Starting in October 2011 the North Carolina Legislature changed the law of damages in North Carolina tort cases. Tort is the legal term for negligence cases and encompasses car accidents, slip and falls and wrongful death. The same legislator changed the law which dealt with medical malpractice damages which is covered in another article. Under the old law insurance companies were unable to take a credit for payments made by the Plaintiff’s health insurance company. Under the new law insurance companies are only required to pay the amount paid by the health insurance company to pay off the medical provider’s bill. Thus, the liability company gets to take advantage of the credit from the health insurance company’s contract with the medical provider. Therefore, individuals who pay the premium for their health insurance, effectively reduce the amount the at-fault driver’s insurance pays. Further, no credit is given the Plaintiff for their premium.
For example, assume under the old law a plaintiff had health insurance and received a bill from Carolinas Medical Center following a car accident. The bill was for $1,000.00 and their health insurance paid $300.00 resulting in a balance of $100.00 (after the contractual write off). The liability insurance was still obligated to pay the full $1,000.00 towards the settlement.
Under the new law, assuming the same facts, the liability carrier now only has to pay $400.00 towards the settlement. One of the perverse results of the law is a person without health insurance will be offered $1,000.00 towards the same bill. Of course, the individual who paid for their health insurance will receive no credit or payment for any of the premiums they paid towards procuring health insurance.
The current law is a boon to the insurance industry to the detriment of the individual. As such, insurance companies are emboldened to offer less money on a case because they have less financial risk. As such, more cases will require litigation to get the Plaintiff what they want and deserve.
Concurrently, as juries throughout the country have become more conservative insurance companies have reduced their settlement offers. This has resulted in an increase in the number of cases which require litigation. The personal injury lawyers of Rosensteel Fleishman have noticed a sharp increase in the number of referrals to us from personal injury lawyers in Charlotte and throughout NC. Many lawyers do not take cases to trial, preferring to settle. Our lawyers are recognized as trial lawyers willing to take a case to a jury. While we welcome referrals from other lawyers we caution that some mistakes made early on in a case can’t be fixed when we take over. It is imperative that the injured party (whether by car accident, slip and fall, etc.) ensure that their rights are being protected from the inception of the case.
One of the tactics used by insurance companies in determining value of a Plaintiff’s insurance claim is focusing on the property damage to the vehicle. The lower the damage amount the less willing the insurance company is to settle the case for fair value. The insurance company is betting that a jury seeing limited damage to a vehicle will make the assumption that the person inside the vehicle wasn’t injured. Nowhere in the equation does the carrier focus on whether the individual was actually injured in the car accident. The focus is only on whether the individual can prove it.
One of the tactics insurance companies use in “limiting” property damage is referring claimants to “Preferred” body shops. In exchange for a large number of referrals from insurance companies these shops lower their bills thereby bringing down the dollar amount of property damage. While saving the insurance company money it also serves to bring down the perceived severity of a wreck. For example, if you were told plaintiff A was in a car accident with $1,000.00 in damages and plaintiff B was in a car accident with $5,000.00 in damages you might be more sympathetic to plaintiff B. The only way to combat this practice is by reviewing the actual estimate and report from the body shop to see what was actually done, not just look at the dollar amount. Failure to do that may result in a significant reduction in the value of your claim.
Many times a cases value may rise and fall on the smallest things. For example, clients receive compensation for pain and suffering. Pain is subjective. There is no medical test to objectively test for pain. We like to tell our clients that their doctor can not put his hand on your body and feel your pain. Many times when our clients are treating with their doctors and complain of pain they will be prescribed pain medication. Failing to immediately fill the prescription allows the insurance company to argue that the pain was either non-existent or not painful enough to take the time to fill the prescription. Either way it will reduce the value of your claim.
During you initial meeting with our personal injury lawyers we will go over every aspect of you case. We will discuss with you how your case is evaluated by the insurance company and just as important we will explain how insurance companies attempt to avoid paying on valid claims. The value of a claim can not be diagnosed via a phone call. The value of your case is a culmination of factors and events. Any missteps throughout the course of your case serves to bring down the value of your case. This is why is it important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Call (704) 714-1450 to make an appointment to speak with a Charlotte personal injury attorney, or stop by the office during regular business hours. We understand that the last thing you need to do at this time is miss a doctor’s appointment or more time from work. We will schedule an appointment that meets your needs.There is no fee for the initial consultation. Whether you call, come in the office or request a home visit you will speak directly with a NC Personal Injury Attorney who can answer your questions.
“I would like to give thanks and extend my appreciation to Mr. Matthew Fleishman for his devotion in presenting my son, Brent Rodgers’ Mediation case, in 2006. I was so impressed with how he demonstrated such professionalism and grace and in the end all parties involved were satisfied. I will always be grateful and I feel really good about referring others to you because of a job WELL DONE.!!! You will always be my Attorney. Again, thank you and I sincerely wish you, your family and your firm a healthy, wealthy and most prosperous New Year.”
Ms. Jean A. Rodgers (Charlotte, NC)