It’s interesting to note that CNN and several other entities have done studies on minor auto accidents. They examined, among other things, how long it takes for these types of claims to be handled by insurance companies. As an injury law firm, we often get questions about “fender benders”.
What we know about minor auto accidents is this: Sometimes, you can have no or little pain after a fender bender. You may not appear to be injured. But some injuries are hard to see. Soft tissue, muscular and joint injuries are not only invisible to the eye – they are also hard to prove – and some insurance companies take advantage of this fact.
Unethical insurance companies will do their best to avoid paying claims for minor accidents. Their tactic? A claim comes in for a fender bender and they put it through an involved, drawn-out process. They are hoping that those involved in the accident pay for the damage themselves – and move on. Which many people do. But we don’t advise this. (It’s always wise to talk to an attorney before settling any claim).
The fact is, when an insurance company willfully delays payment on a valid claim or refuses to pay you for damages in a “minor accident”, they are acting in what is known as ‘bad faith’. Several reports in the past few years have exposed that when it comes to minor injuries and accidents, bad faith is absolutely present. The situation is industry-wide, not just limited to two or three insurance carriers.
Insurance companies make fighting them very costly and time-consuming. They are hoping that injured people and their attorneys will drop the case. The result of this tactic is that some injury attorneys won’t take “fender bender” cases due to the high cost of pursuing them compared to the low likelihood of receiving adequate compensation. For every accident victim that decides not to pursue a claim – or is turned down by attorneys to help them – the insurance companies save money and increase their profits.
Yet, the auto insurance you buy is supposed to be used when you have an accident – regardless of how serious your injuries may be. This is pretty bothersome, isn’t it? Now consider this, and you might get pretty angry at the insurance industry…
Let’s say you do file a claim – with or without an attorney’s assistance. Many of the insurance companies will then offer you, the victim of the “minor” accident, an extremely low amount of money. The amount is almost always less than you deserve. Now – you can take this measly amount – or fight Big Company X in court. Court means costs. Your time plus the time and cost that the attorney is expanding – and the attorneys know how tough minor injuries and soft tissue and joint injuries are to prove. It’s doubtful the judge or a jury would be very sympathetic. They may not even believe that the victim has had any pain.
So the attorney has no choice but to cut his or her losses, and encourage the injured person to accept the low offer. In this scenario, an insurance company might pay out $1500 or $2000, when the person injured in the fender bender has incurred lost wages and medical expenses of $5800. It’s completely wrong – a total injustice – and it is happening every day.
Tell your friends and neighbors about this situation – because it will take demands from consumers and their congressmen and women to effect change. What’s really interesting is that insurance companies complain about the volume of lawsuits they are involved in. Yet – by not paying small claims and making people fight legally for just a few thousand dollars, they are bogging down the system and adding unnecessary lawsuits! Lawyers are blamed for unnecessary or petty lawsuits, yet this is what the insurance companies are forcing.
Doing some digging on what percentage of claims is actually paid by your insurance company may cause you to switch! Watch for a future article on whether to report and file claims for fender benders.