All of us in Florida have heard the news that insurance rates in our state are through the roof. Yet, every time our lawmakers pass supposed auto insurance reform, do you ever see your rates drop?
The answer is almost always a resounding no. Why, because some of the largest insurers are choosing to fight it out over a few hundred or few thousand dollars they should pay by law to settle a claim. Instead, they choose to spend years of litigation and attorney’s fees and court costs fighting it out over these small sums of money. They finance those fights with guess what – your hard earned premium dollars!
Let me give you a typical example. You are involved in a car accident. You treat conservatively with a doctor, usually a chiropractic or doctor who specializes in physical rehabilitative medicine. You get an MRI on your neck, back or both. You complete care, with the doctor stating that you have a permanent impairment. You are thus entitled under Florida Law, to damages for pain and suffering, stress and inconvenience suffered as a result of the accident. Your total medical expenses are about $15,000.00. Your PIP insurance paid $10,000, so you have $5,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses, and your pain and suffering claim.
The typical first offer in such a case from the big insurers – $1,000 – $1,500. Then they go to $1,750.00, $2,000.00, maybe $2,500.00. They demand prior records, and try to say their insured is not at fault (even though they were speeding, ran a stop sign or rear-ended you). Usually, in such a case, they will stop at $4,000 or $4,500, and say “pound sand.” Notice, they are not evening paying the injured persons full outstanding bills, or offering $1 of pain and suffering damages. What are we, the Plaintiff’s lawyer, usually looking for in that case, $7,000.00 – $10,000.00, maybe, depending on the injuries and facts. We would demand at least enough to pay all of the out-of-pockets and some pain and suffering and inconvenience money.
So, here is what you need to take away from this. What happens to the at-fault insured, when your own insurance plays this game? YOU GET SUED!!! Thanks to your insurance company, you are going to now be dragged through a year or two of litigation, possibly even trial, taking up your valuable time from work, your family, etc, when your insurance company simply could have paid what the darn out-of-pocket bills where and something for the injured persons stress and inconvenience of suffering through the accident and injury. Does that sound like too much? Even better – under your insurance policy, the insurance company is the only one with the power to decide to settle or not settle the claim.
Oh, and by the way, if your insurance carrier is wrong, and the Plaintiff gets an award over your policy limits, guess who is on the hook for that – YOU!
Insurance Companies have a duty to settle a claim when given all the facts, they can and should have. You, the insured, should demand the same when a claim is being made against you. Unfortunately, the largest insurers and the ones that you see on TV advertising are the guiltiest of this practice. Beware of their “neighborly” and “on your side” promises.