You faithfully pay your monthly or quarterly insurance premiums for your car, boat or house. But when it comes to paying losses in a covered accident or event, insurers suddenly aren’t quite so on your side. They do still, however, have a legal responsibility to act in good faith (fairly and honestly) in their dealings with you. If they don’t, they can face penalties for bad faith insurance.
The question of whether to contact a lawyer to help you settle insurance claims is one that sometimes arises too late in the game. It’s true that most smaller, simpler claims you can probably settle on your own without too much hassle. But for claims that have already been denied, it should be noted that insurers, once reaching this position, rarely alter their position unless they receive new evidence. This is why for any sort of higher-stakes insurance claims, we recommend consulting with an experienced South Florida attorney before you start negotiating.
Some examples of insurance situations one might call for legal assistance include:
- Claims that are expensive or complex.
- Claims in which serious injuries are involved.
- Claims in which you and the insurance adjuster disagree early on.
- Substantial claims including major losses or extensive damages.
- Claims where fault may be difficult to establish.
The fact is, insurers aren’t shy about denying claims with shaky reasoning – particularly if the client isn’t represented by a lawyer. They’re much less likely to pull a stunt and deny a valid claim if you have a lawyer working for you. It will also help you avoid unintentionally harming your case. (Seemingly innocent-sounding inquiries could actually be tactics to attempt to lower the value of your claim.) Insurance agents are experienced, well paid and know what to look for – and they’ll be looking for any possible weakness in your case from that very first initial call to open a claim.
If your claim has already been denied, an experienced attorney can still help, examining the claim for all sides to determine if there is any chance the insurer may reverse its position. If that’s the case, we’ll engage in an exchange of information (known as “discovery”) and this involves a number of filing deadlines, negotiations and, if necessary, litigation.
The Insurance Information Institute (an industry-funded trade group) released information several years ago on how the insurance claims process works. It’s still basically relevant.
Hiring a Lawyer Can Increase Your Chances of Success in Insurance Negotiations
No lawyer can promise any particular outcome (and you should run from one who does). Still, there is little doubt that hiring a lawyer for insurance negotiations gives you an advantage.
Insurers have some go-to tactics they use when someone isn’t represented by a lawyer. They may make a low offer quickly in the hopes that you’ll sign off on a settlement just to be done with it. (This is common.) They recognize that when it comes to higher stakes, more serious claims, you’re likely to have your work cut out of you in proving it. In these situations, they’ll often flat out deny it in the hopes you’ll get frustrated and give up. It’s a strategy that continues to work well for them.
An attorney with experience in negotiating insurance claims will have a series of questions to ask that will help you evaluate your claim from the beginning to determine if it’s worth pursuing. If it turns out you do have a legitimate, valuable claim, your lawyer can use his/her experience and legal knowledge to press forward and get results – often without a lawsuit. In some cases, you really do need a lawyer if you’re going to get anywhere with your claim.
Contact the South Florida insurance settlement attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
THE GOOD FAITH, BAD FAITH, AND UGLY SET-UP OF INSURANCE CLAIMS SETTLEMENT, Feb. 2011, Florida Bar Journal
More Blog Entries:
How Much Time Do I Have to File My South Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit? Feb. 27, 2021, South Florida Insurance Settlement Lawyer Blog