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Vancouver, Washington

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Don Jacobs
Don Jacobs
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Whose insurance should pay?

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People hurt in accidents caused by another driver are often reluctant to use their own insurance. After all, they reason, the other driver caused the collision, why should my insurance pay? They fear their insurance will go up if their company has to pay anything. In fact, a lot of consumers are reluctant to even notify their company an accident happened for fear of a rate increase. They often inform the various medical providers they visit to bill the other company, not theirs. So what does the other company generally do if this happens? Although they do pay up front for the property damage, as many states have consumer laws requiring this if liability is reasonably clear, rarely do they ever offer to pay for medical bills or lost wages until a case is settled. Many people think they should. An argument can certainly be made that the moral obligation to pay for damage you caused arises as soon as the damage is done. Referred to as “advance payments” in the industry, paying for medical bills or lost wages before a case settles is extremely rare. Insurance companies instead like to watch the medical bills mount up and the wage losses increase. They know that soon doctors will be threatening collection and monthly bills won’t get paid if paychecks are missing or short. This puts pressure on the injured consumer to settle quick and short. An important tool in any negotiation is knowing how long the other side can last. Once the insurance company sees an injured consumer looking desperate, they know they have the upper hand. At that point the case is often settled for much less than its actual value. This method is a very common manipulation technique in insurance negotiations. Adjustors like to point out just how long the case will take to work through the court system if a consumer doesn’t accept a low ball offer. The best defense against this tactic? Purchase your own insurance before an accident to cover medical bills and full lost wages. Retain an attorney early on after an accident. The insurance company still has much more power in the negotiation process than the average consumer, but there are some ways to level the playing field a little.