Businesses must make a profit in order to keep going, this we know. This model makes sense for, let's say, a restaurant that doesn't serve customers delicious food in a timely way, so it goes out of business. For insurance companies, though, it's a little more complicated. Though many Bellingham neighborhoods have an insurance agency with an old fashioned brick and mortar shop on the corner, most insurance companies are giant corporations managed by a roomful of investors watching their bottom line.
If you or a friend or loved one has had to file a claim, most likely this is no news to you. You've already had to face the sad fact that insurance companies aren't so neighborly when it comes down to paying a claim. Insurance adjusters are employees of the company who is responsible for writing you a check to cover your injuries and losses. The adjusters' job is to determine whether and how much their employer should pay you for your injuries and losses. So it makes sense, if you're an insurance adjuster and you routinely take the clients' words about how much they've been injured and what their accident cost them in property and wage loss - including their loss of quality of life assessments - you're probably not going to make the investors happy. The people they hire know this, and it trickles down from there. Actually, insurance adjusters often look at whether or not they can be legally forced to pay. If they take a look at the results of your car accident and decide that they can get out of making a payment, they will.
In light of the new hurricane season currently upon us, we can look to Hurricane Katrina to see a good example of the bad practices of insurance companies. In New Orleans, houses that were under twenty feet of water made insurance claimed that were deemed by insurers as not payable under flood insurance policies. How can this be? When the adjusters stated that the water was blown by the wind, that made it so the damage did not fall under the flood insurance policy. What's even worse was that then they could also say the claim was not payable under windstorm insurance, assuming a homeowner had that, because there was also twenty feet of flood water affecting the claim. Talk about a catch-22! Or, as in this ABC News story, the Court of Appeals in Louisiana sided with the insurance companies because the law was technically on their side. Insurers wrote exceptions about flooding into their policies that made it impossible to collect money for damages on a flooded property.
I write this blog so I can caution people to read the fine print of their insurance policies. A car accident is not the same as a hurricane in size and scope, but it is no less catastrophic for the people who are affected by it. Luckily, there are ways we can play it safer and buy more robust coverage, such as adding an umbrella policy that provide more coverage than you think you may need. The fine print in insurance policies creates gaps, and a smart shopper can fill those in. This still doesn't mean your insurer is going to offer you a fair compensation for your accident. It does mean that you have more coverage you can go after.
The bottom line is that you do not need to be alone in your struggle to make yourself whole again. Washington state law allows you to consult and use a lawyer on your behalf when dealing with these insurance agencies. Don’t let an adjuster tell you that your claim is denied when you are the victim. If you have been injured in an accident, contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. There is no need for you to be alone during this. You're not stuck in the "take it or leave it" situation. I talk about this in my video on how a personal injury attorney can help you. So, if you're wondering if hiring an attorney can help you get more money if you've been hurt in an accident, the answer is generally "yes".