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Insurance Company Defenses Go to the Movies

Thumbnail image for AdobeStock_116715709 (1).jpegA sudden personal injury has an earth-shattering effect. Medical bills pile up when there is little money coming in to take care of them. This financial stress adds to the stress of the injury, making it difficult to recover. All the while, insurance company representatives call constantly with settlement offers. But you have no idea whether or not these offers are fair.

A Fort Worth personal injury attorney rights the ship. Your attorney works with medical providers to defer payment and ensure continued treatment. At the same time, your lawyer also negotiates with the insurance company. So, you can focus on getting better.

The substantial physical and emotional losses in these cases mean that substantial compensation may be available. To avoid paying that money, insurance companies often rely on several legal loopholes. Two of the more common ones are discussed below.

Sudden Emergency

This defense often comes up in pedestrian injury cases. A clip from the 1995 movie Tommy Boy illustrates both prongs of this defense, which are:

  • Sudden emergency, and

  • Reasonable reaction.

The hood fly-up is definitely a sudden emergency in this context. The fact that Tommy caused the fly-up because he failed to remove the oil can from the spout is probably not relevant. A lightning strike or a tree falling into the road are sudden emergencies as well. All these things are completely unexpected situations.

Insurance company lawyers often try to use the sudden emergency defense if a pedestrian walks in front of a car. But a jaywalking pedestrian is not a completely unexpected situation. It's more like a stalled car, large pothole, or a stopped-short car. Drivers should be ready for these things.

The clip also illustrates how not to react reasonably to a sudden emergency. After a hood fly-up, a reasonable driver would pull over to the side. But Tommy drives recklessly. He even crosses the center line. So, even though the hood fly-up was a sudden emergency, the defense would probably not apply.

Assumption of the Risk

This doctrine comes up in car crashes as well, when a passenger is injured. More frequently, insurance company lawyers use the assumption of the risk defense in slip-and-fall injuries, dog bites, and other premises liability claims. These cases usually involve signs like "Beware of Dog," or in this clip from SpongeBob Season Four's Patrick Smartpants, "Danger Cliff."

For starters, who puts a warning sign on the edge of the cliff? Wouldn't it make more sense to put the sign further away from the precipice?

Anyway, a warning sign makes the assumption of the risk defense, which is the voluntary assumption of a known risk, easier to prove. But in this case, Patrick clearly has trouble reading and understanding the sign. The same thing is true of many negligence victims who have limited English or reading skills.

If the victim could not read and understand the sign, the victim did not assume a known risk, so the defense is arguably inapplicable.

Insurance companies use legal loopholes to deny fair compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

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