State Farm auto insurance claims in California are common simply due the fact that the “like a good neighbor” company is writes over 30 Million car insurance policies a year and has an 18 percent share of the auto insurance market in the U.S. (number one market share). In the Golden State, they also write more auto policies than any other insurance carrier. I thought I would explore what it is like to deal with State Farm in my experience as a Los Angeles personal injury attorney with almost 20 years experience filing and litigating claims with this company.
Pre-Litigation Claims Process
Opening up a claim with State Farm is fairly straightforward. In fact this can be done through their website (link here). If State Farm is your own insurance carrier, I would suggest going ahead and reporting any auto accident involving you, a family member or a vehicle for which you are the registered owner. Failure to report a claim promptly can be used as a reason to deny a claim. However, even if State Farm is your carrier, going beyond the initial claim reporting process and inspection of your vehicle without an attorney isn’t advisable especially if you have to submit claims for medical payments coverage, collision damage, or uninsured / underinsured motorist claims for bodily injury.
If you are hit by a vehicle with a driver or registered owner who has State Farm and you are injured, you would be best served to retain an attorney prior to contacting their claims office. The adjusters tend to be somewhat aggressive in requesting “recorded statements”, which, as I have pointed out in other posts, is really an attempt to get you to make admissions “on the record” regarding how the accident happened or the nature and extent of bodily harm suffered. These admissions may later be used against you! Reporting the claim through an attorney’s office will ensure that all legal rights are preserved and the facts and injuries are reported in an objective manner that preserves your legal rights.
As far as settlement offers prior to filing a lawsuit, I would put State Farm in the category of “low to middle of the road”. Initial offers usually greatly “discount” based upon their “assessment of reasonable” what the present and future medical expenses should be and then provide very little above that for pain and suffering damages. Depending upon many factors including the extent of documented injury (including positive objective findings from X-rays, MRIs or other diagnostic tools), the extent of property damage to YOUR vehicle, and other facts, the pre-litigation offer usually increases to something approximating reasonable in many cases (especially with attorney involvement) for “soft-tissue” type claims. For any significant injury such as a fracture, disc protrusion or herniation or similar level of harm, State Farm, in my opinion, will NEVER provide a reasonable offer of settlement prior to a lawsuit being filed. They want an opportunity to have full access to medical records through the subpoena process, to be able to have their own, defense doctors examine the injury victim, and to conduct full and complete discovery prior to making any “real” offer.
Post Lawsuit Settlement Negotiations with State Farm Ins. Co. in CA
As discussed above, it is best to get an attorney involved early in the process if there are any significant injuries in your auto claim. This can help preserve evidence of both liability and damages that may otherwise be lost or distorted leaving you with a much weaker case if and when a lawsuit needs to be filed. Upon commencement of litigation, the offer of settlement tends to steadily increase, especially the closer a case gets to trial. State Farm has an “in-house counsel” arrangement to litigate most all auto accident claims. This means that they are simply paying a salary to their lawyers and are not paying them “by the hour”. This works both for and against the injury victim. On the plus side, in house attorneys are less eager to “take every case to trial” or litigate just over “principal” and tend to provide a “voice of reason” to the claims settlement negotiation process. On the minus side, if the claims adjusters (for whatever reason) want to “dig in their heels” their byline is always “millions for defense, not a penny for the plaintiff.” Like most insurance companies, making a settlement offer is usually a business decision and the closer a case gets to a jury trial, the more the costs of proceeding forward outweigh the potential benefits of “playing hardball”. An attorney with good litigation and trial skills and an established reputation for success can make all the difference in obtaining fair compensation for your injuries.
Some Examples of Personal Injury Victims Represented by Steven M. Sweat, APC Where State Farm Insurance Was the Carrier:
Example 1: Client was involved in a major side impact motor vehicle accident with significant injuries including multiple fractures to his femur that required surgery including “internal fixation” (installation of hardware to mend the bone back together). A claim was presented pre-litigation but, no offer was made by the adjuster for State Farm. Once a lawsuit was filed, the matter was turned over to their in-house attorneys. A mediation resulting in a mid five figure offer, which was rejected. The claim was litigated up to 3 weeks from trial and, ultimately, a six figure offer was made and accepted.
Example 2: Client was hit from behind at high speed. The rear end collision resulted in a total loss to his vehicle. Because the client was in his 50’s at the time of the accident and had a “blue collar job”, State Farm immediately began to claim that his injures (several herniated discs in his cervical and lumbar spine) were pre-existing. State Farm offered nothing prior to a lawsuit being filed. After approximately a year of litigation, they made an offer of $30,000 to settle the claim. This was rejected. The case was taken to trial and a jury awarded the plaintiff almost twice that amount (approximately $58,000).
These examples go to show that, when you are dealing with the Nation’s largest auto insurance carrier (a corporation with billions of dollars in resources), it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to obtain fair compensation for a personal injury claim without competent and aggressive legal representation! For any auto accident claim involving State Farm Insurance anywhere in California, including San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, or Central and Northern California, call Steven M. Sweat, APC for a free consultation. We charge no fees unless and until we recover money for you. Our statewide toll free number is 866-252-0735.