The value of a personal injury claim or lawsuit isn’t set in stone. Ultimately, it comes down to the value placed on the case by a judge or jury using their “enlightened conscience.” That being said, most cases still settle without a trial with a settlement. The value agreed to is typically the result of an insurance company’s evaluation, the demands of the injured person and their attorney, or a combination of both.
Many injured people don’t realize the number is subject to argument, which means they often accept an insurer’s initial offer without demanding the amount they truly deserve because they think it’s the only amount they can get. However, when you work with an experienced lawyer, you’ll have an advocate standing up to the insurance company and fighting back against lowball offers.
Why Going It Alone Rarely Works
Insurance companies rarely take seriously claims made by people representing themselves. This is because, firstly, they know that this type of plaintiff doesn’t know the value of their claim, and more importantly, because this type of plaintiff rarely knows how to put together the right type of documentation needed to support their claim and force insurance companies to comply.
Insurance companies don’t believe people without lawyers will be willing to take them to court, which is often the only threat they pay attention to. But having a lawyer on your side from the very start, even if you want to avoid going to trial and would rather settle out of court for a quicker result, tells them you are very serious about your claim and not going to back down.
To better understand this process and the importance of getting a lawyer who can demand full compensation, let’s look at how insurance companies evaluate claims.
How Insurers Evaluate a Case’s Value
When someone files an injury claim, they may do so with their own insurance company or the at-fault party’s insurance company. Most personal injury claims involve the liable party’s insurance coverage, which means they are “third-party” injury claims.
The “at-fault” party’s insurance company will designate an insurance adjuster to evaluate the claim. That adjuster will speak with their policyholder (the person who caused your injury) to get their account of what happened. The adjuster will also try to contact you, but it’s important for you to have a lawyer on your side so they can be present for the conversation.
Insurance adjusters also review many other documents to determine the value of a claim, including but not limited to:
- A police report
- Medical bills
- Proof of property damage
- Verification of income (to determine how much wages you lost due to your injury)
In many cases, insurance adjusters take the financial information they receive, including financial damages, the length and cost of medical treatment, and other factors, and run them through a computer software to tally a dollar amount that they’ll offer to the injured person. Software programs like Colossus, a famous software used in settlement calculations, use algorithms to determine how much the insurer will offer.
Adjusters generally try to limit what they consider and usually look at only some of the financial aspects of a claim. They’ll also reconsider the claim’s potential value if it’s disputed and taken to court. If the injured person has a high likelihood of success, the insurance company might be more likely to offer a satisfactory amount. However, they’re still likely to offer you less than you and your attorney would demand in compensation. Rarely are insurance adjusters allowed to pay what the claim can be worth without a fight, and if you are dealing with the adjuster assigned to your file at the beginning, that person rarely has much authority to change the offer.
Related reading: What NOT to Say to an Insurance Adjuster
Why Insurance Companies Often Offer Less Than You Deserve
Most insurance companies are very profitable businesses. If they paid the full and fair amount to people injured by their policyholders, they’d cease to be so profitable.
As mentioned, insurance adjusters will review documents and use computer software to determine what their employer should offer, but that offer rarely reflects all the damages the injured person has and will experience because of the accident and injury. The insurer is hoping that its offer will be accepted without argument or negotiation.
Unfortunately, insurance company’s initial offers often are accepted without question. Many people filing claims either don’t realize that they can dispute an offer or fail to account for the entirety of their damages, especially those injury-related costs they’ll face in the years to come.
The insurance company may even tell injury victims that if they don’t accept the initial offer, they won’t receive any money at all or they will “close the file.” But this isn’t true, and they don’t control whether you file a complaint. When you have a valid claim, it is considered bad faith for the insurance company to refuse to pay. Turning down an initial offer is often the only way to get them to raise their offer to what you actually need.
Related reading: What Factors Impact the Offer I Get from an Insurance Company?
An Experienced Injury Lawyer Helps Level the Playing Field
Insurance adjusters and their employers know the claim evaluation process well. They also know that many injured people blindly accept their first offers without demanding what they’re entitled to.
Frankly, most claims NEED the threat of a lawsuit or a trial to achieve a just result. Individuals might “threaten,” but insurance companies know when someone is serious. Filing a lawsuit changes who is in charge—and new adjusters are many times brought in to reevaluate at that point.
The best way to protect yourself from getting a raw deal is by having an equally experienced advocate on your side. At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we know the insurance company’s tactics. More importantly, we know the steps to take to maximize the compensation our clients receive. We can explain your options and the pros and cons of the process.
If You Need Help, Get Gary Bruce
For Georgia and Alabama residents, it might feel like everyone involved in their claims are outsiders who don’t understand how vital that money is to get their lives back together after a devastating injury. National insurance companies and national law firms might see your situation as little more than a case number, and that will likely be reflected in the way they deal with your claim.
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we’re proud to say that we are local through and through. We file suits in our local courts. The insurance companies know it.
Based in Columbus, GA, we help clients throughout Georgia and across the border into Alabama, and we have ties to communities throughout both states. We care about our communities and the people in them.
If you’re concerned about the offer an insurance company has made or will soon be making to you, then call our team to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. You’ll receive a no-nonsense assessment of your case. Be certain you call before too much time passes, because evidence can disappear, and cases can be barred by the statute of limitations. We are happy to discuss options you have even if an offer has been made. You don’t have to guess about what is possible. Contact our team today to get started.