Did you know that your insurance company is a determining factor in whether a lawsuit is filed against you? Being sued or being named in a lawsuit can be a scary experience. Often fear is the result of the unknown – Will I lose my home? Will I have to go to court and testify? How much can be taken from me? We all go to great lengths to keep from being sued. In fact, we buy insurance to protect against it.
But then it happens – an automobile accident or someone falls on your property and a claim is made against your insurance policy. Before you even hear about the claim, your insurance company assigns an adjuster to handle the claim. Insurance adjusters are busy – they handle hundreds, if not thousands of claims and often have little time to devote to properly evaluating your claim. Your insurance adjuster may ‘investigate’ the claim against you. They decide how much to offer the person who made the claim against you and then your adjuster tries to settle the claim.
Even though you were responsible and purchased plenty of insurance to cover you, your insurance company may not want to settle the claim. Your insurance company will make the decision on what they feel your claim is worth and instead of trying to keep you from being sued –they will tell the attorney to sue you. Sometimes, the disagreement can be over as little as a few dollars that your insurance company refuses to pay.
Even if your adjuster believes your claim is worth more than the insurance company wants to offer, they are not able to do so because their ‘supervisors’ only give them small amounts to negotiate with – even though you have purchased plenty of insurance to cover yourself.
If you have ever dealt with an insurance adjuster, you know they can be rude, pushy, abrasive, aggressive, and often not very forthcoming. We as consumers must not forget that we pay our insurance companies to protect our interest. Our insurance adjusters are our agents – they work for us.
So how can you know if your insurance company’s desire to save a few dollars is holding up resolution of the claim against you? You should demand information – in writing. Ask your insurance company how much they have offered to resolve the claim (after all that is the whole reason you pay monthly premiums). Ask your insurance company how much the person who made the claim against you is requesting to resolve the matter outside of court. Ask your insurance company how they came to the conclusion to offer that dollar amount. Their answer (or lack of an answer) just might surprise you! Demand that your insurance company let you in on the settlement negotiations. If they are honestly and fairly trying to resolve the claim on your behalf, why would they hide this information from you? Again, their answer will surprise you.
Finally, listen carefully to the words they use. They will blame the person making the claim (or their attorney) for being unreasonable. They have been trained to do this. But understand that while they blame the person making the claim for being unreasonable, they are telling that person to sue you.
You should keep in mind that you and your insurance company have different goals. Your insurance company does not want to spend money paying out your insurance policy to settle your claim. You do not want to be sued.
The law recognizes there can be differences in goals so much so that a conflict of interest may exist between you and your insurance company! If you believe your own insurance company does not have your best interests in mind, you can hire your own attorney to keep your insurance company in check.
If you find yourself in the position of owning insurance but possibly being sued, be careful, those that you have paid to watch your back may just be picking your pockets.