This week is my 13th anniversary…of being hit by a car. Yep, 13 years. I spent Father’s Day in the Stanford University Hospital Intensive Care Unit that year. My youngest was eight weeks old. Her siblings were two and four years old. While it may have been my most memorable Father’s Day, it was far from the best I’ve celebrated.
Recently a friend of mine asked why I didn’t get $90 million like Tracy Morgan and Ardley Fuqua reportedly received. That’s a good question. My somewhat cynical, but honest, response was that I’m neither rich nor famous. Therefore, the car accident settlement is worth much less. Here’s why. The potential embarrassment I could bring to bear on the companies holding the liability for my injuries was minimal. My friend agreed that was probably the right reason.
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An Example of Car Accident Settlements for the Rich and Famous
Let me preface this with the statement that ValChoice in no way wish to minimize the impact of the accident had on Mr. Morgan or his loved one’s. Without doubt, Tracy Morgan’s accident was a tragedy. Mr. Morgan was more than just seriously injured in the accident. Even worse, a friend of his passed away in the accident. With that as background, my friend commented that he would happily take somewhere in the range of 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation for a payout of tens of millions of dollars.
An Example of Car Accident Settlements for the Rest of us
My friend has a good point. Life would certainly be much easier after a car accident settlement like Mr. Morgan received. For the rest of us it’s not so easy. For the “not rich and not famous,” most would be happy with one, or more, zeros taken off the settlement. In reality, even that’s a stretch. Read on, having lived this experience, the following explains how the process works.
Why are car accident settlements smaller for you and I?
There are several reasons:
- First, it’s important to understand that most insurance companies don’t want to pay large claims. Therefore, large car accident settlements are an uphill battle from the very beginning.
- Second, the story about an insurance company taking advantage of a claimant doesn’t generate much interest by the media. Therefore, if you’re not rich or famous, the chance you can generate embarrassing press coverage for the insurance company involved is low. This means the risk of bad publicity over average car accident settlements is virtually non-existent.
- Third, big insurance companies with big advertising budgets are confident they can weather the storm of bad publicity with their billion dollar advertising budgets. In an industry where there’s little customer interaction, advertising works.
- Fourth, insurance companies know that most people need the money, not the headache of a lawsuit. This enables small settlements.
- Fifth, nearly all settlements are behind closed doors with confidentiality agreements in place.
Mr. Morgan got Lucky
It sounds terrible to say Mr. Morgan got lucky. However, in the sense of getting a much better than average car accident settlement, he did. Importantly, he probably also had the best car accident attorney money could buy. Without doubt, high profile cases attract high profile car accident attorneys.
I wasn’t lucky enough to get hit by a WalMart truck. WalMart is a business that has a high touch with their customers. Being dependent on customers regularly returning to their stores, businesses like WalMart don’t want bad press. Importantly, a famous person like Tracy Morgan could deliver the bad press they fear. That’s why WalMart settled the lawsuit with Mr. Morgan and Mr. Fuqua.
Not surprisingly, the insurance company didn’t like the settlement. Therefore, the insurance company filed a lawsuit against WalMart. The lawsuit between WalMart and Liberty Mutual dragged on for another couple years. This secondary lawsuit was finally settled with no record of the final settlement. Of course, see the fifth point above.
What can consumers do to protect themselves?
First and foremost, only do business with the best companies. There are a lot of good insurance companies. Fortunately, they are no longer hard to find. Good insurance companies used to be hard to find for the simple reason that there was no transparency. Therefore, consumers didn’t know which companies were good or which were bad. What has changed is that now ValChoice names the best companies. In fact, we name them in every state.
Also, ignore advertisements. Instead, get real data on companies when buying insurance.
To find a list of the best companies in your state, click the links below. We provide this information for both auto and home insurance. Best of all, the information is free.
The Challenge of Personal Injury Lawsuits
Navigating a personal injury claim is extremely difficult. I know. I filed a personal injury claim after being hit by a car. Initially, I only wanted to get reimbursed for the medical bills the insurance company refused to pay. Unfortunately, filing an insurance claim didn’t work. The insurance company refused to pay the personal injury claim. Therefore, the claim became a personal injury lawsuit.
With a personal injury lawsuits, it’s hard to even get a straight answer about what the injuries are worth. Not because it’s impossible to know. It’s very possible to know the approximate range. The reason is some lawyers over promise. Other lawyers under promise. Some won’t even make estimates.
To help make the process easier, one of the first actions we undertook was to build a personal injury claim calculator. It’s free to anyone who wants to use it. The ValChoice personal injury claim calculator is needed by anyone who’s been injured. The personal injury claim calculator is not only necessary as part of a lawsuit. The calculator is also necessary for dealing with personal injury claim lawyers. This calculator let’s you gauge how honest the personal injury lawyer you’re interviewing is being with you.
Where to Look for Transparency
ValChoice does a thorough analysis of companies so we can provide reliable information. Honestly, we don’t know of any other companies that try really do the analysis to figure this out. The alternatives are sorely lacking. For example:
- User surveys are typically targeted to make sure the companies with the biggest advertising budgets score well. That way they will buy the results to use in their marketing campaigns
- Web reviews – if they’re good – the reviewers were probably paid. Think about it, consumers don’t want to spend time reviewing an insurance company. Unless they’re really angry. Therefore, any time you see a large number of web reviews, it’s safe to assume they were paid for. Reviews that are paid for are meaningless. Ignore them.
When you get a rating from ValChoice, if the company gets a good rating, tell a friend. If they don’t get a good rating, change to a better company.
End Note: insurance settlements, including payments and terms, are typically kept confidential. Therefore, the settlement received by Tracy Morgan and Ardley Fuqua was calculated from court documents and reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
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