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Posted On April 8, 2014 Personal Injury

Making the Playing Field Level Again

The insurance industry has explored what seems like every possible avenue for increasing their revenue at the expense of claimants. Yet no matter how difficult insurers make the game, some claimants still manage to win. They don’t recover the money they deserve through sheer luck or even superhuman persistence. Instead, they succeed because of the choices they make when faced with powerful opponents like insurance corporations. The most successful claimants decide to recruit the right help to make a very lopsided playing field level once more.

In spite of every deceitful strategy the insurance industry has embraced, about 48 percent of claimants still win their cases. That’s because they, and their lawyers, are doing something right.

Yes, You Absolutely Should File a Claim

No, it doesn’t make you greedy to file a claim if you have been hurt in an accident. Insurance is the only industry in which we as a society actually assign value to wasting our money. You don’t buy groceries with the intent of refusing to eat the food when you get hungry. You don’t buy clothes for the express purpose of never wearing them. Most people would probably call these wasteful behaviors ridiculous or even stupid. Yet because the insurance industry has created the myth that all lawsuits are frivolous, too many people do exactly this when it comes to making an insurance claim. A policyholder – in some situations, you personally – has already paid for insurance coverage. There’s nothing noble about refusing to use it.

We might as well be ripping our dollar bills – hundreds or thousands of them – in half, for all the utility we get out of paying for coverage and then being too embarrassed to file claims for fear of being thought frivolous or greedy.

You’re the Underdog – But You Don’t Have to Be

From the insurance industry’s perspective, you and every other policyholder and prospective claimant have been underdogs all along. And that’s the way it’s going to stay, at least if insurers get their way.

You’ve been subject to a mistaken understanding of insurance companies and policies from the beginning. The truth – “We’ll take your money now but use every possible excuse to avoid paying your claim when you make one” – doesn’t sell very well. Instead, insurers market ideals: good neighbors, good hands. In reality, though, insurance companies aren’t “on your side.” They won’t “get you back where you belong” or help you “get to a better state.”

Then, there are the companies that base their advertisements solely on an offer of saving you money. No wonder people don’t understand their insurance policies! When you call, there’s no interactive price gun or friendly talking lizard, only a sales rep who claims they can cut your costs. What you may not know is how much you could lose when you lower premiums by reducing your coverage.

For some reason, people tend to see decreasing their coverage as a good thing. I personally have seen acquaintances bragging on Facebook about how much money they saved by dropping their insurance to the minimum, and it really saddens me to know that if they ever get into an accident, they or someone innocent will suffer for their short-sighted thriftiness. “I only need the minimum amount of coverage,” they say. Having been on the other side, I’ve seen victims who whose lives are ruined because someone else only wanted to pay for minimum coverage. Funny how we never hear stories like that on insurance companies’ commercials, huh?

When you pursue a personal injury claim, you’re in the biggest fight of your life, and you don’t even know it. Your opponent is bigger than you, with more resources and experience.

Insurers have intentionally kept policyholders in the dark so they could prey on ignorance. You don’t know how the claims process works, and the insurance companies involved tend to be very vague with their answers. They’ll likely tell you that the process is quick (which it’s not) and that it’s so easy you don’t need a lawyer (because they don’t want you to have one), but good luck getting concrete details out of an adjuster.

For example, you probably don’t know that you’re better off not giving the insurance company a recorded statement, or that you even have the option to refuse to do so. You don’t know the legal deadlines that the insurance company won’t be in any hurry to tell you about, and you don’t know the laws regarding how insurers have to act toward claimants and policyholders.

Worst of all, you don’t have time to figure it out. You’re injured. There’s a good chance that you’re physically out of commission, at least for a little while, possibly for months or years or longer. You’ve got property damage and medical bills to worry about. You’re in pain. What you need is someone on your side who already knows the rules, who knows the insurance industry’s sneaky strategies and how to beat them at their own game.

And that’s where lawyers come in.

Rethinking the Role of the Attorney

In the wake of the numerous changes in and by the insurance industry over the last couple of decades, many of which do not benefit claimants, the function of lawyers in the personal injury claims process has grown and changed. We still practice law, of course. We still compile research, handle negotiations, and when necessary represent our clients in court. But more than ever, we find that our role is to advocate for claimants and educate them so the insurance companies can’t take advantage of them. We already know the formal laws as well as the rules insurance companies just make up, and we can distinguish between them in ways that claimants rarely have the knowledge to do themselves.

Unlike the insurance industry, personal injury lawyers benefit from claimants recovering the most money, not the least. Our business model is in line with your needs, which is more than the insurance company can say.

It may sound cheesy, but at the end of the day, we really do care about helping people. It makes us angry to know that people who are in pain are turning to an insurance company for help, and that insurance company is just letting them suffer for the sake of their own greed. Everyone deserves help when they need it most, not lies or absurd excuses. So, as much as we resent the shameful tactics the insurance industry insists on employing to the detriment of claimants – often, their own paying customers – we’re more than willing to become advocates and educators for the people who need someone on their side.

The last few decades have shown that the modern insurance industry will stop at nothing in its blind quest for profit, even if it means harming the very people the concept of insurance was originally supposed to help. Don’t let these massive corporations withhold information that you, as a policyholder or claimant, need to know. Check out the previous installments of The Insurance Industry: Perversion of a Great Idea.