Insurance companies use various strategies in an effort to get unrepresented claimants to settle their claims prematurely, often for far less than fair value. In Alberta an injury claimant must file a claim with the court before the “limitation period” expires. If a claimant fails to file a proper claim prior to the limitation deadline the claimant loses the right to make a claim. When not represented by a lawyer, claimants often panic when a limitation deadline is approaching and end up making a quick settlement for far less than the claim is worth. Even claimants who have not yet completed treatments for their injuries sometimes succumb to pressure from insurance adjusters to settle their claims for a fraction of what they deserve. Claimants do have the right to continue their claim beyond the limitation deadline providing they file the appropriate papers with the Court prior to any limitation deadline. *
We strongly recommend that claimants retain legal counsel long before the approach of any limitation deadline. It is difficult, and sometimes impossible, for a lawyer to assist unrepresented claimants who wait until the last moment before an impending limitation deadline to retain legal counsel.
Another concern is that many unrepresented claimants are being told by insurance adjusters that their injuries fall under the minor injury cap legislation. This is not always true. In many cases certain types of injuries, including chronic pain, may fall outside the cap legislation. Unfortunately, this information isn’t making it to those affected and they often end up settling their claims for amounts lower than they should have.
* WARNING – Although there is a general two year limitation period in Alberta before which injured persons must file a claim with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, shorter limitation periods may apply in cases involving an accident with an uninsured driver (90 days) or when suing a municipality (21 days). If you miss a limitation period you may lose your right to make a claim. We strongly advise all claimants to protect their rights by retaining legal counsel at an early date.
If you have questions regarding the content of this article, please contact:
Trent Brown, B.A., LL.B.
James H. Brown & Associates
As an injured victim you want to be fairly compensated for your pain and suffering as well as all financial losses suffered as a result of your injuries. Insurance companies, on the other hand, have no interest in seeing that you are fairly compensated. They are in business to make a profit and the less they pay out to claimants like you the more money they will make. This is known as an adversarial relationship – your interests are directly opposite to the interests of the insurance company.
Because of this adversarial relationship you should be on your guard when an insurance adjuster suggests you settle your claim quickly. Often adjusters act like they only have your interest at heart. Beware - this is rarely the case. Adjusters are fully aware that most injured people have little knowledge of what their claim may be worth. They capitalize on this lack of knowledge by attempting to settle claims quickly before the injured person has a chance to consult a lawyer for advice. In some cases adjusters even suggest to people that they avoid hiring a lawyer saying lawyers will take their money, etc. In many cases these scare tactics actually work and people end up settling their claims for less than fair value.
One thing of utmost importance is that you do not settle your claim before you know the final outcome of your injuries. The absolute worst case scenario is where a person settles their claim for a relatively small amount of money before their injuries are fully resolved and then their injury symptoms worsen. Once you settle you cannot go back and ask for more money even if your injuries worsen to the point where you are completely disabled. We have seen cases where what initially appeared to be minor injuries eventually worsened to where the person was permanently disabled. We strongly advise people not to rush into settling their claim prematurely. Before settling your claim you should consult with an experienced injury lawyer. We are a happy to review your case without cost or obligation.