Do Insurance Companies Have an Advantage in Personal Injury Litigation?
In the United States, we have long embraced competition. Our entire economic model is based on the belief that competition will result in better products and services while minimizing cost. In schools and colleges, students compete with one another, thereby pushing everyone to achieve at a higher level. Many parents teach their children the value of competition by enrolling them in sports leagues and other competitive endeavors. Fans around the country fill stadiums to cheer on their favorite professional and college teams in competitions. And in some ways, even the American judicial system is a competition.
But with any competition, there are concerns about fair play and “an even playing field.” That brings us to the issue in this article - do insurance companies have an unfair advantage in personal injury litigation?
Broad Characteristics of the American Judicial System
The United States has adopted an adversarial (or adversary) legal system. Under this kind of system, the court, or judge, acts more like a referee in a competition between the parties in the lawsuit. Each party is responsible for developing his or her own case. That means that the parties are largely responsible for determining which issues to pursue in the litigation.
Additionally, the parties, not the court, determine which witnesses will appear and what evidence will be presented. The concept is that if two sides are each fighting hard to prevail, the truth will be discovered by the judge and/or jury.
The Role of Insurance in Personal Injury Litigation
If you are new to personal injury litigation, you may not yet fully appreciate the role of insurance companies. Oregon has mandatory minimum insurance requirements, including personal injury protection (PIP). Moreover, most drivers carry more insurance than is required, and many carry uninsured motorist coverage, which may apply if the other driver is uninsured or underinsured. Additionally, commercial companies and vehicles are often covered by large insurance policies.
Other insurance policies, such as health insurance, can also come into play when injuries arise from a car accident. Thus, several insurance policies can potentially apply to a single accident.
Do Insurance Companies Have an Advantage in Litigation?
This question brings us back to the American adversarial judicial system. With so much insurance coverage in play, insurance companies have a financial incentive to fight as hard as possible to win litigation and limit their losses. As a result, they have entire departments devoted to litigation.
Insurance companies provide lawyers to their insured drivers when they are sued for causing accidents, and they hire and train adjusters who may handle settlement negotiations and will naturally settle a case for as little as they can get away with. Because they are large companies, they have no problem hiring expert witnesses and funding litigation.
How to Level the Playing Field
If you are injured in an accident, it is risky to attempt to go it alone. Unless you work in this field, an insurance company and its lawyers and adjusters will likely have an advantage over you. The quickest way to level the playing field is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we have represented personal injury victims all across Oregon for many years. We have experience dealing with insurance companies. We advocate zealously for our clients and know how to investigate, prepare, and try a case. In fact, our willingness to go to trial often leads to improved settlements. Insurance companies know that we will fight as hard as they will and that our determination to win the competition is unmatched.
Call with Questions
If you have suffered personal injury in any type of accident, you will almost certainly have questions on how to proceed. They may involve insurance companies or may involve other issues such as medical treatment or your legal rights. Give us a call and we will set up a free consultation to answer all of your questions.