A circumstance came up recently that I think is telling about what it is like having to deal with insurance companies. In this particular case, we were representing a car wreck victim and were dealing with an issue called subrogation, which is where the victim’s own insurance company has paid some money to the victim and is entitled to be repaid some of that money out of the recovery from the at-fault driver’s insurance. We will routinely negotiate this amount down in order to maximize the amount of money that our clients will pocket. This is a very standard occurrence in car wreck cases.
In this case, however, a new wrinkle came up. Essentially, the at-fault driver’s insurance company wanted my client’s insurance company, State Farm, to sign a release. Now, I’ve handled hundreds and hundreds of car wreck cases, and I’ve never had this request before. However, there’s really no reason State Farm shouldn’t sign this release, since they’re getting the amount that we agreed. Why would they not sign a release?
Well, the reason that they initially didn’t sign a release was this: The adjustor had never before been asked to sign a release and didn’t know how to handle this situation. Eventually, we were able to get a higher-up at State Farm to sign the release and the matter could be resolved.
So what’s the point, you ask? Well, when you deal with insurance companies, you almost always deal with an adjustor like the first adjustor from this story, not the higher-up. In other words, you deal with an adjustor who is very comfortable operating out of and following a manual, but not much else. The problem, then, is that many cases are too complex or different to be dealt with by a standard manual. So, just like when we asked an adjustor to do something he had never been asked to do before, when you ask an adjustor to look at facts that he’s never dealt with before, that adjustor freezes up and doesn’t know what to do. The adjustor is unable to calmly comprehend and analyze the issues of the case.
One of my jobs is to convince insurance adjustors why my clients are entitled to be fully compensated for their damages. As I indicate above, this is not always easy when you are dealing with a low-level adjustor. However, I a a true believer in perseverance, and I do not believe in giving up until my clients have been fully compensated. Essentially, if I can get a client fully compensated from the first adjustor, then great. If not, and we have to file suit, then we’ll do that. This often gets you to a higher-level adjustor who often is able to understand the more complex issues of the case, which may lead to settlement at that stage. However, if we can’t convince the lower-level adjustor and we can’t convince the higher-level adjustor, then it comes time to convince the most important people of all: the jury.
The story demonstrates why understanding the mindset of insurance adjustors and how insurance companies operate is one of the keys to successfully navigating a client’s personal injury claim.