Let us clear two things up, right off the bat:
- A) Your personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjuster is not your physician or treatment provider, and
- B) Doctors working for an insurance company are not objective doctor
These doctors are – of course – biased in favor of who is paying them. They are especially sensitive to what the employer wants, if they plan on keeping the business. Therefore, such a doctor may have motivation to “under- diagnose” you.
Unfortunately, personal injury victims are often easily susceptible to the messages of these authority figures. If you hear someone in a white coat tell you that you are “not as hurt as you think you are,” you may begin to believe this propaganda even if your body is telling you otherwise. You need tools to out-think Goliath’s psychological ploys. You need an independent medical assessment that is not corrupted by the influence of interested parties like an insurance company.
Let us give some examples of what we mean. Why would Goliath’s representatives inform someone they are not that hurt? To fully appreciate the motive behind such a statement, you first have to understand what an insurance company does behind the scenes as part of its claim investigation.
Most personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjusters have some medical experience or training. They are also assisted by on-staff medical experts and computer programs that help in the evaluation of a personal injury and bodily injury insurance claim. Based upon their initial review, personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjusters set what is referred to as a “reserve” amount. In essence, this reserve amount is the personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjusters’ initial evaluation regarding the potential value of a personal injury and bodily injury claim. Insurance companies establish reserve amounts as a budgetary tool and also as a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of a personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjuster.
The personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjuster will not share with you the reserve amount. For instance, the personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjuster makes an initial evaluation and determines the reserve or potential value of your automobile wreck claim is $100,000. This initial evaluation of your automobile crash claim may be based on information about your personal injuries and bodily injuries, but it also may be based on information about the automobile wreck not known to you. Let us say you were told you did not need a personal injury attorney or automobile accident lawyer, but unbeknownst to you the insurance company has become aware that its commercial truck driver who caused the automobile wreck failed a drug screen. Now the insurance company’s personal injury and bodily injury adjuster does not tell you about this important fact or about the $100,000 reserve. Instead, Goliath’s insurance representative offers you $15,000 to settle your personal injury and bodily injury claim. If you accept this offer and settle your personal injury and bodily injury claim from your automobile wreck, Goliath just saved at least $85,000. That is right, at least $85,000, but in all likelihood, the problem saved much more!
So how does Goliath get the unsuspecting injured victim to accept less than what Goliath knows the personal injury claim to be worth? That leads us to the statement, “You are really not that hurt, right?”
First off, only you really know how badly you hurt. Goliath’s personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjuster is not your doctor and does not know the pain and hardship caused by the fault of someone else. Nevertheless, Goliath is very artful in convincing many injured people they are not as hurt as they think they are. Unfortunately, Goliath knows his tactics for convincing people are dishonest and even more disturbingly knows that personal injury victims who accept a quick, low settlement are barred forever from getting the compensation they deserve.
Let’s use a common type personal injury that occurs in many automobile collisions to illustrate this concept. You have likely heard of a condition referred to as a herniated disc. A herniated disc is a condition that can be caused by trauma and can occur at any of the three major areas of your spine. Herniated discs can be painful and permanent injuries that often require surgical intervention. Obviously, personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjusters know that a diagnosis of a trauma- induced herniated disc results in a more expensive claim to the insurance company.
Many times, Goliath’s personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjuster will disguise this condition from you. They do this by relaying language to you from medical reports that they know are not pertinent. For instance, there is only one proper diagnostic tool – an MRI – that can diagnose through scientific means a herniated disc. Unfortunately, many personal injury and bodily injury insurance claim adjusters will only report the findings from x-rays and CT scans. The deception is that neither X-rays nor CT scans will diagnose or report a herniated disc. X-rays and CT scans are designed to examine bones, not tissue! Goliath’s personal injury and bodily injury insurance adjusters know this, but they feed misleading information to you in an attempt to save Goliath money by claiming you are not as hurt as you seem.
Another technique used by the insurance companies is the use of a company doctor. We see this primarily with workplace injuries. When a person is injured on the job, many employers will agree to pay for medical treatment so long as the injured person is treated by a physician of the employer’s choosing. The contracts between the physician and the employer’s insurance company can be quite lucrative. Many physicians employed by insurance companies make a living primarily by examining individuals injured on the job. Unsurprisingly, these employer physicians often downplay the significance of injuries. Why? Let us use a recent example to illustrate one probable explanation:
As Alabama personal injury lawyers, we recently represented a hard-working man that had been injured on his job as a commercial truck driver. The man seeking fair compensation informed his employer of the attack and made a proper claim under Alabama law with his employer. The employer sent the man to its company physician. The man reported pain on multiple occasions to the company physician. Finally, the injured man was in excruciating pain and sought treatment with an independent doctor. The employer would not pay for this treatment, but the injured man needed a second opinion. The independent physician immediately diagnosed the injured and recommended additional treatment. This issue was litigated and won on the man’s behalf. Why did the employer’s company doctor not make this same diagnosis? The answer is simple: money. The “you are not that hurt, right?” mentality was part of Goliath’s plan to minimize the injured man’s claim and to maximize Goliath’s profit.
As, Alabama personal injury lawyers, we believe injured Alabamians deserve the best medical treatment available. The best medical treatment is the one that treats the condition regardless of what it means to the bottom line of the insurance company. The only way to combat this prevalent message from Goliath is to have a David in your corner that will insist on honest assessments of your medical condition from unbiased physicians. You know the level pain you experience, so don’t let Goliath tell you otherwise!
Why is this so important? Because you only get one bite at the apple. If Goliath wears you down to the point that you feel desperate and gets you to accept a nominal settlement for your personal injury and bodily injury claim when he knows your claim is worth much more, Goliath wins. Most of the time when you settle your personal injury and bodily injury claim, Goliath gets you to sign a release that prohibits you from coming back later to make a claim for additional damages for your personal injury and bodily injury claim. This usually happens when Goliath has internally concluded he does not have a defense to justify denying your personal injury and bodily injury claim, but instead has opted to minimize his financial exposure or payout. When Goliath decides on this option, he often pursues a quick settlement for your personal injury and bodily injury claim in hopes that you will not appreciate the long-term and costly consequences of your personal injury. If you quickly resolve your personal injury and bodily injury claim for a neck injury believing Goliath’s assertions that your personal injury is nothing more than a sprain, but later finding out the pain is being caused by a herniated disc, then who will pay the costs associated with that surgery? Who will compensate you for lost wages? Not Goliath, for he has returned to his army camp with a signed release.
Aaron Gartlan is a graduate of Troy University and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law who focuses his practice exclusively on representing those injured by the wrongdoing of others. He is member of the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition to his legal practice, Aaron teaches Business Law as an adjunct instructor at Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business and serves as a field artillery sergeant in the Alabama National Guard.