The term refers to insurance claims which result from low-speed collisions which cause soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissue injuries affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue in your body – the “soft tissues” – but not the bones and other “hard tissues.”
The most common soft tissue injuries that result from car accidents are sprains and strains of the neck and back.
History Of The MIST Designation
In the mid-1990s, Allstate Insurance, reasoning that paying less on claims would increase their profit, implemented a number of policies designed to reduce their claims payouts.
One of the policies was to segment claims into different categories.
MIST cases are one of those categories. When claims are identified as meeting the standards of a MIST case, they are transferred to a unit that handles that type of claim.
Now, all insurance companies use similar procedures when MIST cases are involved.
How Do Insurance Companies Handle MIST Claims
When the property damage to your car is not more than $1,000 to $1,500, and your injuries are to your soft tissues, such as a cervical (neck) strain or sprain, the claim is tagged as a MIST claim and it is handled by specialists in those types of claims.
These MIST specialists are trained and instructed to make low offers.
The rationale behind this approach is that minor impacts cannot possibly cause injuries. The insurance companies even have scientific authority for their position, even though it has been discredited as “junk science.”
Therefore, the insurance companies reason, since low-speed collisions cannot cause injuries, claims in these types of cases should be denied completely or a very low offer should be made.
The insurance companies, almost all of which now have lawyers on their staffs, back up their position by being willing to defend MIST cases in court. They are confident they can convince judges and juries of the “common sense” notion that small impacts cannot cause injuries.
There is a superficial appeal to the argument that minor impacts cannot cause significant injuries. It just seems logical.
But, wait. Isn’t it equally logical that serious crashes that total vehicles should always result in very serious injuries? Yet we all have heard of instances where drivers have walked away from such serious accidents unscathed.
It turns out that whether a vehicle occupant is injured in an accident depends on a number of variables including such things as the person’s age, gender, location in the car, position of their head, presence of absence of head rests and other factors.
The reality is that an accident causes what it causes. I have seen many less-serious collisions cause significant injuries, some of which were permanent.
Tips For Handling MIST Cases
If an insurance company designates your case as a MIST case and only makes a token offer, if that, what do you do?
These are my suggestions . . .
- Since the MIST designation is based on the amount of damage to the car, convince them, if this is the case, that there is additional damage that was not considered when the damage was estimated. If you can increase the cost of repairing your car damage above the MIST threshold of $1,000 to $1,500, the case can be transferred to another claims handler who is not bound by the harsh MIST guidelines.
- Make sure your doctor’s reports are clear and unequivocal that you have an injury that was caused by your accident. The reports should include all “objective” findings – that is, things your doctor observes such as limitation in your range of motion, muscle atrophy, reduced muscle strength and palpable muscle spasm. These are corroboration of an injury that even insurance companies must recognize.
- Get witness statements from friends, family members and co-workers attesting to the facts that you had no problems with your neck, back or other injured body part before the car crash but have suffered with symptoms of your injuries since the accident (or whatever the facts of your case are). Even with MIST cases, the insurance company would be unwise to ignore strong evidence like this. After all, if the case goes to court, it is the evidence, including the testimony of your witnesses, that will determine the outcome.
- No offers or low-ball offers, and then vigorous and expensive defenses were instituted in MIST cases to, among other things, take the profit out of these cases for lawyers. If a lawyer knows that s/he will have to work very hard for a comparatively small legal fee, the lawyer is less likely to take such cases, or so the insurance company reasoning goes. Without lawyers representing injured MIST victims, it is more likely that claimants will accept the insurance company’s small offer.
Nonetheless, if you have a MIST case, particularly if it is going to court, you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer.
I believe there are still many lawyers who will take on a meritorious MIST case. If you are having trouble finding a lawyer, consider contacting a large firm which might use cases such as these to train young lawyers (under appropriate supervision, of course.)
- If you cannot locate a lawyer to handle your MIST case, or if you don’t want to hire a lawyer, don’t be afraid to take your case to court, especially if you can use your state’s small claims court. In my book, The Car Accident Claims Kit SECOND EDITION, I explain how to prepare and present a winning case in small claims court.