Navigating the Insurance Maze in Pennsylvania Personal Injury Cases
June 9, 2023
A personal injury claim, at its core, is a journey—a journey through a landscape of legal procedures and bureaucratic processes that intertwine with one another in a seemingly complicated maze. When dealing with such claims in Pennsylvania, one will inevitably cross paths with a key player in this legal journey—insurance companies. Understanding the role they play, how they operate, and their objectives can be essential for the injured party to successfully navigate their claim. This comprehensive article delves into the complex yet crucial role insurance companies play in Pennsylvania's personal injury landscape.
The Inception of a Personal Injury Claim
Whenever an unfortunate incident leads to injury—be it a car accident, a workplace mishap, a slip and fall incident, or a case of medical malpractice—the clock begins ticking on a personal injury claim. If the person injured, or the claimant, holds an insurance policy that covers the incident or the responsible party does, insurance companies enter the stage. The claimant or their legal representative submits a claim to the insurer, sparking the insurer's involvement in the claim.
Claims Adjusters: The Fact-Finding Mission
The insurance company, upon receiving the claim, assigns a claims adjuster to the case. This individual's role is akin to a detective's. The adjuster scrutinizes the incident leading to the injury, the treatment, the aftermath, and the impact on the claimant's life. They take into account medical reports, police reports, witness statements, and any other pieces of evidence. Their mission is to establish a clear picture of the incident and its ramifications, and consequently, appraise the value of the claim.
Negotiations and Settlement Offers
Having determined the claim's value, the insurance company presents a settlement offer to the claimant. This initial offer aims to cover a range of costs, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and any property damage related to the incident. Should the claimant accept this offer, they're typically asked to sign a release form. This document waives their right to bring any future claims relating to the same incident—a significant point to consider before signing.
The Courtroom: A Venue of Last Resort
If the negotiations reach a standstill and the parties fail to agree on a settlement, the case might move to court. In this scenario, the insurance company's legal team will strive to minimize their client's financial liability. They might argue that the claimant's injuries aren't as severe as portrayed, the insured party isn't at fault, or the claimant themselves had a part to play in the incident. The goal is to sway the court's decision in their favor and reduce the settlement amount.
Bad Faith: When Insurers Overstep Their Bounds
Insurance companies are required to act in good faith. This means they must deal fairly and honestly with claimants. However, instances arise where insurers deny a claim without a valid reason, delay the investigation, or refuse to pay a justified claim. Such actions constitute 'bad faith,' and claimants can take legal action against the insurer under Pennsylvania law.
Legal Representation: A Guiding Light in the Maze
Given the complex dynamics of personal injury cases and the major role insurance companies play in them, having a seasoned legal representative can be invaluable. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can guide you through the labyrinthine processes, negotiate on your behalf with insurers, and ensure your claim receives the consideration it deserves.