Need advice

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by alaskan9974, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. alaskan9974

    alaskan9974 Pre-Flight

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    Need some advice for a buddy of mine, his plane was tied down on the ramp, a nearby container from a cargo op was blown into his plane during their taxi out. He doesn't have ground insurance coverage, but from what I was told an insurance representative was in contact with him from the company responsible.

    He feels like he's being jerked around, after supplying logs, receipts etc they are now asking for his tax returns. I told him it sounds to me like they're trying to dig something up on him, or drag it out. Who can he call for help. He only asked them to replace the bent prop and inspect the motor. It's a low time factory engine with just a few hours.
     
  2. rk911

    rk911 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    aviation attorney.
     
  3. alaskan9974

    alaskan9974 Pre-Flight

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    He called a couple in state but they were all affiliated in one way or another with the ins co or the company so that was a bust. I suggested he try AOPA legal. Will tell him to google it.
     
  4. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Attorney? Hell! This one is easy. Tell the other insurance company that his loss has nothing to do with taxes and the loss he suffered gives them no right to his personal information. Furthermore if they persist he will pursue court ordered compensation for loses plus punitive compensation for their failure to pay in a timely manner. Let’em chew on that one.

    In short they know they have to pay and are trying to see what they can get away with. Play hardball.
     
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  5. Getonit

    Getonit Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Why should it matter that he doesn't have insurance, in this case the damage was clearly caused by the other party.

    Tell them to pound sand on the tax returns.

    You don't need an aviation attorney, you just need an aggressive attorney who threatens them with a lawsuit.
     
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  6. Stewartb

    Stewartb En-Route

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    This sounds like parts of the story are missing. Where did this happen?
     
  7. rocketflyer84

    rocketflyer84 Line Up and Wait

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    This. Large entities often play on the sociology where people just assume they have to comply with requests. It’s bull. Sounds like a simple matter. Their client damaged your stuff. You’re seeking fair compensation to rectify the damages so you can move on.

    Tell them to pay up and if they don’t you’ll be happy to file suit and take the matter to the courts. If the facts are as the OP says then the insurance company would have a cheque in the mail before you hang up the phone.
     
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  8. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Could you call the police or FSDO, sounds like a hit and run.
     
  9. iamtheari

    iamtheari Cleared for Takeoff

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    Your friend needs to hire a lawyer promptly, without having any further contact with the insurance company or the cargo operator other than "talk to my lawyer." Literally every other thing that you or your friend might do or say has a greater chance of hurting him than helping him.
     
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  10. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    Maybe.

    Yes, I agree. Chances are screwing around with this himself first, making empty threats and getting nowhere, can definitely make it worse.

    OTOH, the high cost of legal representation may make hiring an attorney difficult. If this is a small dollar case, many lawyers will not take it on contingency. And even then, any fee would significantly eat into recovery. And lawyers, just like real people, tend to treat anything aviation-related as a specialty.

    Many of the lawyers on the AOPA list, even the small practitioners, do basic auto accident work. So they have a sense of the system. Even if not interested in taking the case, a consultation to discuss possible strategies, risks and benefits, is usually going to pay more dividends than a bunch of SGOTI suggesting things they know nothing about with no skin in the game.
     
  11. iamtheari

    iamtheari Cleared for Takeoff

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    You're right that the cost of hiring a lawyer does need to be weighed against the amount of damage involved. The OP didn't say if his friend's brand-new Cessna Caravan got bent beyond recognition or if it was just a small dent on a 15,000-hour Cessna 150, and obviously where it falls in between those extremes will dictate what to invest in pursuing the claim. As far as the specialty law angle, I think we are on the same page that a lawyer who understands what happened here will not decline to help just because airplanes are involved. This is a case of negligent property damage with third-party insurance coverage; legally speaking it's not really different from a fender bender in the mall parking lot.

    Insurance companies are generally going to do whatever they can to avoid paying claims. That's their business model. But they might just misunderstand the claim. Tax returns may be on their checklist to get because their typical claim includes lost profits from having a commercially operated plane grounded. If the claim is too small to hire a lawyer, the OP's friend should at least be asking "Why do you need that information for this claim?" rather than making a stink or threats about it. I don't know how many flies you catch with vinegar vis-a-vis honey, but I know you get more information with the latter and information is power.

    But I'd still recommend that the guy hire a lawyer. Lawyers all fly Mooneys but they really want Bonanzas. We should all do our part to help them.
     
  12. Stewartb

    Stewartb En-Route

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    I know a couple of attorneys in Anchorage that would handle a case like this, providing there's something that requires handling. The OP details are way too incomplete to get worked up over.
     
  13. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    The insurance folks know that threats from a private citizen are useless. They will not pay attention to anyone but a lawyer. A demand letter from a law office may be all that is needed to get the insurance company to start playing attention.
     
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  14. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The problem with asking why is that the person handling the claim at the insurance is just doing their job and likely don't have the authority to do anything but follow the process that the company has outlined. They'll fight with you because they don't want to tell their boss that they didn't do what was asked of them.

    Get a lawyer. A 30 minute consultation is cheap. I don't know about your state, but in mine if you call the bar association for a referral they have to give you a cheap consultation ($20, I think).
     
  15. nrpetersen

    nrpetersen Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Is this a case to report to the State Insurance Commissioner? It would seem they are dealing in bad faith etc.
     
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  16. Shopshirt

    Shopshirt Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Is this aircraft used for business purposes, is he a CFI etc? Unless, as stated earlier, they are trying to determine lost wages. In a simple damage claim there is no reason that they should request tax returns. This sounds like a ridiculous request and an attempt to drag the process out while the find some way to wiggle out of paying.
     
  17. PPC1052

    PPC1052 En-Route

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    I'd just ask the adjuster why they want the tax returns. If he's not making a damage claim based on business interruption/loss of income, I don't know why they would be relevant. It may just be on a check list of items to request, but insurers generally know that they aren't entitled to something like that unless its somehow relevant. Chances are that if no loss of income claim is being asserted, when confronted with a question as to the necessity, the adjuster would back off.
     
  18. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It’s a civil matter so the “making it worse” part is empty. The insurance company has an obligation to their customer. Their customer has an obligation to the injured party. If the insurance company tries to avoid paying they open a big can of worms with their client and possibly with state insurance regulators. If damages are small then a small claims court claim filed against the responsible party will correct any bad attitude displayed by the insurance company. It would cost them more to defend their customer than it would to settle the claim. If the damages exceed the small claims court limits then it’s more expensive for the insurance company because any suit filled should include recovery of legal fees one way or another. The insurance company knows this and will avoid any real legal activity unless they know they can prove their customer was not responsible for damages. The insurance company can huff and puff but ultimately they will pay.

    On the other hand if the injured party is attempting some sort of claim based on lost income then of course some sort of documentation of the lost income will be required to support the claim just like a repair claim will require some sort of cost estimate or invoice. Tax records could be part of that support but that certainly isn’t the only way to show lost income.
     
  19. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Sounds like they want to pay him under business interruption coverage even though he didn't make a claim for it. Insurance is sometimes funny.
     
  20. Stewartb

    Stewartb En-Route

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    You guys sure make a lot of assumptions!
     
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  21. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    My experience in the real world is different.
     
  22. alaskan9974

    alaskan9974 Pre-Flight

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    I got some contact info on attorneys from a member on here for him to contact. I didn't want to post any more details, I'm not a lawyer and not directly involved in this and don't want to screw anything up for him.

    No idea how this stuff works, seemed pretty straight forward when he told me he just wants his plane fixed and nothing more. Hope to update soon once his plane is back in the air. Money makes planes fly, right?
     
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  23. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    Excellent. Hop it works out for your friend. And quickly.
     
  24. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Final Approach

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    Old dog w/o new tricks
    Yeah but you're just a lawyer in real life. A bunch of us are genuine internet lawyers.
     
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  25. PPC1052

    PPC1052 En-Route

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    I think its more that large companies with lots of worker ants try as best as they can to give a set of instructions for their people to follow. When you run into inexperienced adjusters, they sometimes miss the conditional nature of a particular requirement on their check list as they try to check off the boxes to close out the file.
     
  26. Paulie

    Paulie Line Up and Wait

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    Money and paperwork.
     
  27. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach

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    Yes, he probably is. Insurance adjusters are not paid to "be fair"; they are paid to save the company money. An adjuster who goes to his boss and says he paid a claimant everything he was entitled to, will be flipping burgers in no time flat.

    And they may continue to withhold payment unless and until a court tells them they're not entitled to that information. Problem is, courts in many jurisdictions are very liberal about allowing such discovery in damage cases. In addition to tax returns, insurance companies often ask for (and are often granted by the courts) things like full access to all of the claimant's social media accounts -- and they can tell if anything's been deleted from them.

    Yes, and yes. You've heard of frivolous lawsuits? They don't hold a candle to insurance companies and their frivolous defenses. If the claimant does not have an attorney, the insurance company and their lawyers (who get paid handsomely by the hour, whether they win or lose) know they have the upper hand. They know what the law is, but they have no obligation to tell you. I know of one insurance company (I saw the claim file in the subsequent lawsuit for bad-faith claims practices) that had a form that the adjuster had to fill out if the claimant retained an attorney. The adjuster had to explain on the form why he "lost control of the case."

    Trusting an insurance company to be fair? "Getting tough" with an insurance company? Good luck. There's a reason those tall buildings downtown have the names of insurance companies on them. I handled a lot of cases in which the client never would have had to consult with me, had the insurance company just been semi-reasonable from the get-go. But that's not their nature.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  28. bluerooster

    bluerooster Cleared for Takeoff

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    While I do not know the full extent of the damages, I would think that a bent prop would be more expensive than what would normally be handled in small claims court.
     
  29. GLMS_NC

    GLMS_NC Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This is pretty clear.

    1. The person who was responsible for the container has liability insurance, therefore, they are responsible for the damages. There is negligence and there is likely no exclusion the ins carrier can hide behind. Their insured screwed up, and that is why we carry liability insurance.
    2. The 3rd party or their ins carrier wants any pilot to tax info? Tell them to pound sand.
    3. The liability carrier will need aircraft info so they can get it fixed.

    Worst case, hire a plaintiff lawyer and sue the insured for negligence, plus fees. Your buddy's plan will be made whole.

    This should not be difficult.
     
  30. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach

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    Another example of why an internet forum is a very bad place to go for legal advice.

    This is true. But do not forget that liability insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums, not paying claims. They do not pay unless and until it becomes in their best business interest to do so. What is right, fair, moral, ethical, etc., is irrelevant. "Good will" and "customer loyalty" do not figure into the equation.

    And the insurance company will tell the claimant to pound sand, or just ignore him and wait for the statute of limitation to expire. Then they're home free and they can close their file.

    Most jurisdictions do not allow a claim for attorney fees in negligence cases, except in very limited circumstances.

    Unfortunately, it often is. Your friend should talk to an attorney in the state where the damage occurred, because that state's damage laws will likely govern. Find the Lawyer Referral Service for that area; an initial consultation is usually no more than about $35. It's worth it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  31. GLMS_NC

    GLMS_NC Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Pilawt,

    Where do you get this stuff from? Please back-up everything you just said. Give us stats where carriers aren't paying liability claims. Show me the state statues where you can't collect fees. This nothing more than innuendo, speculation, and alternative facts. Carriers ROUTINELY pay liability claims. What do you think happens in car accidents? Everytime you hit someone there is 3rd party liability. Many, many states you can sue and get legal fees reimbursed when you had to sue to collect damages. Excess fees/punitive damages - that's another story. Add fees to damages when you sue. It's happens REGULARLY. I'm not going to debate this with you further, but going forward please stick to facts. There has to be a determination of liability first, AND the offending party has to have coverage. That is where the rub is. Why do you think you have uninsured and underinsured on your personal auto policy? For these EXACT situations. If the guy with the cargo container had no insurance coverage, HE has an issue, and sue to recover damages. A plaintiff lawyer will do this and won't cost you anything.

    This reply is the EXACT reason why you can't believe everything you read. Drag out until the statue of limitations expire to get out of a claim...I can't write this good to make this stuff up.

    Back to regular programming...
     
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  32. JOhnH

    JOhnH Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What else do you do when someone asks for advice on an internet board but doesn't provide enough information?
     
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  33. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What about calling the company who damaged your plane up?

    Maybe mention that while you're waiting for their dead beat insurance company you wanted to know if any of this was reported to the Feds, what their random drug testing policy was, who the PIC was, who was in charge of the cargo pods on the ground, ask for official mailing addresses for legal documents to be deliveredfor each etc.

    Maybe they can be the ones to light a fire under the butts THEIR insurance co.
     
  34. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach

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    Oh, forty years of handling thousands of personal injury and property damage claims in three states. And you?

    You have it backwards. Attorney fees are not recoverable unless the statute or case law of the particular jurisdiction says they are. I won't write a law review article for you here, but you are welcome to Google "American Rule", for a start. Washington has a curious statute, a holdover from a previous era, in which the prevailing party (as defined by statute) in certain cases may claim an "attorney fee", but it is limited to $200 (RCW 4.84.080). That won't get you very far in any substantial claim, and certainly is not enough to scare an insurance company. I gather from your screen name that you are in North Carolina. That state has a statute (NCGS Sec. 6-21.1) that provides for award of attorney fees up to $10,000 in certain cases, if there is "unwarranted refusal by the defendant to negotiate or pay the claim." That's a much higher standard than is in most disputes, and requires a detailed finding of fact by the court.

    Carriers pay claims when it is in their business interest to do so, or when forced to by a judgment against their insured. It all comes down to a four-letter word: Risk. They analyze every claim carefully, and project what what it may cost them to defend the claim, what is the likelihood of a successful result, and what it may cost them if they lose. They study trends of jury verdicts in that jurisdiction. They research the trial histories of the attorneys and experts involved. They investigate carefully to find ways they can beat the claim, or negotiate the lowest possible payout. Whatever it is, they've been there and done that. Like the guy in the Farmers Insurance ad says, "We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two."

    Sometimes a new VP of claims comes along and decides they need to "get tough" and not settle any substantial claim, and make all the claimants file lawsuits and go through the discovery process at least, if not arbitration or trial. Then a couple of years later, when the company realizes they're spending a ton on defense counsel, and everybody is overworked, and they want to get some files off the shelf, they'll start negotiating semi-reasonable settlements again. Then the real estate market drops, affecting the company's profits, and they tighten their belts again.

    Let's distill it down to an all-too-typical, real-world example. Fellow walked into my office one day clutching a letter from an insurance company (I won't mention which one, but there might have been a little green lizard standing nearby). His car was totaled, and he was injured, in an accident where the other driver ran a red light, as confirmed by two independent witnesses. He just wanted the insurance company to pay for his car, and he'd suck up the rest and go on his way. Slam dunk, right? Automatic payment, no questions asked, right? This is part of an actual photocopy of the letter the other driver's insurance company sent him:

    50-50.jpg
    So the lizard only wanted to pay half of the guy's damages. It took two years, filing of a lawsuit against the other driver, interrogatories, depositions, requests for production, requests for admission, a compulsory examination by the insurance company's doctor, and finally an arbitration award to make them do the right thing. And no, they didn't have to pay my client's attorney fee, beyond the aforesaid $200 under RCW 4.84.080. I knew the defense attorney well enough to know that his heart wasn't in it; he was acting on marching orders from the company.

    Get real. Can't tell you how many times I've had a phone call like this:

    Prospective Client: "My wife and I were in a horrible accident on I-205 in Portland. We were both injured, we have over $100,000 in medical bills not covered by our insurance; I was out of work for seven months and our car was totaled. But the insurance company adjuster said they'd take care of us -- he's a real nice guy and promised to get back to us as soon as they reviewed all the medical records, tax returns and stuff he asked us to send. He even sent us a nice Christmas card and said he'd call us as soon as he got back from vacation. But that was a couple of months ago and now he won't return my call. Do you think I need a lawyer?"
    Me: "When was your accident?"
    PC: "Um, two years ago last Thursday. Why ... is that a problem ... ?"​

    Meanwhile, that adjuster now has the "Employee of The Month" parking space.

    Bottom line ... the OP needs to find out what his rights are from an attorney, not SGOTI.
     
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  35. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 En-Route

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    Have I mentioned that Jeff is a friend of mine?:)
     
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  36. Gerhardt

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    I'd like to cut/paste from a half-dozen posts here that have some good information. Some from the people squaring off.

    The minute you (or "your friend" :) ) thought you were being jerked around your next call should have been to the adjuster telling him exactly what you want, and that you want it ASAP so that you don't have to get an attorney involved. Unless his response is that the check is forthcoming, your next call should be an attorney. It doesn't have to be an aviation attorney, but it would be helpful since you may be entitled to more than you're aware of.

    Any attorney can sue (technically you don't need one, but in reality you do). It's not the insurer who is sued, but the company whose cargo hit your...ahem...your friend's plane. The thing about suing someone is that it's not fast. You won't see court for quite a while. Then even if the judgment is in your favor it's possible you're in for another round of court just to collect. That's why you want a lawyer - to take your mind off of this as much as possible.
     
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  37. bluerooster

    bluerooster Cleared for Takeoff

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    I've had the misfortune to deal with insurance companies, and liability claims, for nearly 30 years. After having insurance companies deny liability, despite hard evidence to the contrary, time and time again. I got out of the business.
    I believe that Pilawt is right. Insurance companies are in the business to collect premiums, and make money. They will do everything in their power to pay as little as possible, up to, and including, nothing at all. Some companies have been worse than others about it.
    One thing I have learned is to never tell them that you are going to call a lawyer, They have lawyers on the payroll who have nothing better to do than get their employer off the hook. If you are going to hire a lawyer, just do it, do not let the insurance company know about it ahead of time. Most times, you can work it out with them after a month or so, and collect a fair settlement. But sometimes they need a little prodding from a barrister.
     
  38. alaskan9974

    alaskan9974 Pre-Flight

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    Not me, but if a ULD container hit my parked plane they'd either be fixing it asap or I'd be calling my lawyer the next day to get them to do it.

    I gave him a few persons to contact that a member sent in state, that's where my involvement ends.
     
  39. Paulie

    Paulie Line Up and Wait

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    Get the airport and FAA involved. Did you file a incident report with the feds?
     
  40. Kristin

    Kristin Cleared for Takeoff

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    Pilawt is very largely correct. IMX, however, once an insurance claim has been filed, the aviation insurers that I have dealt with were more worried about my fees than the costs of settling. Most often, our job was one of artful surrender to see how cheaply we could get a cheap settlement. Other non-aviation insurers seemed more willing to fight than aviation ones did. Insurers that have in-house counsel don't seem to be at all phased by filing suit against them. Without knowing who the insurer involved, I can't guess at where their pressure points may be.

    Filing the lawsuit forces them to hire counsel too, unless they have in-house counsel as a lot of the large auto insurers do. Even having outside counsel file a simple answer is likely to run several thousand dollars. Once counsel is involved on both sides, then the settlement negotiations go through them. More fees. Hiring a lawyer to right a formal demand letter to either the insured or the insurer, but be a cost effective step to break loose a resolution.