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If you have been following our blog, you know by now that insurance companies are large businesses. They make money by collecting premiums from their customers—not by paying out large claims to people who have been injured. For this reason, if you have been injured by a negligent driver, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is unlikely to simply approve your claim without doing a thorough investigation. Additionally, the insurance adjuster will look for ways to disprove their client’s liability in the accident. If they can show you were partly liable for your injuries, they can get out of fully paying your claim.
A Driver’s Duty
On California roadways, all drivers owe other drivers, bikers and pedestrians on the road a duty to operate their vehicles in a way that is reasonably safe and appropriate for the circumstances. And, of course, they are required to obey all traffic laws.
If you have been injured in an accident that was another driver’s fault, you have the burden of proving the other driver breached the duty of care. You also have to prove that their negligence directly resulted in your injuries.
There are several ways the insurance company can combat a claim that their client was at fault for your injuries.
Here are some common tactics insurance companies use to deny their clients’ liability:
- They can claim their client was not at fault at all for the accident. In some cases, this will be easier to do than in others. For instance, if the accident happened on a dark road with no witnesses and the police report was inconclusive, it will be easier for the insurance company to claim that their client was not at fault. You will need to work with your attorney to fight this denial of liability. If the insurance company continues to be stubborn, your case might have to go to trial.
- They can claim that you were partly at fault for the accident. If the insurance company proves you were partly responsible for the accident, they can take advantage of comparative fault. In California, more than one party can be found liable for personal injury damages. For instance, if a driver sped through a stop sign and crashed into you, it might seem obvious that the driver was at fault for the accident. But say the police report noted that you were driving 10 miles over the speed limit at the time. Now, the insurance company can claim that you were also negligent in the accident. They can now reduce your settlement by the percentage by which you were found to be at fault.
- The insurance company can claim that another party was also at fault. At this point, they might admit that their client is partly to blame for the accident. However, they will still try to shift part of the blame to another entity. Perhaps their client did run a stop sign and crash into you. However, the insurance company could say the roads were too dark, and that the city is to blame for that.
- The insurance company might try to say your injuries were not caused by the accident. If it is obvious that their client caused the accident, another tactic insurance companies frequently employ is the pre-existing injury defense. They will likely ask to examine your medical history during their investigation into the claim. If they find anything that is remotely related to your injury, they can try to claim that your injury was not caused by the accident. In order to fight this, your attorney might have an expert witness who is a doctor testify that your injury did actually result from the accident.
- The insurance might admit that their client was at fault for the accident, but also claim that you were not really injured, or that your injuries were not “that bad.” Time and time again, insurance companies try to minimize the victim’s injuries so they can avoid paying high settlements. For this reason, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. You should also be sure to keep accurate record of all medical treatment and diagnoses you receive.
- The adjuster could claim that you failed to mitigate the damages. What this means is that, although their client was at fault, they should not owe you the full amount of the settlement because your actions made the damages worse. They might make this claim if you did not go to the emergency room right away after the accident . If you were injured and waited a few days or weeks before you went to the doctor, the insurance company can claim that you failed to mitigate the injury, consequently making it worse. In reality, injury symptoms can sometimes take several days to surface. That is why we always recommend that accident victims get evaluated at the scene or at the emergency room, even if they do not feel any immediate symptoms.
“Our firm has plenty of experience dealing with insurance companies that try to deny victims’ claims for illegitimate reasons. We are well aware of these tactics and understand the best ways to fight them and defend our clients,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in an auto accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.
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