Approximately 95 percent of lawsuits are settled out of court. Litigating a person injury suit is expensive, costing a minimum of $10,000, so it's easy to see why insurance companies choose to settle to avoid the expense of having a judge or jury decide the outcome of a case. However, there are some instances where an insurance company may choose not to settle and, instead, risk a court judgment. Here are three possible scenarios you may encounter and how to deal with them.
The Insurance Company Thinks You Will Lose
One reason an insurance company may opt for a trial instead of settling is it thinks you won't win your case. After reviewing your claim, the company may feel you don't have enough evidence to hold its client liable for your damages and injuries. This can occur in cases where multiple things may have contributed to the accident, but the evidence doesn't clearly point to a specific cause.
For instance, a truck crashes into a car because of brake failure. However, upon inspecting the brakes, it's not clear if they failed because of a manufacturer's defect, poor maintenance, or sabotage. The insurance company for the brake manufacturer may choose to roll the dice on a court case with the hope you won't be able to adequately prove your case against its client.
This decision may also be influenced by the fact that the company thinks defending itself in court may be cheaper than actually paying your claim. If you're asking for $50,000 but litigating the case in court where there is a reasonable expectation of winning will only cost $10,000, then going to trial may seem like the more economically sound option.
If the insurance company chooses to go to court, it's critical to ensure you have enough evidence to win the case. Alternatively, you'll need to present a compelling reason why the company shouldn't go to trial (e.g. bad publicity or airing of proprietary information). Otherwise, it may be better to save the legal fees and try to negotiate for a lesser settlement amount.
The Insurance Company Thinks Your Expectations Are Unrealistic
Losing in court doesn't always mean having the judge or jury decide in favor of the defendant. Sometimes insurance companies calculate that the court may award you less than what you're asking for, so they allow the case to go to trial to force you to accept a reduced sum. This can happen in cases where your damages and injuries don't support the amount of money you want, but you're unwilling to settle for a lower payout.
It's not as crazy as it sounds for an insurance company to take this type of legal tactic. A study conducted by the consulting firm DecisionSet found that plaintiffs made the wrong choice to go to trial in 61 percent of the cases studied, meaning they received less than what they were asking from the defendant or lost altogether. On average, making the wrong decision to sue in court cost plaintiffs $43,000.
In this situation, you'll either need to justify why you're asking for a higher amount (e.g. to pay for long-term treatment) or enlist the help of an attorney who can help you more accurately value your claim.
The Insurance Company Can't Get Approval for the Payout Amount
Sometimes you'll have a strong case, and the amount you're asking for is reasonable, but the insurance adjuster is unable to get approval from the company to settle for the amount you're requesting. Insurance adjusters are typically given upper limits as to how much they can pay out for a specific claim, which may or may not be influenced by the policyholder's limits. If your claim amount exceeds the upper limit, the adjuster must get approval from the company to pay the increased amount.
There are a variety of reasons why the company may decline the request. The insurance provider may feel your case is weaker than it is or that the adjuster can browbeat you into accepting the lower amount, particularly if you're not being represented by an attorney. Unfortunately, oftentimes, the only way to get the insurance company to budge on the issue is to go to court.
For more information about this issue or help litigating an accident case, contact a personal injury attorney at a law firm like Clearfield & Kofsky.