Trucking Company Denying Liability
If you or someone you care about has been seriously injured as a result of a collision with an 18-wheeler or other commercial truck then you are going through a difficult period in your life. You or a loved one has suffered a serious injury. Your car has been smashed. You or a loved one has been unable to work since the accident. Because of the injury, your income has ceased, has been reduced, or is on the verge of ceasing.
If you find yourself in this situation, you should hire a truck accident attorney to represent you. The Law Office of Doug Goyen can be reached at (972) 599 4100. Contact us for a free consultation with a personal injury attorney regarding your case.
Trucking companies have their driver fill out internal reports related to how the accident occurred. A trucking company representative or investigator may also show up at the scene of the accident to investigate. The insurance adjuster handling the truck accident claim will review the reports they receive from the driver and the company and will do their own investigation of the accident. All of these people doing investigations on behalf of the trucking company have training and expertise in investigations, and an incentive to try and deny the claim if possible and place the blame on you.
With all of the devastation, the truck accident has caused, you're just thankful that the police gave you the trucking company's insurance information... you're thinking, "Surely, the at-fault trucker's insurance company will assist. It can't get any worse; we must have reached rock bottom by now. I know they can't instantly restore our health, but they will be issuing checks in the next week or two to at least alleviate the financial hardships caused by this collision..." Unfortunately, it does not work that way.
After a collision, most people have these thoughts. They approach dealing with a commercial trucking company's insurance company with the expectation that they will do "what is right." The insurance company will take care of everything financially. Regrettably, this assumption is incorrect. Insurance companies do not exist to pay claims. They are in the business of collecting premiums and paying as few claims as possible, which means that if they can find an excuse to deny your claim outright, they will.
The insurance company will do the following investigations after the truck accident, all with the purpose of looking for a way out of paying a claim:
Coverage. "Coverage" is the first thing an insurance adjuster looks for. This means that they will deny coverage if they can find any reason to do so. This eliminates the need to pay the claim at all. Nonpayment of premiums, unlisted vehicle, unlisted driver, driver not working for a company listed on insurance policy (freelancing), intentional acts on the part of the truck driver (road rage - if he intentionally ran into you, they won't pay) are all reasons to avoid coverage.
Liability: The adjuster searches for issues of liability that may help them avoid paying the claim. Was their driver to blame for the accident, or was it something more serious? Was it considered "negligence" if they did something that contributed to the accident? Even if a person has done nothing wrong, such as having a heart attack and passing out, they can cause an accident. Many courts believe that this type of situation (heart attack resulting in the driver passing out) does not constitute negligence. Some insurance companies will deny liability for this type of "cause," claiming that their driver did nothing wrong and that proving he was "negligent" in any way is impossible. When dealing with the “liability” issue, keep the following in mind when pursuing your claim:
An experienced personal injury lawyer has faced these "defenses" from insurance companies on a regular basis and knows how to counter these arguments and protect the rights of our clients. We will get started on your case today. Call (972) 599 4100.
1. Your negligence – many insurance companies will admit that their driver made a mistake, but then claim that “you did too.” You were driving too fast or too slowly, you were not paying attention and could have avoided the accident, you swerved when you should have braked, you braked when you should have swerved, and so on. All of these are reasons why they will either deny your claim or reduce the amount they claim you are responsible for by a percentage.
2. Intentional Acts: When driving on the highway, for example, road rage (both a liability and coverage issue) is a problem. A hothead will sometimes do something stupid in order to cause an accident and injure someone. Most liability insurance policies expressly state that “intentional acts” are not covered. So, how do you interpret this, and how do you interpret the word "intentional"? Some courts will rule that an intentional act is one in which the outcome was intended. In other words, the road rage driver may have swerved at you to scare you, but not with the intent to hit or hurt you – if this is the case, the courts will frequently find coverage. However, if he intentionally hit/hurt you, this type of behavior is usually not covered by a liability policy and gives an insurance company a reason to deny the claim (say it is not covered).
3. Acts of God: Many insurance companies argue that their driver was not at fault in the accident due to an "Act of God." Nature is to blame for this, which is out of anyone's hands. “Acts of God” include lightning strikes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. To successfully avoid liability in Texas by claiming the “Act of God” defense, an insurance company must show that the cause of the accident/injury was an act of God and that the insurance company's truck driver was not negligent in any way that contributed to the injury at issue.
4. Sudden Emergency: Many adjusters attempt to use the defense of "sudden emergency." They claimed that their truck driver was forced to act in this manner due to a "sudden emergency." A “sudden emergency” is defined in Texas as a condition or circumstance that (1) arises suddenly and unexpectedly, (2) requires the driver to act quickly, and (3) is not caused by the driver's (or another person's) negligence in attempting to use the “sudden emergency” doctrine as a defense, whether by failure to reasonably foresee or anticipate the necessity for quick action.
Damages: This is how you were injured. Physically, psychologically, financially, and so on. An adjuster will not pay all bills incurred as a result of the truck accident automatically. They will frequently assert several defenses to your claims (many of which are false - they throw mud against the wall to see what will stick) in an attempt to avoid paying you or reduce the amount they pay – they are frequently false defenses because they are not true, but that does not stop them from pursuing these defenses: They will claim, among other things (each case must be judged on its own facts):
1. That you had a preexisting condition – Adjusters love to go through your medical history and claim that any complaint of a similar nature you've ever had is the same as the one in question. So, if you've ever had a back or neck injury, and if you've ever complained to your doctor about a sore neck or back (even if it was a one-time complaint 10 years ago that went away and was never followed up, and you completely forgot you ever made that complaint, that's how insignificant it was), they will try to argue that the prior complaint proves that the injury already existed and that you are simply blaming their accident on a preexisting condition/injury to profit from the situation.
2. Vehicle damage does not support claimed injury – The adjuster will frequently claim that your vehicle's damage was too minor to cause injury, or that even if the damage was severe, the type of impact did not cause the injury you claim. They'll tell you it was a glancing blow or a sideswipe and you shouldn't have felt anything.
3. Another accident resulting in a similar injury – They will inquire as to whether you have ever been involved in another accident in which you were injured (all insurance companies share information through a service that almost all of them subscribe to). This allows them to see if you've ever filed a claim for anything and if you've previously stated that your back, neck, or shoulder, for example, was sore or injured in any way previously.
They will use this information against you to claim that the injury was caused by the other accident, not theirs, and that you are attempting to receive compensation for both the other and their accidents.
4. Excessive bills – Insurance adjusters frequently assert that doctors overcharged for the services they provided. The issue is that you don't get to set the rates, and you still have to pay the bill whether it's high or low. If you ask the adjuster for something to help you prove to the medical provider that their bill is excessive (so you can ask the medical provider to reduce their bill), the adjuster will not give you anything. In other words, the adjuster is making it up because they don't like the price of the bill.
If the adjuster had a "source" that proved the bill was excessively high, they would gladly share that information with you so you could approach your hospital, doctor, therapist, and so on and get them to agree to reduce their bill based on the documentation provided by the adjuster. However, because the adjuster is not using reliable sources to base their determination on, they cannot provide you with any supporting documentation.
5. You missed appointments for treatment that could have healed your injury – Adjusters frequently review your medical records to see if you missed appointments. They will accuse you of contributing to your own injury by failing to follow the doctor's orders if you do. That if you had followed the doctor's advice, your injury would have healed more quickly and at a lower cost. They will try to avoid paying your medical bill claim based on this argument.
6. You treated too little – If you had significant gaps in treatment, this was a red flag (as a result, you did not treat enough). If there are gaps of several weeks or months between doctor visits to treat your injury, the adjuster will claim that this is evidence that you must have gotten better, then reinjured yourself somewhere or somehow else, and are now attempting to blame that reinjury back on the accident to make some money.
7. You went to treatment too frequently – If your doctor has you on a treatment plan, and you stick to it and never miss an appointment, the adjuster will frequently say that you went to treatment too frequently. The doctor's strategy was to over-treat. (As you can see, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't follow the doctor's instructions.) If you go every time, your doctor is greedy and treating you too frequently to take advantage of the situation. You have contributed to your own injury by failing to follow doctor's orders if you miss appointments).
8. You sought treatment from a “non-traditional” medical provider – Because they “don't believe” in such treatment, some adjusters will offer less money on your medical bills if you visit a chiropractor, doctor of osteopathy (DO), acupuncture, herbal medicine, or other “non-traditional” medical provider. Even if the treatment is beneficial and prevents you from taking medications that would make you drowsy and unable to work, they try to avoid paying the full value of these types of claims.
9. Your injury is “soft tissue” – An injury is considered “soft tissue” by adjusters if it cannot be seen with the naked eye (for example, cuts or broken bones on x-rays) and does not require surgery to repair. These types of injuries are regarded as the "stepchildren" of injuries by adjusters. Because the injury is not visible in some way, they are given a lower priority and a lower value. This is due to the fact that if you are forced to go to trial in order to receive your money from a court, a jury will be forced to rely on you saying that you were actually feeling pain and how much pain you claim you felt.
If they see cuts, surgery, or broken bones, most people can imagine how much it hurts. When it comes to whiplash or back injuries, they must rely on you to be honest with them about the extent of your pain (are you exaggerating, telling the truth, or simply saying what your lawyer told you to say? – These are the questions that a jury considers when determining the value of a "soft tissue" claim, and they can have an impact on the amount awarded (and thus the amount that adjusters offer to settle).
10. Your injury should have healed faster – In other words, you're exaggerating the severity of your injury to increase the value of your injury settlement. They claim that the "average" person will recover from this type of injury in 6-8 weeks – with or without treatment. The problem with this argument is that no such thing as a "average person" exists. Each case must be handled on its own merits and in light of the circumstances of the individual. This does not, however, preclude the insurance company's adjuster from attempting to undervalue your personal injury claim by claiming that your injury should have healed faster and that they will not pay any bills after the "x" date.
11. If a diagnostic test produces "no findings" – Because your diagnostic testing produced "no findings," it was unnecessary, and the adjuster refuses to pay for it. Your doctor will examine you to ensure that you do not have a herniation in your neck or back. You've been experiencing symptoms that sound like herniations, and if you do have a herniated disc in your neck or back, this could be very dangerous. In some cases, it can even cause paralysis, so they order an MRI to see if they can put you through physical therapy or if you need to be referred to a specialist to see if you need surgery to repair any herniations you may have.
If the MRI reveals that everything is in order. You are not suffering from a herniation. The adjuster then claims that because you did not have a herniation, you were either exaggerating your symptoms or the doctor misread your symptoms and that the MRI will not be covered.
12. You won't be a good witness for yourself – if you are "too" argumentative by nature, or a little quirky in a way that the adjuster believes will turn off others, or if the adjuster discovers a criminal history, they will lowball you on offers based on this information. They believe that even if your claim is valid, a jury will not award you money because they got lucky and you have these issues that they can use against you to avoid payment of a valid personal injury claim.
13. You did not pay your bills – Dealing with an auto liability adjuster to pay your medical bills can be a time-consuming process. It can take months or even years in some cases. Hospitals and some doctors will not keep you for that long before turning you over to debt collectors. Insurance adjusters will play dumb before arguing, "you never paid these bills, and because you haven't paid them, this is evidence that you never intend to pay them, so why should we pay for something you don't intend to pay?" This after destroying your credit and bombarding you with collection letters and phone calls on a daily basis for months or years due to their person's negligence, which they try to blame on you. This is standard insurance adjuster behavior: cold, calculating, and uncaring.
14. Your bills were paid by an insurance company – If you have health insurance, they will frequently pay your bills. As a result, your only out-of-pocket expenses will be the deductible and copays. The adjuster will try to work out a deal with you for this amount. What they don't tell you is that by signing the release, you also waive your right to sue your health insurer for the amount they paid. This may now affect your health insurance coverage.
Some health insurance companies will refuse coverage based on how much you cost them. They will claim that they paid $15,000.00 and should have received that amount from the auto insurance adjuster. They may claim that by settling without allowing them to collect the amount owed to the health insurer, you violated the contract. As a result, until you pay the $15,000 owed, the health insurer will no longer pay any additional health insurance claims (the next $15,000 in claims is your new additional deductible). In this situation, you are very likely to be gotten from both ends if you have insurance companies on both sides. Your health insurance provider is just as cold, calculating, and uncaring as your auto insurance provider. They are typically run by the same individuals at the top.
When dealing with the trucking company to recover damages and injuries, you need someone with experience handling these types of claims to ensure you are returned to your pre-accident financial situation. To discuss your case, call the Law Office of Doug Goyen at (972) 599 4100 for a free initial phone consultation with a truck accident attorney.
By Doug Goyen, firstname.lastname@example.org