I hear it all the time: “My case is clear.” We have a “cut and dry case.” However, the insurance company is denying the claim? “Let’s just go to trial. We can’t lose!”
Since 1994, when I started as a personal injury lawyer in Dallas, I hear so many clients tell me that there is no way the insurance company will go to trial on such a clear case. It is difficult to explain to clients how there is no such thing as a “Cut & Dry” case. There is no sure thing in the law. And here’s why…..
Fault is determined at a trial.
No one is declared to be legally liable for an accident until a court does so. Not even the police report determines fault. The police report, although helpful, is not the final word on who’s at fault in an accident.
Not even the insurance company’s decision is final.
The Insurance Company “Accepted Liability.”
Once a claim is reported, the insurance company conducts an investigation. This includes talking to the driver’s, any eye-witnesses, and getting a copy of the police report.
Then, the insurance company will make a decision about who is liable for the accident. They can decide that their driver is fully liable, or that their driver is only partially liable for the accident.
With that decision, the insurance company chooses to handle the claim accordingly.
The insurance company paid for my car.
Just because the insurance company made a certain decision about how they wish to handle the claim, that decision is not binding.
They may choose to pay for the damages to your car, but make a different decision on how to handle your bodily injury claim. That is because they normally have different adjusters working on the injury and vehicle claim.
And if a lawsuit gets filed, now you have a defense attorney looking at your case. Trust me, they look at your case much differently than the adjuster.
What happens after a lawsuit is filed?
After a lawsuit is filed, your case takes on a whole new light. The law views your claim as being against the other driver only. You cannot sue the insurance company directly. You can only sue the other driver.
In fact, you cannot even mention that that other driver had insurance. The jury is not allowed to hear nor consider whether anyone was covered by insurance.
Additionally, settlement or claim discussions are not admissible at trial. Therefore, the jury will never hear that the other driver is liable because his insurance company paid for the car.
You cannot make mention of any of those issues in court. If you do, it could be grounds for a mistrial.
What do you do….
The most important thing you can do to prove your case is to gather as much evidence about the accident as possible. Get contact information for witnesses, and take good pictures of the vehicle and accident scene.
Do not say anything that can hurt your case. Keep your story simple. Try not to embellish or exaggerate your version of the accident.
Do not give a recorded statement either. This is where many people go wrong. So many times I have seen recorded statement come back a haunt my clients later in their cases.
Hire a Lawyer
But the most important thing you can do is hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent you. And do it early. The first few days of the accident are critical. This is the time period when so many things are happening that can have long-term consequences on your case.
You have to make sure everything is done right at the very beginning of your case. If not, you may find it hard to get an attorney later if you need one.