Obtaining compensation for serious injuries is similar to playing chess. What are the similarities? Well, in both situations, there are tactics (or short term plays) which are executed in an effort to win (in chess, the object is to checkmate the king; in a personal injury case, the object is to receive the maximum compensation). The major difference is that in chess games, the end result is usually not too important. In personal injury cases, the end result can be the most important thing in that injury victim’s life.
So what are the tactics? First, there is the insurance company’s tactic of delay. Delay is a very strong tactic for three reasons. First, insurance companies know that if they delay an accident victim’s case long enough, it is more likely that the injury victim will accept a lower amount since they will more likely be in greater need of money. Second, by delaying a payout, insurers get to earn money on injury victim’s payouts for longer periods of time. Third, it is more likely that a negative intervening event (such as a second car accident occurs), so that the insurer can say that the injuries being advocated by the personal injury lawyer are not related to the lawsuit in question.
Second, another tactic is when the personal injury lawyer does not admit liability. Frequently, insurers will offer to admit liability (which means they admit fault), in return for the claim by the personal injury lawyer to be limited to the policy limits. While this might sound good (after all, why shouldn’t the insurer admit liability when their client rear ended someone in a car accident), it is frequently not a good tactic for the personal injury lawyer to accept this deal. The reason is that if the personal injury lawyer accepts this deal, he or she will not be able to argue the almost guaranteed winning point that his/her client is not at fault. For instance, could you imagine how ridiculous an insurance company’s defence lawyer will look to a juror when he/she tries to argue that the defendant is not at fault for a car accident when the defendant rear ended the injury victim’s car.
Third, another tactic used by an insurance company is to use leading questions when questioning an injury victim in an examination called a discovery. For instance, during questioning, instead of asking a person if he/she was injured as a result of the car accident, the question might be something like, “I guess you didn’t have to go by ambulance because the injury wasn’t so serious?” This invites the injury victim to agree with this loaded question. (Personal injury lawyer hopefully warns their injured clients about these kinds of leading questions.)
Fourth, surveillance is a tactic frequently used to discredit an injury victim. For instance, the insurance company may hire an investigator to follow someone for days, months or years to try to get footage that suggests a person is able to do a vigorous or athletic activity. They will then use leading questions to try to get an injury victim to agree that he/she is unable to do something (for example, gardening) after the car accident. Then, the insurer will use the surveillance to contradict the injured person’s testimony to suggest the injury victim should not be believed about anything at all.
It is important that a personal injury lawyer is familiar with the possible tactics used in personal injury cases such as car accidents in order to prevent insurers from minimizing seriously injured people’s claims.