How Personal Injury Law Could Improve
By Attorney Brian Dunmire
As a personal injury attorney, I meet and speak with people every single day who have been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence. No two cases are alike. I deal with medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and fall, workers compensation, and many other types of personal injury cases.
One thing that a lot of my clients have in common is the fact that their case is their first experience in the world of personal injury law and filing a personal injury lawsuit.
I take as much time as needed to answer my client’s questions and I attempt to explain everything as clearly as possible so that my clients understand what is happening in their case. Not surprisingly, I am often asked what the value of a case is. This is a tricky question and the answer to it is complex.
I was recently asked, “how could you make personal injury law better?” One of the most difficult things that I deal with as a personal injury attorney is convincing an insurance company that an injury is worth a certain value. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to value cases based on the number of bills and out of pocket expenses that an injured client has incurred.
What does that mean?
That means that you could have a catastrophic collision, but if you do not have high out of pocket expenses, the insurance company may offer only pennies on the dollar of the actual claim value. You read that correctly – many insurance carriers do not care about the injuries, they care about the number of expenses that you have incurred as a result of the injury.
But my car was completely totaled? Doesn’t that matter?
No, not really.
But I could have been killed – doesn’t that matter?
No, not really.
But I have headaches now and I don’t think they are ever going to go away – doesn’t that matter?
You guessed it – no, not really.
The simple truth
The simple truth is that when there is a major insurance carrier on the other side of a claim, they are most likely using a computer program to generate the value of the case. The agent inputs variables such as the amount of property damage, injuries, medical bills, etc., to come up with a value of the case.
Think about that – insurance adjusters are using a computer program where they plug in information about a case to generate a value for your case. There is no variable for “I almost died” or “I can’t drive by that intersection anymore because it gives me anxiety.”
One of the most frustrating things as a personal injury attorney is that I get the benefit and privilege of getting to know my clients. That means I know the effect that an accident has on my clients. The insurance companies do not care about that. They do not care about the stories behind the claims.
So to go back to the question – what could change about personal injury law – the answer is simple: it would be nice to deal with the human variable. Unfortunately, the insurance companies have gotten so large that they view each claim as simply a statistic.
It is a game for them – they want to close the claims while paying out the least amount of money possible so that the overall settlement average for that adjuster goes down. That does not benefit anyone except the financial statements for the insurance.
The complexity of personal injury lawsuits
Filing a lawsuit for personal injury can be complex. Oftentimes with personal injury claims we forget that there are typically three parties involved with the claim – the injured person or party, the at-fault party, and the at-fault party’s insurance carrier. Remember, behind virtually every personal injury claim is an insurance company who is calling the shots. This is especially true if you are bringing a claim against an individual or a small business.
That means that an insurance adjuster is tasked with representing the at-fault party to try to obtain a release from clients such as myself. Since the adjusters are tied to the computer program to generate the value of the case, many times that value may not be enough to convince the injured party to release the at-fault party.
What does that mean?
That means that the insurance policy somebody has paid for to protect them when they hurt someone else is failing to protect them. That can open the at-fault party up to personal liability. That is when the at-fault party has to pay out of their own pocket because the insurance carrier is refusing to settle a claim.
Think about that. Let’s say you cause an accident and harm somebody else. You’ve paid your insurance premiums year after year and now you call on your insurance company to protect you. Since the person who hit you has health insurance and “only has $700 dollars in out of pocket expenses,” the insurance carrier who you have paid your premiums to is offering $1500.00. Sure, you destroyed the person’s car and you admit that you were not paying attention at the time of the accident.
Since the out of pocket medical expenses of the injured party is not astronomical, the insurance adjuster does not think the claim is very valuable.
This has to change
Insurance adjusters need to be able to break out of the policy and procedures that are placed on them regarding the use of computer software to value cases and begin to look at the cases on a human level.
This will benefit every including, ironically, the insurance companies. Believe it or not, there are plenty of insurance adjusters out there who review the facts of each case and look over the injuries and value the case fairly. When they do this, the injured party tends to be fairly compensated, the at-fault party secures and a release, and the insurance company maintains a happy relationship with their insured.
This, in turn, creates repeat business between the insurance company and its insured because the at-fault party is pleased with the service that they received in their time of need. It is a win-win for everyone.
If you have the unfortunate experience of being injured in an accident, remember to hire a personal injury lawyer and law firm as soon as possible to protect your rights and maximize the value of your claim.