It has become customary for liability insurance companies to “delay and pay” claims of injury victims in North Carolina. Normally, when a person is injured in an automobile or other accident he or she must wait until the very end of the case to receive compensation from the negligent party’s insurance company. When legitimate questions of liability occur, it’s understandable that the insurance company will not pay a claim without more information or proof of negligence. However, what about the clear liability cases?Even these cases can go on for more than a year. In the meantime, the injured party is expected to carry on the payment of everyday bills and expenses.

How can an injury victim who is unable to work make ends meet? And what if the injured party does not have personal health insurance or medical disability coverage and so their doctor and hospital bills fall behind for payment, or, what’s worse, the injured person simply doesn’t go to the doctor and get the needed treatment because there’s no money to pay upfront. Many doctors refuse to treat patients without insurance, hoping for payment later when and if a settlement occurs. Who in the legislative system can right this wrong? It is not a law that the insurance company must wait until the end of the case to start payment. In clear liability cases, the insurance company normally settles the property damage portion of the case very quickly so they are accepting liability and fault on behalf of their insured. But the injury proceeds rarely come forth so quickly.

The insurance company wants to make one payment, in exchange for a complete release, to settle the case. And because of that position, injury victims must wait until they are sure they are finished with treatment before considering a settlement. It is merely the insurance company’s decision to wait and wait and wait to pay for lost wages and medical expenses until one global settlement is reached or until they are legally required by a court to do so. Unfortunately, this can set up the injured person for a catastrophic situation where he or she gets so desperate that the injured party actually considers the often ridiculous low ball settlement offers from the insurance adjuster just to get some money — any money — to survive. And for these injury victims, the “delay and pay” system doesn’t work.

This article was written by Todd P. Oxner