Top Three Insurance Company Defenses in Car Accident Claims
The direct and indirect costs of vehicle collisions in the United States exceeds $75 billion a year. Direct costs usually include things like property damage and medical bills. Indirect costs usually involve lost wages or lost productivity. Victims are entitled to compensation for all these economic losses. They are also entitled to compensation for noneconomic losses, such as emotional distress and loss of enjoyment in life.
To obtain fair compensation, a San Jose car accident attorney must do more than use solid evidence and legal arguments to build a compelling case. An attorney must also be ready to deal with some common insurance company defenses. Given the amount of money involved in these claims, many insurance company lawyers will do almost anything to reduce or deny needed compensation to accident victims.
This legal defense is very common in pedestrian accident claims. Insurance company lawyers normally set up this argument by claiming that the victim “darted out into traffic.” Most pedestrian accidents occur outside crosswalks and at non-intersection locations. So, at first blush, this defense appears to have some traction.
But not so fast. Insurance company lawyers must establish both elements of the defense. These elements are:
- A reasonable reaction to
- A sudden emergency.
Most people react reasonably when they hit pedestrians. They pull over to the right, render aid if practical, and wait for emergency responders to arrive.
The second prong is a much different story. Even if they run into the street without looking both ways, jaywalking pedestrians are usually not sudden emergencies in this context. Only truly unexpected events, such as hood fly-ups and lightning strikes, merit this label.
Contributory negligence is perhaps the most common insurance company defense in car wreck claims. Much like sudden emergency, at first blush, this defense often seems applicable. For example, the insurance company might admit that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) made an illegal turn However, a lawyer might argue that the wreck only happened because the victim was speeding.
Once again, appearances are often deceiving. The insurance company has the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion. First, lawyers must convince judges that the victim’s misconduct substantially contributed to the crash. In this example, there is a big difference between speeding 5mph over the limit and speeding 15mph over the limit. Second, lawyers must convince jurors of the same thing.
California is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still liable for a proportionate share of damages.
Assumption of the Risk
Like almost all other states, California has a mandatory seat belt law. Unlike most other states, seat belt non-use is admissible to reduce the amount of compensation in a car wreck claim. In other words, victims who do not wear seat belts voluntarily assume a known risk. These are the two elements of this defense.
This defense only holds up in court if the insurance company proves that the victim’s failure to wear a seat belt, as opposed to the tortfeasor’s negligence, substantially caused the victim’s injuries. This showing is almost impossible to make, even in head injury cases. Frequently, the violent motion of a crash, as opposed to a trauma injury, causes a head injury.
Contact a Tough Attorney
Insurance company lawyers often pull out all the stops in car accident claims. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Jose, contact Solution Now Law Firm. Lawyers can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.