Credible injury victims get higher insurance settlements. Here’s how to boost your witness value and increase your injury compensation payout.
Credible injury victims are people who are injured in an accident and have the potential to be excellent witnesses in court.
Why does it matter?
It matters because believable injury victims get bigger insurance payouts.
Accidents happen fast. Whether it be a concussion, broken bone, or a pinched nerve, injuries can occur in a blink of an eye. When you’re hurt in an accident that was someone else’s fault, that usually means dealing with the at-fault person’s insurance company.
Relatively minor injury claims can be settled without an attorney if you take the time to learn about the basic injury claim process and watch what you say. How you handle yourself with the adjuster can make a difference in your final settlement.
Only a tiny percentage of injury cases end up going to trial.¹ However, seasoned insurance adjusters will look at every injury claim and ask themselves, “What would this claim look like in a courtroom?”
Most adjusters will pay more to keep a calm, organized, and believable injury victim from filing a lawsuit.
Credible Injury Victims Get More Money
Insurance companies understand that injury victims who are truthful and likable are much more successful in court than individuals who might not resonate with a jury.
If the adjuster thinks the injury victim would be trustworthy and believable to a judge or jury, they have good reason to offer more money and settle the claim quickly. A fast settlement eliminates the insurer’s risk of an even bigger payout awarded by a sympathetic jury.
On the other hand, if the adjuster feels the victim’s story is shaky and the victim won’t come across well in court, the adjuster has reason to offer less money, or deny the claim.
Injury victim credibility involves more than simply telling the truth.
Key traits that make an injury victim credible include:
- Personal history and background
- Criminal history
- The victim’s appearance and demeanor
- What the victim said and did after the injury
The circumstances leading to the injury can also affect how the adjuster, or a jury, might view the credibility of the victim.
For example, a jury might be very sympathetic to a pregnant woman injured in a slip and fall at the grocery store. If the same woman was hurt falling down in a bar fight, the jury might have some doubts about the reliability of her testimony.
Why Insurance Companies Settle Injury Claims
A credible and confident injury victim is in a good position to negotiate their claim with the insurance adjuster.
Nerves tend to deflate confidence when a victim negotiates with an insurer. Victims can replace nervousness with confidence by understanding why insurers settle in the first place.
Insurance companies offer financial settlements to avoid trials. Litigation can be time-consuming, expensive, uncertain, and can make the insurance company look bad.
A lawsuit can take months, even years to complete. The time spent fighting a lawsuit takes insurance company workers away from other money-making projects. Most insurers would rather pay out an acceptable settlement so that they can move on to their next task.
When an injury victim files a lawsuit, they sue the at-fault party, not the insurance company. The insurance company has a duty to defend their insured against a lawsuit. Defense attorneys don’t come cheap. The insurance company is on the hook for attorney fees, expert fees, discovery costs, and more.
Court trials and jury awards are usually made public. Losing in court can harm the insurance company’s name or embarrass their insured. Settling an injury claim is a great alternative to the risk of damaging their insured’s reputation.
Example: Insurance Company Settles to Avoid Embarrassment and Expense
John is a prominent businessman in the city he lives in. His auto policy is with Good Hands Insurance Company.
John is driving home from a work function late one afternoon. While speeding, he loses control of his car and hits a teenager on a bicycle.
The police investigation reveals traces of marijuana in John’s car. While the authorities can’t say exactly how fast John was driving, they do have evidence of skid marks on the street.
The teenager’s attorney files a personal injury claim with John’s insurance company.
To protect their insured, Good Hands will want to settle the injured teen’s claim quickly and quietly.
The case has the real possibility of gaining major public attention, given the victim’s age and John’s status. Further, the marijuana finding could ruin John’s reputation and maybe even his job.
A quick settlement avoids the public eye. Settling not only protects John from bad publicity, but it also saves the insurance company the costs of an expensive personal injury lawsuit.
Even when the injury victim is a lousy witness, and the insurance company thinks the case is a slam-dunk, you never can predict what a jury will do. The insurance company might have to pay a jury award that’s much higher than a fair settlement would have cost.
If you’re a credible injury victim, most insurers would rather pay you more to settle your claim than risk losing at trial.
Boost Your Injury Victim Credibility
You can’t change your personal history, and you can’t hide important facts from the insurance adjuster. The more money that’s involved, the deeper the adjuster will dig for reasons to limit or deny your claim.
Depending on the nature of your injury claim, personal history that can work against you includes:
- Driving citations
- Criminal convictions
- Multiple similar insurance claims
- Substance abuse
In general, an insurance company, or a judge or jury for that matter, will put more stock in the testimony of an injury victim with a cleaner background and a more honest reputation.
Personal factors that work to your advantage can include:
- A stable work history
- Participation in a local school, church, or other community events
- Age and experience
Example: Cleaner Background Prevails
Max is an insurance adjuster with two new injury claims to review.
The first claim involves Shirley, who was injured in a hit-and-run accident. Max researchers Shirley’s past and discovers she has multiple speeding tickets, received counseling for alcohol abuse, and jumps from job to job.
The second claim involves Marcos, who broke his arm in a slip and fall. Max finds that Marcos has a stellar background.
Marcos is in his mid-30s and has worked for the same employer for the past 12 years. He’s happily married with a four-year-old daughter. Marcos spends his free time jogging, and coaching a local basketball league.
The chances are high that Max will deny Shirley’s claim or offer her a low settlement. He has serious doubts about her version of the accident, and her background could cause a jury to doubt her reliability.
On the other hand, Max will likely offer Marcos a high settlement to keep his claim out of court. He is a credible injury victim with an upstanding and stable history.
Fast Action Makes a Difference
You can’t change your personal history, but what you say and do after an injury makes a difference.
Victims lose credibility if they delay in reporting an injury or have difficulty providing details throughout a case. A reliable witness is never a confused one.
Here’s what you can do to boost your injury victim credibility:
- Report the Injury: Call 911 to report car accidents or dog attacks, notify the property owner of injuries, or ask for the manager in stores or restaurants. Try not to leave the area before reporting an incident.
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention: See your doctor or go to the nearest hospital or urgent care center. Tell your care provider when, where, and how you were injured. Delaying medical care can ruin your credibility with the insurance adjuster.
- Give Details: Truthful victim-witnesses tell their story in detail so that any person listening can understand what happened. For example, include details when describing where you were and what you were doing just before and during the incident. You can say if the floor was wet, or what you were doing when driving. Clear and descriptive details boost credibility.
- Be Consistent: Credible injury victims have a story to tell right after an accident and will have to re-tell it throughout a case. Honest and reliable victims have a consistent and unwavering account of the incident. It helps to write down everything you remember while the events surrounding your injury are still fresh in your mind.
- Think Before You Speak: Adjusters know they’ve got the advantage if you start yelling or threatening lawsuits in anger. Your credibility increases when you negotiate with patience and persistence.
Insurance adjusters evaluate the injury victim’s credibility after taking a recorded statement from the victim. Consider talking to an attorney before you agree to a recorded statement. Anything you say during the statement can be used against you.
Evidence Supports Victim Credibility
Injury victims can tell more detailed and compelling stories if they gather evidence and review it as their case moves forward. Keep track of all paperwork related to your claim, such as:
- Police reports
- Medical bills and records
- Insurance policies
- Witness statements
- Legal documents
Injury victims don’t have to let authorities collect the only evidence in a case. Use your cell phone or camera to take photos of:
- The accident scene, including damaged objects like cars or bikes
- Conditions contributing to the incident, like a wet floor, broken stairs, or icy sidewalk
- Your injuries after they happen and throughout your recovery
- Blood on the ground, torn or bloodied clothing, and more
Protect Your Right to Injury Compensation
Most insurance adjusters will negotiate a fair settlement with a credible injury victim rather than risk a lawsuit. However, sometimes negotiations fail no matter who you are or how well you prepared your evidence.
The higher the stakes, the more likely that the insurance company or their defense attorney will try to discredit you and your injury claim.
You don’t have to fight them alone. A skilled personal injury attorney can preserve your rights and your reputation.
Most attorneys don’t charge injury victims for their initial consultation. It costs nothing to find out what an experienced attorney can do for you.
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