A Law Firm for State Farm Auto Insurance Claims Serving Illinois and Greater Chicago
At Malman Law, P.C., we are committed to fighting for injury victims’ rights, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that you receive every penny you are entitled to as quickly as possible.
About State Farm
State Farm is far and away the largest auto insurance company in the United States, writing well over $30 billion in premiums. Although this insurance industry giant cultivates the image of a “good neighbor,” it operates under the same incentives as any other for-profit business does: The key to profit is maximizing revenues and minimizing expenditures, and injury claims are expenditures. Once you file a claim against State Farm, don’t be surprised to find them behaving less like a “good neighbor” and more like a competing business operating right next door to yours.
Third Party Claims Against State Farm
Most auto accident victims resolve their cases by filing third-party insurance claims against the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy. State Farm will under no circumstances pay out beyond its policy limits, regardless of the value of your claim. Unfortunately, many at-fault drivers lack the personal financial resources to make up the difference between the value of your claim and the amount paid out by State Farm, forcing you to look for alternative sources of compensation (see below).
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims Against Your Own State Farm Policy
You may claim against your own State Farm uninsured/underinsured motorist policy if:
- The at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy limits are not enough to cover the value of your claim (in this case, you will only be permitted to claim the increment that liability insurance didn’t cover).
- The at-fault driver was illegally driving without liability insurance at the time of the accident.
- You were the victim of a hit and run accident and the at-fault driver disappeared.
In all cases, you can expect State Farm to be looking for ways to reduce the value of your claim or deny it altogether. Unless you are an extremely skilled negotiator with expert knowledge of auto insurance claims adjuster tactics, you will be at a serious disadvantage without skilled legal representation by your side to protect your interests.
Common Insurance Company Negotiating Tricks
Insurance company adjusters are professionals at saving money for their employers, and most of them carry an invisible bag of tricks with them to any contact with an unrepresented claimant. Some of the most common tricks are:
- Asking you to state exactly what time the accident occurred. If they can pressure you into a specific answer, such as 3:42 p.m., they can turn around later and suggest that you caused the accident by looking at your watch instead of keeping your eye on the road.
- Offering a quick settlement before you know the full extent of your injuries, especially if you are under financial pressure. The insurance adjuster may even visit you in the hospital for this purpose.
- Imposing an arbitrary settlement deadline on the assumption that you are unfamiliar with the two-year statute of limitations deadline.
- Lulling you into missing the statute of limitations deadline though constant delays.
- Convincing you that people with “good neighbors” don’t need their own lawyer.
- Attempting to access your medical records for a “fishing expedition” looking for pre-existing injuries or anything else that might reduce the value of your claim. You would have to authorize this in writing, so don’t sign any medical records authorization unless you lawyer approves.
- Asking for a recorded statement and then demanding that you answer trick questions.
- Keeping you confused about the terms of coverage. Insurance policies are often written in “legalese.” Especially if you are a third-party claimant, don’t expect State Farm to translate the policy you are claiming against into plain English.
- Attempting to blame you for the accident, either fully or only partially.
- Convincing you that retaining a lawyer is too expensive. Malman Law will not charge you any legal fees unless we win a recovery for you.
- Offering a quick but small settlement in exchange for signing a release of liability. This tactic can be disastrously persuasive if you are under severe financial or emotional stress.
- Hiring an investigator to take misleading photos of you that could be used to indicate that you are lying about the extent of your injuries.
- Blaming a third party for the accident.
- Stonewalling you, particularly if you don’t have a lawyer.
These are only a few of the dozens of tactics commonly used by auto insurance companies to deny liability altogether or pay out a fraction of what a claim is worth. At Malman Law, we have seen it all many times before and we know how to protect you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are there any special considerations in an accident caused by a drunk driver?
Obviously, it is much easier to win a judgment or settlement against a drunk driver than against a sober one. Victory is not guaranteed in every instance, however, and just how much easier it is to win depends on various facts. Was the driver arrested for DUI at the scene of the accident? If not, you may have a hard time proving it. Even if you do, you will also have to prove that the driver’s intoxication actually caused the accident. While this is normally unproblematic, under certain circumstances it can be difficult to prove.
On the bright side, you could win a claim against an intoxicated driver even if he or she was acquitted in criminal court. The reason for this is that in a civil lawsuit (and by extension, a private settlement negotiations), you only have to prove liability by a more likely than not standard rather than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used for a criminal prosecution. This means that you need only prove more likely than not that the other driver negligently caused the accident.
Under certain circumstances, you can sue the vendor who sold the drunk driver alcohol, although your recovery from the vendor would be subject to certain dollar limits.
What options do I have if the driver is uninsured or underinsured?
A problem naturally arises if the other driver was uninsured or underinsured at the time of the accident, because you face the possibility of being unable to satisfy a judgment even if you do win the case. You may have several options, however, depending on the facts of your case:
- File a claim against your uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance carrier, as described above.
- Seek a settlement or judgment against the defendant driver in his or her individual capacity, if he or she has the resources to pay.
- Sue the defendant driver’s employer, if he or she was on-duty at the time of the accident. Remember that most truck drivers are not the employees of the trucking company they work for – they are considered “independent contractors.”
- Sue the manufacturer of a defective automobile component (brakes, for example) that caused the accident.
- Sue the city or state government if a defect in the road or a malfunctioning traffic light caused the accident. Certain limitations apply, however, when you file a claim against the government.
How will a pre-existing injury affect my case?
It depends on the nature of your injury and the possible relationship between the injury you are filing a claim for and your pre-existing injury. If you have chronic back problems, for example, and you claim a back injury in a vehicle accident, you can expect State Farm to question whether your current injury was caused by the accident or whether it was pre-existing. At the very least, you can expect State Farm to deny part of the claim based on your pre-existing injury.
Nevertheless, it is important to be honest about your injury right from the start, because it will not be helpful if you appear to be trying to hide something.
Can my lawyer accept a settlement without my consent?
Not unless you have issued written permission, either in the form of an authorization to accept a settlement within certain specific parameters, or if you have medical problems that prevent you from making the decision of settlement yourself (a power of attorney in favor of your lawyer, which allows him or her to make settlement decisions on your behalf). A lawyer who accepts a settlement on your behalf without your consent can be subject to disciplinary action by the Illinois State Bar Association, and may even be barred from the practice of law.
Taking Decisive Action
It is important that you get a skilled personal injury lawyer involved in your case as early in the process as possible in the process, so that you won’t make a mistake that could tie the hands of your lawyer even after you do secure representation. You don’t need to worry that you can’t afford us – if we take your case, we will waive all legal fees until and unless you actually collect a recovery. Call Malman Law today or contact us online so that we can discuss your case and advise you of your options.