A plaintiff in a personal injury claim will often be dealing with a defendant’s insurer rather than interacting directly with the defendant. It’s important that you navigate interactions with an insurer very carefully.
When a plaintiff’s counsel sends a formal notice of a claim to a party to request their insurer’s contact information, the party must disclose the information as a matter of statutory law. A defendant should not respond by refusing to provide the information or by asking the plaintiff to drop his or her claim.
After insurance companies are put on notice of a claim, they will typically assign an adjuster to respond by communicating a “reservation of rights” informing the claimant that they are investigating the matter and determining whether it falls within the scope of the defendant’s insurance coverage. Don’t interpret any information contained a reservation of rights letter to indicate a denial of coverage or a refusal to award the amount requested in a demand letter.
Both plaintiffs and the insured can expect to hear multiple requests for information from insurance companies. They will ask to receive all available evidence and speak with all parties involved directly. You should confer with counsel before communicating with an insurance adjuster, and you should not agree to be recorded or deposed. Some adjusters will attempt to strategically use the information that you have provided to discredit your claim. After conferring with counsel, you should answer all questions honestly and directly. Avoid relaying information that was not requested unless you are directed to do so by your counsel.
After an insurer has determined that the incident on which your claim is based falls within the defendant’s coverage, they may attempt to present you with a settlement offer. An insurance company may wish to create the impression that they will litigate the case if you do not accept their offer. However, most insurance carriers will typically try to avoid the time and expense associated with bringing a matter to trial. You should discuss a settlement offer with your legal counsel before you accept it.
An insurance company’s objective is to minimize their losses; it is not to award you with what you are fairly owed. Work closely with your counsel to ensure that your interaction with an insurance carrier goes as favorably as possible.