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Can I Trust a Trucking Company’s Insurer?

Trucking insurance companies are most often responsible for paying injured victims after an 18-wheeler accident, but they'll do everything they can to avoid it. Their actions in pursuit of that goal may vary, but they'll try hard to protect the company's assets and avoid honoring their client's commercial policy. That may lead people to wonder: Can an 18-wheeler accident victim ever trust a commercial insurer to act in their interests?

Answer: No. You are their adversary, and their sole interest in communicating with you is to limit what they have to pay out.

That may sound cynical, but I'm not saying insurance companies are villains—just businesses whose priorities don't generally align with those of victims. Because of that, they should be treated cautiously during any interaction.

Why is the Insurer Untrustworthy?

People sometimes think of insurance as an impartial system for balancing the scales after one person hurts another, but it's actually a multibillion-dollar industry whose profit is based on collecting more in premiums than it deals out in policy fulfillment. The federal government requires 18-wheeler drivers to carry hefty insurance policies, and as the ones responsible for paying that after an accident insurers have a vested interest in getting negligent truckers and their employers off the hook. They're far more concerned with their bottom lines than they are with helping truck accident victims get back on their feet. With that in mind, they may try any number of tactics to downplay a victim's case—or even get it thrown out.

What Might the Insurer Do after a Truck Accident?

There's no shortage of tricks available to insurers as they seek to undermine a claim and avoid fulfilling a policy. Below are a few of their favored tactics.

Send Their Own Investigators

One of the first and most common steps an insurer will take after their client's driver causes a crash is sending its own people to the scene. The adjusters will capture every detail they can about the accident—most particularly any they might use to spin the narrative to their advantage. They may also try to influence what police write on reports or tamper with the crash scene. We've even seen situations where adjusters took or destroyed important evidence; it's rare to see such cloak-and-dagger methods, but it happens.

I once worked on a case where a commercial truck hit my client's car almost head-on at night, causing fatal injuries. Evidence strongly suggested the trucker crossed over the center line, so because his commercial policy was at stake the company's insurer sprang into action. They sent out investigators and finally argued that the trucker couldn't see the victim's car because it had no headlights.

To be clear, the defense wasn't saying the car's lights were off at the time; rather, they said it had no headlamps at all. That sounded crazy to us, so we went to the wrecker yard and examined the car. Sure enough, the lamps were gone.

A closer look revealed scratch marks around the lamps' sockets—like something sharp had dug into them recently. On a hunch we checked the yard's sign-in logs and found the defense's investigators were there not long before us. Reviewing security footage from the yard's cameras, we saw them remove the car's headlights with hand tools. With that damning footage in hand we forced the trucking company to admit liability—and the insurer to honor the policy.

We were fortunate to find a smoking gun in that instance, but uncovering such shady practices is often much harder. Regardless, that story is a cautionary tale about how some commercial insurers feel the ends justify the means. That's also a core principle behind their calls to accident victims.

Trick the Victim into Self-Sabotage

Adjusters travel to crash scenes and collect evidence, but they also reach out to accident victims and take down information. Something as seemingly-innocuous as a chat with an insurance representative could have far greater implications than you realize at the time. If the trucking company's insurer calls you up to discuss your wreck, be aware they're most likely working you for information they can use to shut down your case or reduce their obligation. Adjusters are trained to steer conversations in certain directions and record you saying things they can throw in your face later.

Consider this scenario: Kevin was hurt in a serious crash caused by a distracted truck driver. The following day an adjuster from the trucking company's insurer called and Kevin, still dazed and in pain from the crash, agreed to let them record the conversation. The adjuster's first question was "How are you?" and Kevin reflexively answered "Fine" as he would have if anyone else asked. The conversation moves on, but the company now has audio of Kevin—the badly-hurt crash victim they don't want to pay—saying he's "fine," which they may use to argue that his injuries are less severe than suggested.

Talk the Victim into Accepting a Bad Settlement

On the same calls as the ones mentioned above, insurers may also make lowball settlement offers to the victim. Quick money may sound appealing to a stressed-out and/or semi-concussed person who's worried about bills and is intimidated by the thought of a lawsuit. Unfortunately, those who take the proposed deal often find the offered amount was nowhere near enough to get them back on their feet.

Similarly, the company may indicate they're willing to settle—but only for property damage. It's not uncommon to hear the company agree to fix the victim's car; we've even heard tales of adjusters showing up to hospital rooms not long after a truck accident and offering barely-conscious victims a brand new vehicle to replace the one demolished in the wreck. Of course, in both situations the victim also had to sign away their right to seek any further damages.

Even intentionally making an obviously-low settlement offer may be a trick. The victim may then rightly refuse, after which the company can shrug and say it tried or tell the victim it needs "time to reevaluate" and then just never call again. That segues into their next strategy.

Run Down the Clock

Every state has laws about how long an injured person has to file suit, typically referred to as the statute of limitations. In Texas a victim has two years from the date of their injury to file suit; if more than two years pass before the case is filed in court, the victim is then barred from taking action.

That deadline gives insurance companies strong incentive to kick the can down the road as far as possible rather than resolve a claim. If a victim didn't fall for their other attempts like lowball settlements or manipulating them during a recorded statement, the company may just try to stall proceedings and run the clock out. Frustration with the snail's pace leads some to accept lower settlements just to be done with the whole thing, while desperation for at least some money back in their pocket makes others regretfully take the offer. Whatever makes them give in, the company comes out on top.

What Should I Do if the Insurer Reaches Out?

The best defense against all these tactics is to let an attorney handle them. Experienced truck accident lawyers like the ones at Grossman Law Offices are wise to insurers' tactics and won't let them derail a case. They will manage communication and negotiation with the insurer, investigate the crash thoroughly, and minimize the victim's liability.

That's one of the reasons we often advise people who call the firm after a crash to "lawyer up:" In a complex truck accident case, the one person you can count on to work for you is your attorney. The Texas truck accident lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have decades of combined experience assisting victims and families hurt by 18-wheeler crashes, and are at your disposal to discuss your situation. If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a truck accident, call us day or night for a free and confidential consultation.

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