If you get injured in an accident, the insurance company’s goal is not to offer a fair settlement.  They aim to settle your case quickly for as little money as possible.  Regardless of your suffering, they will leave you with nothing if they can. 

The insurance companies often resort to unfair and underhanded tactics to avoid a payout. They take advantage of accident victims primarily because they don’t want to lose money on a claim. 

As such, hiring a proven personal injury lawyer is essential to achieving what the insurance companies don’t want: a good result in your case.

Here are 11 of the most common tricks insurance companies use to avoid paying accident victims fairly:

1) Saying the victim caused the accident.

One of the most simple and effective insurance tricks is blaming the victim for the accident.  The insurance company says the victim caused the accident, or at least contributed to it, to escape liability in whole or in part.

The insurance company will try to get the victim to admit fault.  The insurance adjuster will ask leading questions and let the victim talk as much as they want, looking for any shred of evidence they can use to blame the victim for the accident.

The insurance company will conduct its own ‘’investigation’’ of the accident, looking for evidence they can use to blame the victim.  The insurance company will hire lawyers and technical experts to write reports and testify in court that the accident was the victim’s fault.

California is a comparative fault state, meaning the person who caused the accident only compensates the victim for the percentage they are at fault.  Suppose the insurance company can prove that the victim was at least partially at fault.  In that case, they can escape liability at least partly.   However, insurance companies may blame the accident entirely on the victim to avoid liability altogether.

The best defense against this trick is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible following the accident.

2) Saying the victim’s injuries were pre-existing.

Another common insurance trick is to say that the injury was pre-existing and the accident did not cause the damage.  For example, suppose someone is injured in an accident.  The insurance company may say the injury happened in a previous accident to escape liability.

Accident victims may not recover damages for pre-existing injuries.  However, they may recover damages for the worsening of pre-existing injuries.  For example, if a minor pre-existing condition turns into a serious one following an accident, the victim is entitled to recover for worsening symptoms.  A pre-existing condition that wasn’t serious before may become disabling after an accident.  In that case, the victim may recover for the worsening of their condition.

Be transparent with your doctors about pre-existing conditions.  Pre-existing conditions can help your case if the symptoms have worsened or begun to impact your life differently after the accident.  For example, pre-existing conditions may lead to chronic pain that began or worsened due to the accident.  Disabilities may get worse due to accidents.  Report your injuries, including pre-existing conditions, to your doctors and treat your injuries as directed by your doctors.

Also, be transparent with your lawyer about pre-existing conditions.  Hiding pre-existing conditions can damage your credibility as a witness and jeopardize your case.  It’s your lawyer’s job to decide what is essential to your case and what is not.  They can only do their job correctly if they know all of the relevant facts of your case, including any pre-existing conditions that got worse due to the accident.

3) Saying the victim’s injuries occurred after the accident.

The insurance company may claim the victim’s injuries occurred after the accident.  They will examine the victim and their family’s social media accounts for any evidence they can use to argue that their injuries occurred after the accident or that the victim did things to compound their injuries.  We recommend staying off social media until your personal injury case is resolved. 

The best way to avoid this trick is to see a doctor immediately, report all your injuries, and continue treatment as directed by your doctor.   Documentation is critical in personal injury cases.  Reporting the injuries to your doctor, staying consistent with your treatment, and maintaining accurate records will develop and protect your claim.

4) Saying the victim is exaggerating their injuries.  

Insurance companies do everything possible to prove your injury is not as severe as you claim. They will hire doctors, lawyers, and other experts to downplay your injuries and suffering to reduce the amount they must pay. You will need your own team of lawyers and doctors to assess the value of your claim fairly, and it’s fair to say that they would prefer to spend millions to keep these experts on their payroll than give you a fair claim settlement.

The insurance companies will prowl your social media accounts for evidence that you have been doing activities that will appear irresponsible to a jury, such as drinking alcohol. They will use missed doctor’s appointments, gaps in treatment, delays in treatment, and early termination of treatment as evidence that the injury is no more than a little scratch.

Do not wait to seek treatment, do not stop treatment early, and do not miss doctor’s appointments.  If you need help getting to or from doctor’s appointments, your lawyer can help you arrange transportation.

5) Denying insurance coverage.

Every insurance policy has specific terms about the types of accidents and injuries it covers.  The insurance company may say that the accident exceeded the scope of the policy’s coverage to deny the claim in whole or in part. 

Insurance companies sometimes deny claims by saying coverage doesn’t extend to a particular accident.  They also deny coverage by saying the claimant doesn’t meet the liability requirements in the policy.  From our experience, you will likely need a good attorney to ensure the insurance company fully fulfills its contractual obligations.

6) Blaming other people.

An accident can involve several liable parties, including the driver, the driver’s company, the cargo loader, the manufacturer of a defective part, and the government agency responsible for maintaining safe road conditions.  Expect each at-fault party and insurance company to deny liability and blame others for the accident.

Insurance companies have a variety of strategies they use to blame other people for the accident.  They may say things like:

  • You’ve got the wrong guy: It was another driver who caused the accident, and he uses ABC insurance company.
  • Bad construction: The street where the accident occurred is in a dangerous condition.  The city is responsible for the accident.
  • The car company: The automaker had several recalls, and the plaintiff failed to take advantage of the free repairs. The plaintiff and the car company should share the blame.
  • Driver error: Was there a toxicology done on the day of the accident? We checked his social media and found that he likes to buy cannabis from a local dispensary. It was the weed.

7) Withholding evidence and critical information.

The insurance company will conduct its own investigation into the accident.  Even if they have evidence that supports your claim, they may withhold it and force you to hire a lawyer to recover it.  Insurance companies try to hide evidence, even from attorneys. 

Insurance companies fight tooth and nail to withhold relevant evidence that supports victims’ claims.  They use various tactics, including claiming that the evidence is privileged. 

8) Blaming victims for their injuries.

The insurance company will say that the victim took too long to seek treatment, missed doctor’s appointments, stopped treatment early, and did other things to cause their injuries.  Victims must seek treatment for their injuries immediately and continue treatment as directed by their doctor. 

Go to all your medical appointments, and report all your injuries and symptoms to your doctors.  Maintain bills and receipts from your medical appointments.  Lost or disorganized documents can harm your case.

Stay off social media.  Insurance companies prowl victims’ social media for any evidence they can use to say the victim caused their injuries or did things to worsen them.

9) Delaying claims as long as possible.

Insurance companies will delay claims as long as possible to make the victim give in and accept as little as possible.  Some of their tactics are to demand more paperwork, request additional statements, and keep the victim on the phone for hours.

Insurance companies know that accident victims are often financially vulnerable due to medical bills, missed time from work, car repairs, and other expenses related to the accident.  The insurance companies use this to their advantage by delaying settlement to get the victim to accept less out of financial necessity.

Even under the care of an experienced personal injury lawyer, cases may take anywhere from a few months to a few years to resolve.  However, an excellent personal injury lawyer can keep the process moving along and manage the legal aspects of the case so the victim can focus on their recovery.

10) Making low-ball settlement offers.

The insurance company may make a quick settlement offer after the accident.  However, this offer may be lower than the victim’s needs for medical treatment and far lower than the victim’s actual damages. 

People injured due to others’ negligence are entitled to recover for their medical costs, physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, lost wages, lost earning potential, lost enjoyment of life, and other damages.  The insurance company will likely offer victims far less than they deserve, especially if they have no lawyer or an inexperienced lawyer.

Insurance companies pay more to the clients of lawyers with a proven track record of winning personal injury trials.  From our experience, you will need to hire a proven trial lawyer to recover anything close to the total value of your claim.

Estimating the damages in a personal injury claim requires the expertise of an experienced lawyer.  It also often requires medical experts and other expert witnesses such as vocational experts and economists.  Don’t agree to a settlement offer until you’ve consulted with an experienced personal injury lawyer.  It’s best to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer before you speak to an insurance company.

11) Denying Claims in Bad Faith.   

There are various types of insurance bad faith.  Insurance companies may fail to investigate a claim, deny claims without reason, misrepresent policy provisions, offer far less than the claim is worth, refuse to provide relevant documentation, and engage in other unfair and illegal tactics to avoid financial responsibility.

A common type of insurance bad faith is when an insurer refuses to accept a reasonable settlement demand.  Insurance companies must operate in good faith and are liable when they unreasonably or willfully deny a rightful insurance claim.

Proven personal injury lawyers with a sophisticated knowledge of the law and a track record of winning personal injury trials are the best defense against insurance bad faith.

How We Can Help

The best counter to most of these insurance tricks is to hire a proven personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following an accident.  Lawyers can protect your legal rights, discover all of the facts of the case, and obtain all of the evidence the insurance companies may try to use against you. 

Insurance companies take advantage of people who have no attorney or inexperienced attorneys.  A good attorney will communicate with the insurance company, do a complete investigation of the case, and discover all relevant facts to prevent the insurance company from wrongfully blaming the victim.

Preparing a personal injury case for trial requires the skill of an experienced lawyer.  Insurance companies have teams of experienced lawyers and medical experts who work tirelessly to defeat the victim at trial.  Their goal is to pay the victim as little as possible. 

Insurance companies are professionals at hiding evidence.  We know how to obtain all of the relevant facts of your case.

You need legal and medical experts to support your claim if you want to receive anything close to your case’s total value.  We have the experience and skill to achieve the best possible result in your case.


Judicial Council of California – Civil Jury Instruction No. 405 – Comparative Fault of Plaintiff

Judicial Council of California – Civil Jury Instructions Series 2300 – Insurance Litigation

California Courts – Statute of limitations