Injured? Call us today at 406-442-7830 for a free consultation.
Helena, Montana Car Accident Lawyers
Serving Car Crash Victims and Their Families Throughout Montana
Most Vehicle Crashes are not “Accidents”
The word “accident” usually means an event that could not have been prevented. That is why the Montana Highway Patrol calls motor vehicle collisions “crashes”— the vast majority of crashes are preventable when drivers follow the safety rules. We believe car and truck crashes are a safety epidemic can be lessened when unsafe drivers know there will be serious consequences for breaking the rules.
Safe drivers understand there is a binding safety contract that protects drivers. If we follow safety rules and other drivers follow safety rules, we will all be safe. Distracted, drowsy, and drunk drivers choose to violate safety rules and threaten public safety. The Montana Department of Transportation’s 2016 crash statistics show the consequences of safety rule violations:
- Impaired driving: 3834 crashes, 128 fatalities, 297 serious injuries (9% of all crashes)
- Speeding: 5659 crashes, 47 fatalities, 146 serious injuries (13% of all crashes)
- Careless Driving: 16515 crashes, 76 fatalities, 331 serious injuries (38% of all crashes)
- Young Drivers (Age 14-20): 10903 crashes, 18 fatalities, 159 serious injuries (25% of all crashes)
- Elderly Drivers (Age 65 and older): 8617 crashes, 34 fatalities, 156 serious injuries (20% of all crashes)
Contact Doubek, Pyfer & Storrar, PLLP today to schedule a free consultation and discuss the details of your matter.
In Montana, insurance companies are required to act treat injured people fairly. The scenario of an injured person against an insurance company is truly a David versus Goliath situation. This is true when the injured person is dealing with the insurance company for the negligent driver or when the insurance company is the injured person’s own insurance company.
Insurance Company of the Unsafe Driver
The vast majority of negligence claims involve the insurance company of the unsafe driver. Insurance companies are not in the give-away business. They work hard to avoid paying full and fair. Insurance companies are master negotiators and use fear to strengthen their position. They have claims-handling procedures that are designed to minimize the amount of compensation. The best way to make sure fair treatment by an insurance companies is a credible threat that the injured person will take their case to jury trial. The right jury to a jury trial is “inviolate” according to Montana’s Constitution. While the vast majority of civil lawsuits settle before jury trial, we creates that “credible threat” in the mind of the insurance company, which in turn motivates the insurance company to pay full and fair compensation.
Insurance Company of the Injured Person
When we purchase insurance, we expect our own insurance company will treat us fairly. After all, we uphold our end of the bargain by paying our premiums. If we are injured due to negligence and the unsafe driver’s insurance is not enough, we have a right to make a claim against our own insurance company. When the injured person makes such a claim, the insurance company often forgets its promise to treat its customer’s fairly. Instead, they treat the customer as a liar just out for the money. They use fear to minimize the value of customer claims. We hold insurance companies accountable to their promise to treat their customers fairly by enforcing basic claim-handling rules under the law.
Montana law requires all drivers to have auto insurance. Many drivers have only minimum amount permitted of $25,000. Some drivers choose to drive without insurance. This is where “uninsured motorist,” “underinsured motorist,” and “medical payments” insurance comes in. “Uninsured motorist” applies when the unsafe driver had no insurance. “Underinsured motorist” applies when the unsafe driver did not have enough insurance.
Insurance companies use various tactics to minimize the value of claims made by their own customers. They often force their customers to see an insurance doctor, who will say the person was not hurt in the crash. Sometimes the insurance company fails to tell the customer that they can make an insurance claim even if their bills are being paid and that a claim like this will not affect their insurance rates. Many people are afraid to make a claim against their own insurance because they think it will raise their rates. The fact is, if the crash was caused by an unsafe driver, a claim against your own insurance cannot raise your rates.
We routinely represent clients in claims against their own insurance companies. Recently, we won an important case at the Montana Supreme Court that makes insurance company who low-balled its own customer pay the attorney fees incurred because the customer was forced to sue the insurance company.
Insurance Bad Faith
When insurance companies do not follow the rules, that is called bad faith. Bad faith is often the result of poor training and supervision of insurance company employees. We represent people that have been harmed by insurance companies that have chosen to violate claim rules. Often, these cases require the deposition of many insurance company representatives to demonstrate that the insurance company’s policies are designed to unfairly evaluate claims. We often hire claim-handling experts and even lawyers in the insurance field to prove that the insurance company has committed bad faith.