Frequently Asked Questions
The easy response is to say that you should always consult with an attorney when dealing with an insurance company. Here is why;
- all the adjusters you deal with attend classes that teach them ways to protect the interests of their employer, the insurance company,
- they are required to take continuing education classes that keep them up to date on the areas of law that they have to deal with,
- they have staff attorneys available to them around the clock,
- an adjuster's job is to settle a claim for as little money as possible or to find ways to deny the claim,
- adjuster's are trained and skilled in negotiating,
- some adjusters are compensated based on how much money they can save the insurance company,
- the majority of people do not have any idea what their rights are as it relates to insurance issues and insurance adjusters will take advantage of this reality,
- insurance policies are written in language that few people would fully understand - on top of that, even courts and lawyers disagree and argue over the meaning of various provisions in an insurance policy,
- insurance companies handle claims claims all day long, every day. Claimants have little to no experience and have no idea what to expect,
- even companies that a person feels is reputable, has rogue employees or poorly trained or motivated employees who do not do their job in a proper manner.
Having stated the above, lots of people will get a sense when something doesn't seem right or feel right. But others get taken advantage of without ever knowing the difference.
Most attorneys who have experience handling insurance issues will talk with you at no charge. For instance, people call this office all the time who are concerned. We ask a few questions and based on the answers, can tell you if you need an attorney immediately, don't need an attorney, or explain what should happen with your claim and if that does not happen, to call back to see if our office needs to get involved.2. What is My Claim Worth?
There is no way of fully knowing the answer to this question. Any attorney who says your case is worth "at least $XXXXX number" is not being honest with you. He is just saying something to make you feel good in the moment. Here are some reasons why;
- rarely would a person, on an initial consultation, be able to tell an attorney all the needed information - they may tell the attorney what they know, but rarely is this everything,
- after consulting with a potential new client, the attorney knows the facts and situation from the point of view of the client - to be able to fully evaluate a case, an attorney would also need to know and understand the insurance company position and evidence they have to back up their position,
- the policy at issue needs to be read and then the policy language has to be applied to the circumstances and facts of the claim,
- based on the facts of the case, there may be claims for exemplary damages that are not known until the case develops,
- there may be exclusions and limitations in the insurance policy at issue,
Even when all the facts are known - if is still difficult to determine exactly what a potential outcome of a case may be in front of a Judge or Jury. There are numerous examples of this but here is a quick question to illustrate - If a personal injury is involved, what amount of money would a Judge or Jury compensate for mental anguish or pain and suffering? ...... Mental anguish and pain and suffering are intangibles that no one can put an exact value on. One Judge may feel a person should be compensated a great deal while another may think a lesser amount is more proper.3. Is My Claim Worth Getting an Attorney Involved?
With very few exceptions, the answer is yes.
Since most attorneys who handle insurance disputes will not charge for an initial consultation, a person has nothing to lose by talking to an attorney. This law office can ask a few questions over the phone and get an ideal whether or not it is worth getting an attorney involved. So, not only is there no financial cost in the majority cases to talk to an attorney, there is very little time cost.
Furthermore, even claims that have a small amount of money at issue can be valuable cases because the insurance laws are written in such a way that allows good claims to recover the amount due through the claim, plus amounts for attorney fees, court costs, and other amounts also depending on the circumstances of the case.
The reason for the favorable laws to the insured person is that the insurance company has a superior bargaining position when dealing with it's customers. So, the laws are written in such a manner as to allow punishment for companies that take unfair advantage of its customers.4. How Long Will My Case Take?
This is another example of a question that no attorney can give you a definite answer for. A short answer, that leaves a lot of leeway is, "It could take from a few days to more than a few years." Here is why.
- Some cases are settled in a few days by a phone call or letter from an attorney.
- Most will not get settled this way and a lawsuit gets filed.
- Many of the cases where a lawsuit is filed, get resolved in a few weeks or months.
- Virtually all cases are ordered by the Judge to mediation and that is where most cases will settle. The mediation is usually scheduled a couple of months before the first trial date.
- Almost all will get settled short of an actual trial and the first trial date in a case is usually a year to a year and a half after the lawsuit is filed.
- The time gets stretched out because it is rare that the case will go to trial at it's first trial setting. It is common for a trial to be delayed or re-scheduled at least one or two times and sometimes more. Thus, a case could stretch for a couple of years or more. However, this would be rare.