If you are injured in an auto accident or a slip and fall, the first step is usually to file a claim with the appropriate insurance company. After an auto accident, New Jersey’s Personal Injury Protection law may require you to file with your own insurance company; in the case of a slip and fall, you would file with the property owner’s insurer. However, in either case, filing puts you in an adversarial relationship with the insurance company.
You may not notice this at first, especially with your own insurer, whose premiums you’ve been faithfully paying. But in short order, you’ll understand that your goal of getting fair compensation for your injuries does not match the insurance company’s goal of protecting its bottom line. Here are some of the clues:
- A low settlement offer — To get away with paying you less than your injury is worth, the insurance company must reset your expectations. They do that with a lowball offer that must be the product of a deep misunderstanding or perhaps is meant for some other case.
- Demand for further documentation — The next step is to intimidate you by implying that you haven’t fully cooperated or you don’t have sufficient evidence to justify your claim. Often the demand for “further documentation” is simply a demand to resend documents you already submitted. This tactic reinforces the idea that they are big and vast, so tiny details like your case can get lost easily. You, on the other hand, are just one of many insureds, so it’s no big deal to inconvenience you with burdensome requests for paperwork.
- Unreasonable delays — After you’ve complied, you can expect your insurance adjuster to disappear. Your calls don’t get returned. Your case is referred to someone who’s never heard of you, so you just have to be patient while this new, well-meaning person gets caught up on your claim. The delays and misdirections are meant to seem accidental, but they are deliberate tactics meant to discourage you and make you more willing to accept less than your claim deserves.
- Repeat — After all the confusion which the insurance company is “very sorry” for, you get your next lowball offer, followed by demands for further documentation and lengthy delays.
The insurance company would like you to believe this is just how things work, and to a certain extent that’s true. This is how the process works for claimants who are not represented by an attorney. The insurance company plays games, because they think they can get away with it, because you don’t have enough experience with these types of claims to recognize what they’re doing.
But when you retain a personal injury attorney early in the process, insurers suspend much of their gamesmanship. They know the cheap tactics won’t make things cheaper for them, so they move onto their next goal: closing the case quickly. So, your initial settlement offer will be changed to more closely reflect reality. From there, with the help of your attorney, candid negotiations can begin and your case can move forward.
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey, Seigel Law is ready to help. Contact us online or call 201.444.4000 today for a free consultation and case evaluation.