In Part I, we discussed the role an automobile liability insurance company plays during the investigative stage of your claim. Now, we will discuss the settlement stage of your claim. Remember, in Part I, we established that the insurance company only has a duty to protect their driver.
If the adjuster believes that the other driver has some legal exposure to your claim, then the adjuster may determine that the best way to protect their driver is to settle your claim with you. This would include paying for the damages to your car, providing a rental car, and attempting to settle any claim for personal injuries you may have.
However, don’t be mistaken. Just because the insurance company appears to be accepting liability, they never truly “accept” liability. The insurance company may privately decide that the best way to handle your claim is to settle it, but it will not legally accept liability for the claim.
Once the insurance adjuster receives all the pertinent information, the adjuster may evaluate your claim and attempt to negotiate a settlement. The adjuster may consider many factors, including comparative fault in the accident, the severity of the accident, the severity of the injuries, the extent and cost of the medical treatment, the ability to work, as well as any future medical care that may be needed.
An adjuster may believe that the accident wasn’t serious enough to justify the amount of medical treatment you received. The adjuster therefore, may refuse to consider some of your medical expenses in the evaluation. The adjuster may also believe that the accident was partially your fault or that you are exaggerating your injuries. This is why you need an experienced lawyer on your side.
The moral of the story is simple: Just because the other driver’s insurance company chooses to evaluate your case for settlement, does not mean that the company has any legal duty to treat you fairly. As I stated earlier, the other driver’s insurance company has no legal duty to you. It’s only duty is to protect the liable driver from your claim.
In this respect, the insurance company is free to settle your claim or it may choose to nothing at all. If you are unhappy with how your claim is being handled, your only option would be to file a lawsuit. That will be discussed in Part III.