11 INSURANCE CLAIM MYTHS IN COURT
1. Behind the Curtain. There are numerous things you and your attorney are NOT allowed to tell a jury during your trial. The first basic rule is that you and your attorney cannot tell the jury that the negligent party (the defendant) does or does not have insurance. This can result in an immediate mistrial. The jury is supposed to assume that John Doe Defendant is going to pay for any jury award out of his own pocket. WHY is this fair? I don’t believe it is but the court system is afraid that if jurors know that he has $100,000 in insurance, every jury will award the injured plaintiff $100,000 even if the case is only worth $20,000.
2. You Cannot Sue the Other Driver’s Insurance Company.Even though the negligent driver’s liability insurance company is the one who investigates, evaluates and makes the offer(s) in your case, you cannot sue the liability insurance company. If you cannot reach a fair and reasonable settlement with the liability carrier, you will have to sue the negligent driver (even if he or she is a great person and has accepted responsibility for the collision). You cannot sue his or her insurance company.
3.The Other Party Admitted Fault. Many times, the person or company who is responsible for causing your injuries will admit to you that they were at fault and they will promise to pay for your injuries and expenses. Unfortunately, once their liability insurance carrier gets involved, the insurance company will frequently deny liability and/or try to place a portion of liability on you. The fact that their own insured admitted fault may not prohibit the liability insurance company and/or their attorneys from denying liability at trial.
4. My Insurance paid for my medical treatment, they cannot deny I was injured! Many clients are involved in motor vehicle collisions with uninsured motorists. In these situations, they will be forced to file a claim under their own auto insurance policy pursuant to the Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Many times they will also submit their medical bills through the Medical Payments Coverage and their own insurance company will review the bills and pay them. Unfortunately, the same insurance company frequently will deny that those medical bills were due to injuries sustained in the collision and claim that those injuries are not related to the collision. While these type of antics are frustrating (to say the least), they make for fun cases.
5.I have been with my insurance for 20 years—they will treat me right. It is not uncommon for an injured party to fight with the liability insurance company about the value of their case. It is also not uncommon for the injured party to be insured by the same company as the liability insurance company. Many clients tell me: That is great. I have the same insurance company. I have been with them 20 years, they will do the right thing. Unfortunately, liability insurance companies do not take into account your loyalty or the amount of money you have paid them over the past 20 years when the evaluate your case. You must keep in mind that their goal is to pay out as little as possible for your case.
6. They are there for You. The commercials on T.V. are full of advertisements claiming that your insurance company is “A Good Neighbor,” that they are “On Your Side” or that you are “In Good Hands.” Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are asserting a claim against the liability insurance company, they are not there to help you. They are not there to help increase the value of your case. Their goal is to minimize payouts.
7. Runaway Juries Runaway Juries do not exist. You are more likely to win the lottery in Ohio than to see a runaway jury that is going to give you millions of dollars for your case when it is really worth $25,000.00. In fact, if your case is worth $25,000, you will be lucky to find a jury that will give you that much.
The following statistics are based on data collected from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Office of the Jury Commission and the Franklin County Clerk of Courts Office for 2012:
23 of the 59 jury trials involved motor vehicle collisions;
4 of these jury trials resulted in defense verdicts. 19 resulted in plaintiff’s verdicts;
11 of the 19 plaintiff verdicts were over $10,000;
the average of these jury verdicts was $36,353;
the jury awarded no non-economic damages (pain and suffering) in 3 trials;
the jury awarded non-economic damages of 50% or less than the economic damages in 8 trials;
there were no trials in which the award of non-economic damages met or exceeded three times the economic damages.
8. The Jury is Not Allowed to Know of Prior Offers or Demands If your case goes to trial, you and your attorney are not allowed to tell the jury that the insurance company has made an offer on your case. The jury is not allowed to know how much you have asked for during settlement negotiations and they are not allowed to know how much, if anything, has been offered by the liability insurance company.
9. The Focus is on You.The focus will be on you, your treatment, and your credibility throughout the course of your case. (At least that is generally the goal of defense counsel). Even though you were the innocent victim who was injured due to the negligence of another person or company, the liability insurance company and their attorney(s) will try to place all of the focus on you. You are suing them. You are suing them for money. You are claiming to be hurt, you need money. They will do their best not to focus on the negligent person or company. Unfortunately, in many cases, it will seem as though you are being put on trial as opposed to the at-fault party. You will need to work closely with your attorney to ensure that the proper light is being focused on the negligent acts of others.
10. I don’t Need Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Not true. Carrying uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is the least amount of coverage you should carry. In 2011 Ohio ranked 12th among states for the percentage of drivers who did not have car insurance. About 1 in 8 drivers gets caught every year without insurance and they are blamed for about 3 of every 4 crashes in which they are involved. You should purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage and an Umbrella policy immediately if you do not already have it.
11. They Cannot Deny Liability Because They Repaired My Car. Not true. The liability insurance company may choose to pay for the repairs to your vehicle and/or pay for the “total loss” of your vehicle at the beginning of your case and then choose to deny liability for your injury claim.