MYTH # 1
The young lady/older lady/young man/older man, or whomever is sitting at the counsel table may or may not have insurance. A plaintiff’s attorney would not take a case without insurance. In reality, the elderly lady at the counsel table has a multimillion or multibillion dollar insurance company backing up the claim to the amount of undisclosed insurance limits. The attorneys are not her personal attorneys, but these are attorneys retained by the insurance company.
When a claim is assigned to an insurance adjuster everyone within the system (but the public) knows that the jury will never know the amount of coverage or even the existence of coverage because it is not admissible evidence. Tennessee State Court in personal injury cases is the only state in the Union (to this writer’s knowledge) which does not permit discovery of insurance limits until after the judgment and prior to collection. Even in Tennessee Federal Court the limits are discoverable.
This applies to motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and all types of jury trials which our firm handles with the possible exception of fraud cases in which a business is suing another business or eminent domain which would involve a payment from the governmental entity for the taking of a citizen’s property.
MYTH # 2
If the jury grants a high verdict the jurors’ premium payments will go up. Insurance companies have spent millions of dollars annually to convince the public by direct mail and television advertising that this is true. The facts are that rates are tied into insurance company investments more so than the payment of claims.
MYTH # 3
The claim would be paid if it were legitimate. This is not true. Some insurance companies have a scorched earth policy. First, it offers an insultingly low offer to settle or no offer. Secondly, it then spends thousands of dollars in adjusters, defense attorneys, investigators with telephoto lenses in surveillance, court reporter fees, other litigation expenses, and at the end of the day could have settled the case for the tens of thousands of dollars it took to try the case. Another bizarre aspect of claims valuations is that some insurance companies utilize computer model programs. Information is keyed into the program and the value the insurer places on a claim comes out. There is no consideration for the unique factors of an individual claim.
MYTH # 4
Denying injury claims through negative or low verdicts makes the legal system work as it should. There are too many greedy people and frivolous lawsuits. This is incorrect as a blanket statement. If the claim is frivolous then the court would have probably dismissed it prior to a jury trial.
To always grant unreasonably low verdicts encourages insurance companies to engage in unfair and risky behavior. It encourages risky behavior on the part of their insured’s because they know they can act recklessly without consequences. It creates community safety problems because the very juror who rendered one-tenth of the verdict they should have in a case may be in an accident the next week. People should temper intellect and political ideals with compassion and realize that they or their loved ones may be asking a jury for help some day.
If the insurance company uses its unlimited resources to beat down legitimate claims, it then becomes a danger factory producing and promoting dangerous behavior by its insureds in your community. It is a community safety issue as well as a fairness issue. First and foremost is the community safety aspect of this. Rendering reasonable verdicts keep our children, the elderly, and people of all ages in between safer. Failure to render reasonable verdicts creates a dangerous environment for the community. It is therefore in a juror’s best interest to see that reasonable verdicts are rendered in personal injury cases as a matter of public safety within the community.
Motor Vehicle Accident CLAIMS
(Regarding extent of physical damage)
Your motor vehicle is created by an artist’s drawing, to a mechanical set of diagrams and specifications, to an assembly line, onto a car lot or a showroom floor, and then into your garage or driveway.
The motor vehicles I see at work are the ones in crashes. Many times these are fender benders with $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 in repair damages. Most of the smaller claims are settled without an attorney. Many vehicles are completely totaled as a result of an accident.
One myth is that the amount of the impact repair damages will determine the amount of personal injury damage. While it is important to look at both vehicles, the extent of repair damage does not always match or equal the extent of the personal injury damage. At times the vehicles will hook bumpers and cause a jerking rotation of vehicles which will sling an occupant around causing injury. In this type of case the seatbelt shoulder harness many times will not engage as the vehicle is moving sideways. Seatbelt harnesses are usually not designed to handle this type of movement so that the seatbelt often fails to engage in this type of collision.
At other times, if there is a bumper to bumper strike without the bumpers collapsing, then the entire force may be transferred to the occupants of the car crash areas will sometimes increase the force to the occupants. At times this requires expert proof to show the extent of the force.
Things are not always as they seem. Sometimes vehicles are demolished causing little injury to the occupants. The crush of the vehicle actually absorbs part of the force from the impact. Sometimes vehicles with little visible damage cause substantial injuries. This must be looked at on a case by case basis. Frame damage and/or other undercarriage damage should be checked.
Always take photos of both vehicles.