Friday, November 15, 2013

Why It Pays Not To Exaggerate Your Personal Injury Claim

"They are offering more money than they normally do because your client is likeable, honest, and didn't overinflate or exaggerate her injury claim."

That's what the insurance adjuster recently told me on a auto accident claim I recently settled shortly before trial. At first blush, it sounds counterintuitive. But once you understand the mindset of an insurance company, this makes perfect sense.

Allow me to explain. After 25 years of handling Ohio personal injury claims, I have come across a few universal truths. I don't claim to be "the holder of the key" or the only person to stumble upon them, but they are true. Truth No 1: every insurance company believes that anyone making a personal injury claim is a fraud, a liar, a cheat, an exaggerator, or looking to "milk it" or pad their losses---until proven otherwise.

Now, this does not make insurance companies or the adjusters who evaluate claims mean spirited or evil. But that is their default position. In their world, nothing is taken at face value and everything must be documented and proven. Nothing wrong with that concept. But even when documentation of  an injured person's losses is provided, it is viewed with skepticism, or subject to an insurance company's "internal review process."

You provided your client's medical bills and doctors' records, but did she overtreat with her doctor or chiropractor? Was she complaining a bit too much for the injuries she sustained, making her a potential "malingerer?" Did she wait too long to return to work, perhaps because she is using the collision as an excuse to stay off work? Like oxygen is to the lungs, insurance companies will automatically ask these questions, and will frequently make these arguments.

In essence, your claim is viewed through the lens of skepticism and cynicism. Part of this is justified, because there are people who will look to pad their losses in an injury claim. But in my opinion, malingerers are far and few between. Most injured folks are decent hard working people who have never been injured in a car crash before and just want to be treated fairly. Most call our office out of a sense of frustration, after having gotten nowhere with the negligent driver's insurance company.

This circles back to Universal Truth No 2:  it is ALWAYS the insurance company's goal to pay as little as possible on every single claim. So how do you or your attorney get them to move off of their default position and make a more fair offer? You build your credibility. And you do so by never exaggerating or padding your losses. You do everything you can to try to get back to normal, and your let your doctors know what you can and can't do after a crash. You make sure you attend all of your therapy appointments or promptly re-schedule them if you have to cancel.

That's exactly what my recent client did. She worked her tail off with her therapists to try to get better. She went back to work earlier than her doctors were recommending because she had no choice.  At her deposition, she accurately recounted all the problems she had experienced (and they were many), but also acknowledged which ones had gotten better over time.  She wasn't a whiner.

Insurance companies love whiners. It's what they want you to do, and it plays right into their skeptical hands.

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