If you accept 20 percent responsibility for the accident, that now becomes part of the record
Hartford, CT (PRWEB) March 19, 2008
Is an insurance company dragging its feet over the repair money for your wrecked car?
That strategy has become increasingly common, according to Hartford, CT. lawyer John Haymond, the president and senior partner of Haymond Law.
Haymond warns that the insurer's real goal is to limit your personal injury claim.
The insurance company for the at-fault driver is legally obligated to pay for damages in a crash, Haymond says, "but when it comes time for insurers to honor their legal obligation, they stonewall you."
Most people can't go out and buy a new car, and they may not have the funds to repair the old one, Haymond says. So when the insurance company fights them on property damage, they're forced to take less than the amount that they deserve.
By doing that, they could ultimately hurt their personal injury claim, Haymond cautions.
Connecticut uses the "comparative negligence" doctrine, Haymond says, which reduces the damages that accident victims can recover based upon their degree of fault.
For instance, when a motorist is hit from behind, the driver in the rear car is almost always at fault, "but the insurance company of the other driver will take the position that my client was partially at fault," Haymond says.
"If you accept 20 percent responsibility for the accident, that now becomes part of the record," Haymond says. "That could come back to haunt you in the personal injury case because you may automatically lose 20 percent of any jury award you win."
Haymond's law firm has developed a successful strategy to protect the property damage amount and preserve a full personal injury award.
"We are one of the few firms -- possibly the only one in Connecticut -- with a property damage specialist on staff as a courtesy to all clients," Haymond says. "That way, we can do all the talking on your behalf so that you may avoid being tricked into signing something that you'll later regret."
In cases where clients have a compelling reason to resolve the property damage prematurely, Haymond's firm prepares a special release "so that won't be a problem in the future personal injury case."
Insurers are less likely to clash over the property damage against a law firm like Haymond Law, which has demonstrated a willingness to file a lawsuit and take the case to court, Haymond says.
"We have a history of fighting back by putting these cases into lawsuits even if it's just a property damage issue," Haymond says.
Denying payments on damage claims comes at a time when the ratio of insurance claims to drivers is on the decline.
According to the state Department of Transportation, there were about 80,000 crashes in the latest year for which detailed government statistics have been published. Someone was hurt in about half of those crashes, with about 13,000 accidents involving moderate or severe injuries.
A 2008 report from the Insurance Research Council found that from 2000 through 2006, the frequency of property damage claims decreased by 11 percent while the bodily injury claim frequency dropped by 19 percent.
During that same period, the severity or cost of claims was up by 18 percent for property damage and 22 percent for bodily injury. Those increases were largely attributable to the rising cost of automobile repair and medical care, the report said.
Haymond, who has been a personal injury lawyer for more than 30 years, says the arbitrary denial of property damage claims by insurance companies is getting worse.
"What we are finding is that those companies avoid, delay and deny their responsibilities," Haymond says. "And nobody is holding the insurance company accountable for their actions."
About John Haymond
John Haymond has been a Connecticut personal injury lawyer for more than 30 years and is president and senior partner of Haymond Law, a 10-lawyer firm with attorneys licensed to practice in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. For more information, visit the firm's Web site at http://www.haymondlaw.com.