How a Successful Outcome in Your California Arbitration Against an Insurance Company May Get You More Than Just an Award of Damages

Getting hurt in an auto accident is a very stressful experience for a variety of different reasons. Unfortunately, for lots of folks, one of those reasons is dealing with insurance companies and struggling to get them to do what they should. Insurance companies, of course, often fight aggressively to avoid paying you, and are very experienced at doing so. That’s why, if you’ve been hurt in a vehicle accident, you shouldn’t go it alone. Give yourself the advantage of a diligent, professional advocate by retaining the services of an experienced San Mateo car accident attorney.

H.S. was a Southern California woman who faced this kind of challenge in her case. She was injured in an accident where the other driver hit her and was at fault. The other driver’s auto insurer made a payment equal to the policy limit.

Most all of us have seen those “state minimum coverage” auto insurance ads on the internet or TV, right? Those may be great for a driver who has no insurance, but they’re not so great if you’re hurt by someone with minimal or low-amount coverage. Fortunately, there is something called “uninsured or underinsured motorist” coverage you can add to your insurance. If the at-fault driver’s insurance pays the policy limit but that amount is less than your total damages, you can file a claim with your insurer and get a payment from them in addition to the payment from the other driver’s insurance company.

That’s what H.S. did. However, her auto insurance company disputed the extent of her damages, so she and the insurer ended up in arbitration. While the arbitration was pending, H.S. offered to settle the dispute for $195,000. The insurer didn’t accept and, at the end of the arbitration, H.S. received almost $220,000.

After securing that success, H.S.’s legal team went one step further, seeking an award of nearly $40,000 in costs. The insurer argued that such an award was not allowed under the terms of the insurance policy.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with the insurance company, concluding that California law, including Section 998 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, potentially provided a basis for an award of H.S.’s costs.

Section 998, offers of compromise and arbitration cases

Most people associate Section 998 (and Section 998 offers of compromise) with a lawsuit in civil court. That statute, however, also has provisions that pertain to arbitration. Unlike a civil trial provision, where your damages award must be more than 25% greater than the settlement offer the defense didn’t accept in order to get postoffer costs, the provisions related to arbitration are different. In arbitration, the rule in Section 998 is that you simply need to get an award greater than your settlement offer – there is no “25% greater or more” hurdle. If your arbitration is even just $1 more than the settlement offer the defense didn’t accept, then you may be entitled to recoup “a reasonable sum to cover postoffer costs of the services of expert witnesses . . . in addition to plaintiff’s costs.”

As you can see from H.S.’s case, this can be a lot of money. H.S.’s case was one involving roughly $200,000 in harm, and it necessitated expending roughly $39,000, including legal fees, court costs, expert witness fees and so forth. Getting that award of costs in addition to an award of damages is an important element of obtaining a complete success and truly fair outcome.

Whether you are fighting the insurance companies after your wreck, during an arbitration process or in court, don’t fight them alone. Even the playing field by putting an experienced advocate on your side. Reach out to the diligent injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. Our attorneys have been helping injured people deal with insurance companies and get the results they deserve for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

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