This rule cuts both ways too. Neither your insurance company nor the other drivers’ insurance companies are working for you.
And at the end of the day, if the claims adjustors assigned to your case can find any way to pay you less money — or no money — they’ll take it in a heartbeat.
2. They Know Their Settlement Offer Is Too Low
If you’ve received an early settlement offer from an insurance carrier, it’s a safe bet that the offer represents less than you’re really owed. Probably a lot less. And the insurance company already knows that.
“Lowball offers” are standard practice for insurance companies. This is how they make their money. Remember: insurers are some of the most “filthy rich” corporations in the world.
In fact, insurers often like to set their initial offers so low that, even if they have to bump up the offer over and over again during the negotiation process, they’ll still ultimately save money. They’re already thinking ahead.
Some insurance companies even adopt a “deny first” strategy, which means they might deny your claim even if they think it’s valid and worth a lot of money. And while insurers can get in trouble for doing that (and may even owe you punitive damages as a result), it happens all the time.
In so many cases, insurance companies don’t come to the table with a fair and reasonable settlement offer until an experienced and aggressive New York auto accident lawyer gets involved.
3. They Plan on Using Your Statements Against You
You’ve probably seen TV shows where someone gets arrested and the police recite a familiar line: “Anything you say or do can be used against you…”
Insurance companies should tell you the same thing when you answer your phone. They don’t, mind you. But they should.
That’s because insurance adjusters have been trained to look for statements or actions that they can twist into admissions of liability or “acts inconsistent with” the claims you’ve made. They might even try to lead you into making contradictory statements or saying things against your best interests.
Talking to insurers can be tricky. While you do have an obligation to talk to your own insurance company after an auto accident and to reasonably cooperate with their investigation of the claim, you should be careful about talking to the other drivers’ insurers. Because when you do, you’re talking to someone who is actively working against you.
It’s best to hire a Kingston car accident lawyer and let them do the talking for you.
4. They’ve Been Trained to Make You Think They’re Friendly
When the insurance companies call, they might sound genuinely concerned, truly friendly, and downright eager to help.
And hey, they might be very nice people. But they have a job to do, and that job is to keep you from getting the money you deserve.
Many insurance companies train their representatives and adjusters on how to sound friendly and approachable. They do this because they want you to open up to them, to tell them more than you have to, and to let your guard down (because when you do, you might end up making statements that hurt your case).
A friendly person is always easier to talk to than a rude person. But don’t let a warm personality lure you into undercutting your own claim.
5. They Are Legally Required to Assess Your Claim in Good Faith
“Good faith” is a complex legal doctrine, but it’s premised on a pretty simple notion: people should treat each other honestly, reasonably, and fairly. And that’s exactly how insurance companies are required (by law) to assess your claim.
When insurers investigate or negotiate a claim in bad faith, they can get in a lot of trouble. In fact, they might even have to pay you (the victim) a lot more money in the form of punitive damages.
Unfortunately, New York courts have historically been a little more insurer-friendly than many other states when it comes to the question of bad faith damages. But that doesn’t mean the insurance companies here are allowed to proceed in bad faith or that you can’t recover if they do.
At O’Connor & Partners, we work aggressively to make sure insurance companies meet their good faith obligations, and if they breach that duty, our Kingston auto accident attorneys are prepared to take action.
6. They’re Probably Exaggerating the Urgency of Your Claim
Has the insurance company made you feel like you need to act fast if you want the settlement money they’re offering you? Have they told you it’s a limited-time offer? Do they seem to be in a hurry? Do you feel rushed?
All of this is by design.
The whole point of an early settlement offer is this: the insurance company hopes they can entice you with a relatively small amount of “quick cash” and, in exchange, get you to sign away your rights to additional compensation. In most cases, if you do accept that settlement, you’ll permanently lose your ability to come back and claim more later.
No wonder they’re in such a hurry!
But you don’t have to be.
It is true that you can’t wait forever to make a claim for damages after a New York auto accident. A strict legal time limit, known as a statute of limitations, does apply.
But the statute of limitations is a number of years (three years for most car crashes in New York, or two years if there’s a wrongful death claim) — not weeks, as the insurance company would like you to believe.
You should absolutely take prompt action on your claim. There is nothing to gain by delaying, and the claims process takes time, so you should avoid waiting until the end of the statute of limitations. But you should also make a fully informed decision. That means contacting an experienced Kingston auto accident lawyer to find out what your options are. Do that sooner than later.
At O’Connor & Partners, we offer completely free consultations for accident victims — 100% confidential and with no obligations whatsoever. We can help you understand how much your case might really be worth and whether the insurance company’s settlement offer is even close to being fair.
7. They Are 100% Capable of Paying You a Lot of Money
If you’ve been injured in a car crash, or if you’ve suffered losses because of it, you deserve to be made whole again. While the New York legal system cannot undo injuries or turn back time, it can award you adequate compensation to help you pay your bills and get your life back on track.
And make no mistake about it: the insurance companies have plenty of money to make that happen.
The attorneys 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 ridiculous when insurers balk at paying much smaller amounts on claims that are clearly legitimate and worthy.
Not every claim is worth a million dollars. For that matter, it’s impossible to predict an exact dollar amount or outcome for any given case. But as a general principle, you should understand that insurance companies are fully capable of meeting their obligations — and you should expect them to do so. An experienced auto accident attorney in Kingston can help.
Schedule a Free Consultation with O’Connor & Partners
Have you been injured in a vehicle accident caused by someone else’s negligence? Has an insurance company made you an offer and you’re not sure how to respond? Give us a call.
At O’Connor & Partners, we are happy to offer no-cost, no-risk consultations. Even better, if you do end up hiring us after the consultation, we will not charge a fee unless we get you money first.
We serve clients in Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you! Just contact us online or call (845) 303-8777 to talk with an experienced Kingston auto accident attorney today.