In the aftermath of a serious Washington car accident, survivors often look to the at-fault motorist’s insurance company to recompense. However, negotiating a fair settlement is rarely easy. Even if you have a seemingly open-and-close case, the adjuster could take days, weeks, or even months to offer a settlement—a settlement that may fall short of your expectations, leaving you in debt and on the brink of financial insolvency.
Understanding Why Insurance Companies Delay Negotiations
Washington State requires every vehicle operating on public roads to be supported by liability coverage. Under the state’s fault-based insurance system, this liability coverage can be used to pay down the costs of an accident.
However, insurance companies often have motivations beyond good-faith negotiations. While they might have a legal obligation to provide compensation, they sometimes try to delay payment for as long as possible. A carrier might delay a claim for any one or more of the following reasons:
- The adjuster needs additional evidence to adjudicate or make a formal decision on the claim.
- The adjuster believes a claim is either fraudulent or exaggerated.
- The insurance company wishes to avoid incurring a loss and hopes the victim will either grow tired of never-ending negotiations and accept a lower settlement or simply bear the accident and medical expenses out-of-pocket
Some claims—especially claims relating to serious, life-altering injuries—take time to assess and adjudicate. The adjuster may be obliged to obtain, inspect, and evaluate a wide range of evidence, from crash scene data to medical records. Depending on the severity of an accident, simply poring over this paperwork can take weeks.
However, some delays have less to do with formalities than the insurance carrier’s own financial incentives. Since these companies are fundamentally for-profit enterprises, they may seek to preserve their profit margins by intentionally taking time to even initiate negotiations.
How Insurance Companies Create Self-Serving Delays
If the carrier wishes to avoid making an offer, it could fabricate delays by:
Demanding Endless Amounts of Evidence
After a serious Washington car accident, an adjuster needs limited access to:
- Crash scene evidence
- Medical records
- Eyewitness statements and testimony
When assessing an individual claim, the adjuster may consider the totality of this evidence to determine fault and calculate an initial settlement offer. However, insurance companies sometimes ask for records they know most people cannot procure, especially if weeks or months have passed since the initial accident.
Claiming Your Injuries Are Fraudulent or Exaggerated
Adjusters are sometimes skeptical of certain claims, especially those involving:
Insurance providers can’t be faulted for doing their due diligence on every case. However, if the adjuster takes an inordinate amount of time to conclude an investigation, they may not suspect fraud—they may simply be searching for an excuse to reduce your compensation or deny benefits.
Acting in Bad Faith
In a worst-case scenario, a carrier could act in bad faith, making it difficult to establish an initial point of contact. Even if it received your claim and stated it’s actively being reviewed, an adjuster might refuse to take your phone calls, ignore emails, and ask questions they know you can’t answer.
Why Delays Can Devastate Legitimate Insurance Claims
Insurance companies sometimes need more time to finalize a claim—but if they act in bad faith to avoid paying a significant settlement, they put accident victims’ lives and livelihoods on the line.
A delay could cause difficulties including, but not limited to:
- Late compensation. Even if the company eventually offers a fair settlement, you may have already accrued significant medical debt—expenses that you might be able to pay off with this compensation, but meanwhile, you experienced difficulties sustaining yourself in the months after an accident.
- Loss of evidence. If an adjuster or the court has any questions about liability, delayed negotiations can result in the loss of critical evidence. Without the right evidence, the insurance company may refuse to even consider your claim.