If you are injured in a car accident caused by someone else, Texas law allows you to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your damages, which include medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. An insurance company, however, is a for-profit business. It earns money for its shareholders by putting the premiums it collects into investment accounts that pay interest and generate more revenue for the company. Paying out damage claims does not help the insurer’s bottom line, so its adjusters and attorneys are well-trained to dispute, devalue, and deny expensive claims that might cost the company money.
Even if you have a valid claim that the insurer cannot deny, it can save money simply by delaying your claim. The longer it can hold onto the money you’re owed, the longer that money remains invested and earns interest for the insurer. Meanwhile, your medical bills from the accident are piling up, you’re off work for recovery, and you don’t have your normal income to meet daily expenses. In such a case, especially if your claim is expensive, the services of a Houston car accident lawyer might be necessary to counter the delay tactics of the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Insurance Company Delay Tactics
The tactics that insurance companies use to delay paying damage claims include:
- Long response times. Slow response or no response to submitted claims.
- Inconsistent or no communication. Inconsistent communication regarding claims.
- Delaying investigation. Failure to investigate claims in a timely manner.
- Misinformed communication. Intentionally misrepresenting the terms of an insurance policy.
- Cold transfers. Transferring calls from one department to another.
- Frustratingly long holds and wait times. Keeping claimants who call on hold indefinitely.
- Dropped calls. Dropping calls while the claimant is on hold.
- Using Robotic Representatives. Refusing to allow callers to speak to human beings.
The longer the insurance company can put off processing your claim, the more time you have for your injuries to heal, and the easier it is for the insurer to devalue your claim by alleging that you are no longer seriously injured. In cases involving elderly or severely injured defendants, the insurance company could try to delay processing your claim until you pass away from natural causes or as a result of your injuries.
Insurance policies and communications you receive from an insurance company during the claims process are intentionally written in complex language that takes time and effort for the average person to read and understand. The insurer hopes that you will not bother to read its communications carefully or that you’ll simply misread them. It can then take advantage of your confusion to deny your claim or offer you less than it is worth. This is just one reason why you need a car accident lawyer who can penetrate the "legalese" and counter the insurer’s delay tactics.
Lowball Settlement Offers
By delaying the processing of your claim in any of the ways listed above, the insurer intentionally increases your level of frustration. Once you’re sick and tired of being put off and confused, an insurance adjuster might make you a quick, lowball settlement offer in hopes that you’ll accept it in order to be done with this aggravating process. You should never accept a first offer from the insurer because it’s always going to be a low one.
You cannot ask for more money in the future once you’ve received a settlement, even if you have ongoing medical complications resulting from your accident. In such a case, you’ll have to pay your future medical expenses alone, so it’s never wise to accept an insurance settlement without consulting an attorney. To be safe, you shouldn’t even communicate directly with the insurer. Its adjusters are trained to take any statement you make out of context, twist your words, and use what you’ve said against you to reduce the value of your claim. Refer all communications to your attorney, stay off social media, don’t sign anything, and let your lawyer do the talking.
The Statute of Limitations
Most car crash cases are settled out of court because both the plaintiff (you) and the defendant (the at-fault driver) would prefer to avoid the time and expense of a lawsuit. However, if you do not receive a fair settlement offer from the insurer, you may file a personal injury lawsuit and fight in court for fair compensation. Texas's personal injury statute of limitations gives you two years to do so.
By employing the tactics discussed above, the insurer can easily drag your case out for months or even years. If it can delay your claim until the statute of limitations has run out, you lose the leverage that your right to sue provides. In such a case, you’re at the mercy of the insurer and will probably have to accept whatever offer it makes. A workers’ comp attorney can make sure you observe the statute of limitations as well as all other deadlines and procedural requirements of the court.