What If You Can’t Reach a Settlement with the Insurance Company?
It is not uncommon for accident victims to have several goals or hopes for their personal injury claim. Some individuals may want the at-fault driver to be punished criminally for their actions, and others may simply want an apology. However, the most natural and common goal for car accident victims is to receive adequate compensation for the harm that they have suffered through no fault of their own.
So, what can you do if the insurance company is refusing to offer fair compensation or is simply denying liability? Well, the answer to this question is both fairly simple and fairly complicated, depending on your case. Before we can answer the overarching question, we need to look at the reasons why car accident claims don’t settle. Once we understand the reason why your claim is not “performing” as intended, we can begin to analyze what, if anything, can be done for your case.
Reasons Why Car Accident Cases Don’t Settle
This would be the perfect place to say, “There are lots of reasons why car accident claims don’t settle.” However, this entire website is dedicated to ensuring that you understand exactly what is happening in your case. It is worth noting that there are numerous reasons why any particular claim won’t settle, as each case is different and governed by its own set of unique facts.
In this article, we will discuss some of the most common reasons why car accident cases don’t settle:
Contributory Negligence: North Carolina is one of the few states that follow an old common-law rule known as contributory negligence. Under the rule of contributory negligence, if a person is found to be responsible in any degree for his or her own injuries, then that person is barred from recovering compensation for those injuries. This rule means that if an accident victim is found to be been one (1) percent at fault, then the plaintiff will get nothing from the at-fault defendant, despite the at-fault defendant having caused ninety-nine (99) percent of the accident victim’s injuries. As such, contributory negligence is often used by insurance adjusters to deny accident victims’ compensation. The technique used by insurance adjusters is to claim that the accident victims contributed to their own injuries and are therefore contributorily negligent.
Under North Carolina law, an at-fault party or their insurance company can claim the affirmative defense of contributory negligence. In the event that the at-fault party claims this defense, the burden of proving that the accident victim caused their own injuries will belong to the at-fault party.
If you are dealing with the at-fault’s insurance company and the insurance adjuster claims that you have been contributory negligent, it is unlikely that they will make an offer of settlement. It is important to understand that the defense of contributory negligence may be overcome by showing the at-fault party was willful and wanton (acting with reckless disregard) or by showing that the at-fault party had the last clear chance to avoid the accident and failed to do so.
Accident Mechanics: It is quite common for insurance adjusters to issue an outright denial of a personal injury claim when the insurance company does not believe that the accident mechanics show obvious or significant harm to the vehicles. Insurance adjusters will often claim that an accident victim’s injuries are too severe to have only come from a collision with minor bumper damage, for example. This type of argument is difficult to contest. However, if a claim has been denied, it is often necessary to file a lawsuit and provide expert testimony from an engineer supporting the fact that even low-impact collisions can and do involve massive amounts of force.
If your claim has been denied outright because of the accident mechanics, it is likely that you will have to consider filing a lawsuit to seek the compensation that you deserve.
Lack of Treatment: Lack of treatment is a significant issue for personal injury victims. However, the lack of treatment defense does not refer to the fact that an accident happens and treatment was not necessary for the accident victim. Lack of treatment typically arises when an accident victim needs medical care but does not receive the medical treatment that is needed.
There are a variety of reasons accident victims fail to receive the medical treatment that they need after a car accident. The most common reasons accident victims fail to seek medical treatment are that they are: (1) unable to afford the medical care, (2) uninsured, and (3) waiting to see if the pain will resolve itself with time. While these reasons are reasonable, it is important to understand that it is difficult to prove and support a claim for pain and suffering, medical treatment and loss of enjoyment of life if the accident victim has no medical records or medical notes.
Lack of Injuries: One of the greatest misconceptions in personal injury law is that every accident is compensable. As such, a lack of injuries defense is often asserted when an accident victim seeks compensation after an accident that has caused nominal or no injuries or damages to the victim.
It is ill advised to pursue a personal injury claim where you have suffered no injuries. It is important to contrast a claim with no injuries with that of an individual who has sustained minor, yet compensable, injuries as a result of an accident.
Unreasonable Expectations: The issue of unreasonable expectation is possibly the most complex to deal with. This issue deals with the idea that the insurance company may be acting reasonably; however, the accident victim is seeking compensation outside of what the law would reasonably offer. In other words, the accident victim is demanding compensation in excess of what their case is worth. This issue is a complicated and sensitive subject to discuss, as a car accident may have significantly different consequences, damages and ramifications for different individuals.
Of all the reasons personal injury claims fail to resolve or settle, this is the most complicated to explain. When a client has unreasonable expectations for settlement worth, it usually arises from the fact that they were severely injured and have suffered significantly from the car accident. However, the at-fault party is only responsible or liable for those harms that have been caused under the law.
The difficulty surrounding this issue arises from the meaning of “caused.” The word “caused” is not used in the lay sense; it is instead a legal term, referring to harms that are causally connected. More specifically, it refers to harms that are directly and proximately caused by the at-fault party. For more information about causation and the elements of negligence, please visit our article on Negligence and Causation.
No Coverage: It is important to understand your opinions if the at-fault driver’s insurance company has denied your personal injury claim due to a lack of insurance coverage. While drivers are required to carry insurance for their vehicle in North Carolina, it is not uncommon that individuals refuse or fail to purchase car insurance.
If your claim against the at-fault driver has been denied because their insurance policy lapsed or they simply did not purchase insurance, you may still have the opinion of explore your insurance coverage opinions. Essentially, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage will cover you in an accident in which the at-fault driver does not carry liability insurance. For more information about insurance coverage and uninsured coverage, please visit our article titled, Understanding Uninsured Insurance Coverage.
What to Do if You Can’t Reach a Settlement?
File a Lawsuit: In the event that the insurance company fails or refuses to accept liability or to extend a reasonable offer of settlement, it is important to understand that you have the option of filing a lawsuit.
While the claims process against the insurance company is in many ways more favorable to filing a lawsuit, a car accident victim can and should consider filing a lawsuit in the event that the insurance company fails to act appropriately.
Accept the Offer: An accident victim does have the option to settle their claim when the insurance company has made an offer of settlement. While this statement may seem obvious, accepting an offer of settlement can be upsetting when an accident victim does not wish to litigate (file a lawsuit).
Accepting the insurance company’s offer of settlement is unfortunately common for individuals who have no appetite for litigation or cannot find a lawyer who would be willing to accept the case. Moreover, litigation can be expensive, and, in certain circumstances, the gain to be had by filing a lawsuit is outweighed by the expenses associated with litigation.
As such, it is common for individuals who have received an offer of settlement that is poor, but not poor enough to induce litigation, to accept said offer in lieu of protracted litigation.
What Can I Do if I Don’t Want to File a Lawsuit?
If the insurance company has made a poor or weak offer of settlement and you do not wish to file a lawsuit, you may wish to speak to a lawyer about your options. Moreover, the stress and time involved in dealing with handling a personal injury claim may be reduced significantly by hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer.
In the event that you have received an offer of settlement from the insurance company and you did not wish to hire a lawyer or file a lawsuit, your only option may be to accept the insurance company’s offer of settlement.
Please be aware that many people abandon their personal injury claim out of frustration with the insurance company. Abandoning your claim is never a good idea. If you are considering abandoning your claim or refusing to proceed, your statute of limitations does not halt until you file a lawsuit. Moreover, by abandoning your claim, you cannot seek the compensation that you may deserve. Please note that abandoning your claim during the litigation process is significantly more complicated.
Can I Threaten to Sue to Get a Better Offer?
It is common for accident victims to consider threatening the filing of a lawsuit when an insurance adjuster extends a final offer of settlement that is inadequate or less than fair. Insurance adjusters are not scared of or threatened by the idea of litigation. In fact, the exact opposite is likely true. In many circumstances, the insurance adjuster will have less work to perform if a lawsuit is filed, as the case will be given to the insurance company’s defense lawyer to handle. It is important to note that litigation over personal injury matters is a common and everyday event at any insurance company. Insurance companies understand that a large percentage of cases will be go to court and be litigated, so it’s important to know that the insurance company is not nervous or scared to go to court on your case.