Most consumers take out property insurance policies with the expectation that when something unexpected happens—a break in, a house fire, a car crash—the policy will cover all or most of the damage and help the insured replace damaged property at no extra expense.
In many cases, this is a correct assumption, but when damage and injury are caused in a car or other motor vehicle crash, an insured driver may find out the hard way that the insurance company isn’t looking out for him or her. Insurers are supposed to be there to help you out, but some go to great lengths to avoid paying claims and, worse yet, to blame their own customers for their misfortune.
Car Crash Protection
You’ve been in a crash. You try to remember, under stress, what to do. You’ve been told many times to keep calm, to get off to the side of the road, to report the accident, to wait for help if it’s needed, and to exchange information with the others involved. You’ve also been told to notify your insurer and file a claim right away. But you should be extra careful about that last item.
Many consumers don’t realize that their insurance company isn’t really on their side. Although these companies exist to reduce risk and limit the cost of all sorts of tragedies, large and small, insurers are in business to make money, just as every other business is. Every time an insurer pays a claim, that’s money out of their vault. It’s actually within their best interests to pay no claims at all, but most insurers are more reasonable than that and build their business around simply paying out less than they take in each year (after expenses).
Unfortunately, there are a few places where certain kinds of claims are very easy for insurers to deny, and in Virginia, personal injury claims—including many car crash situations—are in this category.
100 Percent Blameless or Out of Luck
Unlike Texas, Virginia is one of the few remaining states that uses a system of strict contributory negligence to decide damage awards. In most states, a victim can still sue and collect damages for an injury even if he or she is determined to be partially at fault for an accident.
For instance, if the court decides that a victim was 20 percent at fault, she can still recover 80 percent of the cost of damages. Some states cap responsibility at 50 percent and will not allow, for example, a victim who is 80 percent responsible for his or her own injury to collect the remaining 20 percent.
But Virginia’s system, based on an archaic English law (which even the British replaced more than seventy years ago), states that if a victim is found to be even one percent responsible for an injury, then the individual has no claim against other parties. Put another way, a driver could be 99 percent responsible for a crash that kills or injures numerous others, but if those others are deemed even one percent at fault, they have no damage claim.
Notify Your Insurer—But Don’t Discuss It
Insurance companies know how comparative negligence laws work, and they use it to their advantage—even against their own clients. In an effort to reduce claim payouts and bolster the bottom line, they have been known to use statements made by a customer to reduce the amount of a claim or deny it altogether.
This comes on top of typical industry practices, which include lowballing the value of a vehicle, requiring customers to use lower-quality replacement parts or repair centers, and raising premiums after a claim. The deck is already stacked against you in a car accident case, even with your own insurer, so you should do what you can to tip things back toward your side.
Experienced Northern Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers
As you go through the checklist of things to do after an accident, you should also get in touch with someone who knows how the system works. If you’re in Texas, you should definitely get in touch with our friends at Kraft & Associates by calling 214-999-9999 or by completing the consultation form on this page.
If you happen to be in Virginia, however, please contact Priale & Racine’s experienced car accident lawyers in Fairfax, VA, who can help you understand what is involved in a case like yours. Both firms will put themselves between you and the other parties—even your own insurer, if necessary—to make sure that you have the best chance of getting the justice (and the settlement) you need to recover from the crash.
Author information: Brian Kidder is Outreach manager for ApricotLaw. ApricotLaw creates beautiful, lead-generating websites and is responsible for thousands of page one Google rankings in the ultra-competitive worlds of personal injury, workers comp, family law and criminal defense.