According to the Department of Transportation, large truck crashes, i.e. commercial trucks and buses, increased by 5 percent from 2011 to 2012. This number includes 3,802 fatal crashes caused specifically by commercial trucks.
Why are large trucks, such as tourist buses and tractor trailers, much more dangerous? The basic answer is that these vehicles are 25 times more massive than cars and lightweight trucks. Buses typically transport dozens of passengers, while tractor trailers often pull 15,000+ pounds of weight, including everything from propane to livestock. If you remember from your physics class in high school, the force an object generates is equal to its mass times its acceleration. The more massive an object – and the faster it changes velocity – the great the force it produces. A crash involving commercial trucks is thus intrinsically much more likely to generate huge forces than, say, a collision between two small vehicles. However, this fact of physics does not give insurance companies a free pass to engage in unfair and illegal behavior following commercial truck crashes. Here are four terrible but surprisingly common tactics insurers use to protect their bottom lines and create headaches for victims and their families.
#1. They Needlessly Draw Out the Investigation.
To be fair, commercial truck accidents often involve fiercely complex logistics. Authorities may need to investigate a dozen or more entities, ranging from all the drivers involved to the people who packed the truck. Insurance companies also may want to investigate any possible mechanical defects as well as probe the processes of the company responsible for maintaining the commercial vehicle and hiring and training drivers. Multiple entities can share negligence, including contractors, the trucking company, and those in charge of road maintenance. In general: the more potential defendants and the more complex the crash, the longer the investigation. It’s okay for insurers to do due diligence before offering a settlement. However, many companies stretch out this process just to exhaust claimants, in the hopes that they’ll accept a lowball offer or just give up altogether.
#2. They Invest Massive Resources into “Debunking” Claims and into Putting Up Obstacles for Claimants.
When insurance companies investigate commercial truck crashes, they understand that hundreds of thousands of dollars – potentially millions of dollars – may be on the line, and they respond to the financial threats accordingly. Famously, All State Insurance (the folks that advertise “you’re in good hands with All State”) once engaged in a secret strategy that become known internally as the Boxing Gloves strategy, designed to metaphorically punch out claimants and any attorneys who would help them, thus forcing unfairly low settlement offers.
#3. They Trick and Intimidate Claimants into Signing Away Their Rights
If you’re involved in an accident with a commercial truck, an insurance agent may ask you to sign documents or make statements about the crash and its aftermath. As a general rule, avoid giving into such requests, unless your legal representative gives you the green light to do so. You can forfeit substantial rights if you sign even innocuous seeming documents. Alternatively, an adjuster might ask you how you’re feeling after a collision. If you say something innocent to the effect of “I’m feeling better” – meaning that you’re now a “7” on a pain scale of “1-10” – the insurance company can later take your admission way out of context to suggest that you weren’t injured at all. Remember: this may be your first time contending with an accident, but the insurance company has dealt with similar situations thousands of times before.
#4. They Value the Bottom Line More Than the Health and Success of Claimants.
Insurance companies are businesses, and they must keep an eye on the bottom line. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being profit-minded. However, the financial incentives not infrequently push insurers to engage in delaying claims for no reason or to throw up unfair obstacles. A serious commercial truck crash could cost a liable insurer millions of dollars. To that point, insurers have evolved an array of tactics and strategies to stall claims, complexify the claims process, provide low ball offers and use strong arm negotiating tactics to minimize the financial damage. Some companies use a software called Colossus, which uses advanced algorithms and data processing to help minimize how much insurers have to pay to claimants.
Here’s the bottom line. Insurance companies have a tremendous amount at stake in serious truck crashes, and they have developed and beta-tested innumerable strategies to avoid having to pay out six and seven figure settlements. Although agents and even the companies themselves may sincerely want to aid victims, these businesses are not “on your side,” necessarily. A qualified truck accident attorney with experience battling insurers on behalf of claimants like you can provide a confidential, thorough consultation to help you get clear about your rights and potential avenues of recourse.
This is a guest post from Steve Roberts. He is the managing attorney at the Law Office of Steve Roberts, LLC. Steve specializes in personal injury cases that stem from motor vehicle accidents. He has developed his personal injury practice and became part of the Colorado legal community as a member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association and the Thompson G. Marsh Inn of Court.