Insurance Companies and Auto Accidents
They’re supposed to help you. We’ll make sure they do
You pay for insurance in order to protect yourself in the event of an accident, and sometimes, insurance companies follow through on their obligation to compensate you if you’re hurt. Often, though, they’re more concerned with improving their own bottom line than protecting their policyholders. You can try to fight an insurance company alone, but they have teams of adjusters and attorneys being paid handsomely to reduce and deny claims. You’ll likely end up with much less than you need to take care of your expenses after an accident.
At Flager & Associates, we are aggressive advocates for people injured in car accidents. Insurance companies know this. We make sure these companies live up to their obligations and compensate you so you can get your medical bills paid if injured. We can analyze your insurance policy to help you understand how you are covered and how you can get the compensation you need.
- Liability Coverage
- Personal Injury Protection
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
- Full Tort and Limited Tort Insurance
- Arguments Insurance Companies Make
- Bad Faith Insurance
- Free Insurance Analysis
Request a free consultation or call us today at (215) 953-5200
Our attorneys have extensive experience dealing with insurers. We can make sure they treat you fairly and help you find justice if they refuse to pay or act in bad faith.
How can a car accident lawyer help deal with insurance companies?
We understand accident victims need to focus on their recovery. We also realize they’re concerned about paying for medical bills, property damage, and receiving compensation for lost wages. If a loved one has died in an accident, family members deserve fair treatment.
Your own auto insurance company and the insurer of the person who caused the car accident will both try to contact you, looking for information they can use to reduce your claim. Before talking with an insurance adjuster or investigator, even if the other person’s liability seems obvious, you need to get an experienced attorney on your side.
Don’t let the insurance company control what happens after your accident. Turn to a skilled attorney at Flager & Associates, PC to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Our experienced automobile accident lawyers are committed to fighting for your rights and your loved one’s rights.
Your initial consultation is free. You don’t pay us unless you win. Call (215) 953-5200 today.
In many states, the law requires drivers to have a minimum amount of liability coverage. Liability coverage is a type of insurance that pays for damages to others if you cause an accident.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey require motorists to carry liability coverage. Your policy must provide at least $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $5,000 per accident for property damage. (In New Jersey, optional basic policy limits are $10,000/$10,000/$5,000.)
It’s important to remember these are just minimum standards. It’s recommended to carry more than the minimum to protect yourself in case of an accident.
Personal Injury Protection
First party benefits include medical coverage, loss wage replacement and the funeral benefits portion of your automobile insurance policy. This is usually referred to as your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. The mandated minimum coverage is $5,000.00. You have the option to purchase more coverage at higher amounts in addition to optional wage loss.
Note that in general, there is no PIP coverage if you are injured while a driver or occupant of a motorcycle. Several insurance companies sell PIP motorcycle insurance, but most of the motorcycles in Pennsylvania do not have this insurance. A person injured while a driver or occupant of a motorcycle will need to use their health insurance, if available.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Two of the most important and least understood aspects of your personal automobile insurance policy are uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. They are commonly referred to in the insurance industry as UM and UIM, respectively. Uninsured motorist coverage provides insurance protection for you and the members of your household are injured because of the negligence of a driver who does not have insurance. For instance, UM coverage applies when:
- A driver who does not have valid insurance causes a collision.
- An uninsured automobile strikes or startles a pedestrian.
- A collision is caused by an unknown vehicle, as in a hit-and-run accident.
Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is similar to uninsured motorist (UM) coverage but is used in situations where the party causing the accident has some insurance, but not enough to fully compensate you. Underinsured motorist coverage is the only way of insuring yourself against a party that causes greater that the coverage limits of their insurance. For example, if you receive injuries which would be compensated by receiving $100,000, but the individual responsible has only purchased $50,000 in insurance, then you would only receive $50,000 in compensation. However, with UIM coverage, you would receive up to an additional $50,000 from your insurance company – depending on the limits of your UIM coverage.
We recommend purchasing the same amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as your liability limits. One of the most common mistakes made in the world of insurance is to protect strangers better than yourself and your family. A typical policy may have $100,000 in liability insurance and only $15,000 in uninsured or underinsured motorist protection. This makes no sense. The cost of uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance is significantly less than the cost of liability insurance, and the small amount of money you spend will be outweighed by the protection it will afford you and your family.
When you make a UM or UIM claim, you are simply using the insurance coverage you purchased to protect yourself against an uninsured person or entity. Your insurance company cannot change your policy, raise your rates or refuse to renew your policy for making a claim. An insurance agent may try to prevent a valid claim from being made by telling you that the premium will increase. Do not believe this! Call us right away for assistance with your claim – and get a new insurance agent who has your best interests at heart rather than those of the insurance company.
If you have more than one vehicle in your household, you can maximize your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage by stacking your benefits. This means that limits can be added together for each vehicle insured. This does cost extra, but it’s quite inexpensive compared to the amount of coverage you’ll receive. Indeed, stacking is one of the few bargains left in the world of auto insurance today.
For example, if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident on one car and the same coverage on a second car (or another vehicle such as a motorcycle), you can double your coverage by adding stacking to your policy, giving you $200,000 per person and $600,000 per accident. Under some circumstances, you may be able to add stacking even if the vehicles are insured by different insurance companies.
If your household has two or more registered vehicles, we recommend talking to your insurance agent right away to see if you can add stacking to your policy. The extra protection is well worth the small cost.
Full Tort and Limited Tort Insurance
Some of our clients and prospective clients who have been in auto accidents tell us they have “full coverage.” Unfortunately, they might have a limited tort policy. It’s important to understand the difference between tort and limited tort insurance, since those differences have huge implications for your ability to sue for damages. Learn more about the differences between full and limited tort here.
Terminology in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Pennsylvania requires motorists to choose between “Limited Tort” and “Full Tort” protection. In New Jersey, the equivalent policies to “Limited Tort” are called “Verbal Threshold” or “Lawsuit
Threshold,” while the choice comparable to “Full Tort” is called “Zero Threshold” or “No Threshold.” We’ll use the Pennsylvania terminology here for the sake of brevity, but we make the same recommendations for drivers in both states.
Limited Tort Insurance Won’t Cover for Pain and Suffering
Limited tort insurance limits your right and the right of members of your household to seek financial compensation for injuries caused by other careless drivers. With this insurance, you and other household members covered may seek recovery for all unpaid medical and out-of-pocket expenses. However, you and other household members are not covered for pain and suffering or other non-monetary damages. Limited tort may be less expensive, but it provides limited coverage in the event of an accident.
There are a few exceptions to limited tort’s restriction on suing for non-monetary damages. If you are hit by a drunk driver or an out-of-state vehicle, or if you are injured while a passenger in a commercial vehicle like a bus or taxi, you can sue for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages as though you had full tort protection. You can also sue if the insurance company defines your injuries as “serious” – but that’s up to them, not you.
Full tort insurance allows you and other household members covered to seek recovery for all unpaid out-of-pocket medical expenses. You may also seek financial compensation for pain and suffering or other non-monetary damages as a result of a drivers’ negligence. Full tort coverage costs more than limited tort, but is crucial to protect your right to full compensation in an accident.
Talk to Your Insurance Company About Switching to Full Tort
In our experience, full tort and limited tort insurance are two very different types of policies. Having one or the other could mean the difference between you getting full compensation or getting only a fraction of the money you deserve. We recommend you call your insurance company to switch to full tort if you are carrying limited tort insurance. With limited tort insurance, you may have a hard time getting your medical bills paid and getting all the compensation you need. The price you pay for full tort protection is small compared to the thousands of tax-exempt dollars you may receive in the event of an accident.
Arguments Insurance Companies Make
Insurance companies want to limit the amount of damages they pay on any given claim, even if it means not giving injured people what they need. If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, be careful about what you say when reporting a claim. Your own insurance company may find reasons to deny or reduce the settlement – and they’re at least supposed to be on your side. An insurance company representing the other party in the accident is even more likely to use that information against you by arguing:
- That you were partially or entirely responsible for your injuries;
- That your injuries were suffered before or after the accident, rather than during;
- That you couldn’t have been injured because the accident happened at a slow speed.
Insurance companies routinely make “low-ball” offers that don’t come close to covering the full cost of the accident, hoping that you’ll take the settlement before the true cost becomes known. They may use ambiguous language in your policy to argue that you aren’t actually entitled to compensation. They might deliberately ignore or downplay some costs of the accident to keep the settlement as small as possible.
Consult with a qualified attorney from our firm before making a formal statement to an insurance company, whether the insurer is representing you or the other driver – and remember that any statement you make to an adjuster or investigator may be recorded and considered your formal statement. The safest option is to retain us as soon as possible after the accident, then direct anyone seeking comment to your attorney rather than speaking with them yourself.
Bad Faith Insurance
A bad faith insurance case is one that arises due to a dispute between yourself and your insurance company. Insurers are required by law to meet certain obligations to their clients. When insurance companies fail to meet those obligations, they are acting in bad faith.
For instance, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey alike, insurers must handle personal injury claims with a reasonable degree of efficiency and ethical conduct. Unfortunately, they do not always treat their claimants as they should, leading to bad faith claims.
Here are some common examples of bad faith actions:
- Making unreasonably low offers to compensate for damages;
- Using ambiguous or unclear wording in a policy;
- Delaying or even denying a claim without cause;
- Delaying payment while waiting on payment from a third-party insurer;
- Failure to investigate the accident or otherwise perform due diligence;
- Altering a policy without notice to the insured party;
- Advising a claimant not to hire an attorney;
- Intentional fraud or misrepresentation;
- Wrongfully threatening not to pay a claim or to take legal action.
When insurance companies act in bad faith, their clients suffer. The good news is that if you can prove an insurer acted in bad faith, you may be able to sue for damages in excess of the usual policy limits. The law takes a dim view of companies that act in bad faith, and juries may compensate their victims with punitive damages in addition to the full cost of the accident.
We can help you fight for the claim you deserve. We are not afraid to take on insurance companies acting in bad faith. Contact Flager & Associates today, and we will make sure your rights are protected.
Free Insurance Analysis
Wondering just how much insurance coverage you have on your automobile? Unsure whether full or limited tort coverage will pay for severe injuries sustained in an accident? We can help. Allow us to analyze your automobile insurance policy for free. Don’t wait to find out after an accident!
Sherry Flager, an administrator at Flager & Associates, will look at your “declarations page” and call you right back with a straight answer. You can fax your policy to her at (215) 953-5214 or drop a copy of your policy in the mail.
If you can’t get a straight answer from your insurance company, we’re here to help. We can tell you what your policy means in plain English. If you don’t know what different types of coverage mean to you and your family in the event you are in an accident, we can explain it to you. Allow us to give you the peace of mind you deserve.
Remember that in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the automobile policy that has the greatest impact on whether you can exercise all of the rights arising out of a collision is your own policy. Contact us for a free analysis, and we’ll be able to recommend any changes you should make to get all of the protection your family needs.
Contact Flager & Associates, PC
Located in Bensalem (across from the Neshaminy Mall), with offices in Philadelphia and New Hope, our law firm proudly serves injury victims throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
One Northbrook Corporate Center
1210 Northbrook Drive
Feasterville-Trevose, PA 19053
Phone: (215) 953-5200
Fax: (215) 953-5214
1500 JFK Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19102