Against the background of rising accident figures, the Working Group on Traffic Law of the German Bar Association (DAV) e.V.On the overt and covert tricks of motor vehicle liability insurers.
More crashes on German roads again last year. According to preliminary results from the Federal Statistical Office, the number of accidents reported to the police from January to November 2019 increased by rd. 0.6 percent to over 2.434 million. Nationwide, thus occurred on average 7.377 accidents per day. The damage incurred must be settled by the motor vehicle liability insurers, who annually pay out approx. Spending 10 to 11 billion euros on this. With the recent increase in the number of accidents and, as a result, higher claims for damages, the pressure on insurers to save as much as possible in the settlement of claims is intensifying. This is to the detriment of motorists involved in an accident through no fault of their own, who neither suspect nor notice the tricks of the insurance companies.
The result of a Forsa survey commissioned by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Verkehrsrecht a few months ago therefore comes as no surprise. According to the survey, the majority of respondents were satisfied with the claims settlement of the opposing motor insurer in the last car accident for which they were not at fault. The dissatisfied expressed as the most important reasons of their dissatisfaction the delayed payment, respectively the payment only after a lawyer has filed a lawsuit.
In the survey result, the traffic lawyers see a clear indication that the majority of those affected do not know what damage benefits they are actually entitled to in individual cases. "If this were the case, the proportion of those who disagree with the insurance companies' settlement practices would probably tend toward 100 percent," says Dr. Daniela Mielchen, a member of the board of the Traffic Law Working Group, and adds: "If an accident victim deals with the insurance company himself and does not call in a specialist lawyer, in a majority of cases he receives only 70 to 80 percent of the compensation to which he is entitled."
"Not individual cases, but the mass of cases"
Two examples illustrate the questionable settlement practices of motor insurers. The case of a traffic lawyer's office in Aschaffenburg, Germany, shows that an injured party should by no means rely on the expert opinion of the insurance company's supposedly "neutral" external expert, who reduced the vehicle damage by 1.050 euros lower than the free appraiser hired by the claimant. The lawyer finally sued for this difference successfully. Without the involvement of a lawyer and independent expert, the injured party would have suffered a considerable loss – and without realizing it. The case of a client of a law firm in Andernach was far more drastic. She was hit by a car while crossing the street at the crosswalk and suffered life-threatening injuries. The insurance company of the person who caused the accident initially rejected any liability, contrary to the legal situation, and hoped that the matter would come to nothing. Again, it was only after a lawsuit had been filed that the insurance company agreed to pay damages of around 240 euros in a settlement.000 Euro to.
"Unjustified reductions are not isolated cases, but occur in the mass of cases," explains Dr. Daniela Mielchen. Many insurance companies now commission special inspection service providers to process workshop invoices or expert reports with the aid of standardized software and make reductions. Reductions often violate the applicable case law.
Some basic rules to protect against risks
Caution is required from the outset in order not to fall into the trap of the opposing insurer and thereby suffer financial disadvantages. Who considers however some basic rules, which can avoid unnecessary risks from view of the working group traffic law. Thus, after the accident, under no circumstances should the opposing insurer be contacted first, because the latter does not pursue the goals of the injured party, but only wants to minimize the damage costs. Furthermore, the injured party should not trust an expert of the opposing insurer, but should always commission an expert himself. In the event of an accident for which the insurer is not responsible, the insurer must bear these costs, provided that the amount of damage is at least between 1.000 and 1.500 euros.
An attorney even for small claims
In the meantime also many courts advise, even with the adjustment of small damage always a lawyer to call in. From the point of view of the working group, it is important to note that the lawyer should always be consulted from the outset in order to deal with all imponderables quickly and in a legally appropriate manner and to avoid the risk of irreparable financial disadvantages due to damage control by the insurance company. Last but not least, legal representation is always free of charge for the innocent accident victim, as his or her legal fees must always be borne by the opposing insurance company. Note: On this topic, please also read the interview with Dr. Daniela Mielchen, Member of the Board of the Traffic Law Working Group of the German Bar Association (DAV) e.V.
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If you are interested in an interview with a traffic lawyer or in further information, please feel free to contact us. The Traffic Law Working Group of the German Lawyers' Association was founded in 1979. She owns just under 6.000 attorneys at law. The working group supports its members in many ways: It offers regular training events. Informs her attorneys, for example, about the latest developments in traffic law – to the benefit of her clients. For more than 40 years, traffic lawyers have been advocating for the rights of injured parties in the committees of the German Traffic Court Convention in Goslar, Germany. Take a position in the Traffic Law Committee of the German Lawyers' Association on all important legislative proposals.