Colossus is a software program which is believed to be used by most of the top auto insurance companies to "calculate" the settlement value of minor to moderate car accident injury claims. In other words, the system is used in the very types of cases that you may be handling yourself.
Insurance companies believed to use Colossus include Aetna, Allstate, CNA, Erie, Farmers, Metropolitan, Ohio Casualty, The Hartford, MetLife, Travelers, USAA and Zurich. (And many other insurance companies use some other form of injury valuation software.)
Neither the insurance companies that use the system nor the designer of Colossus, Computer Services Corporation (NYSE: CSC), will reveal much, so there isn't much precise information about the system available. Some general information has leaked out, mainly through former adjusters.
Basically, the system involves the adjuster feeding data into the program and the program spitting back a settlement range.
The system is largely based on the contents of your medical records. It attributes "severity points" to your injuries, considers the history of the lawyer involved (if any), considers the place where the accident happened and then "calculates" a settlement range.
Different companies give different weight to the Colossus calculation. Some follow it closely, especially with less experienced adjusters. Others use it as a guide to help the adjuster who makes the ultimate call on what to offer.
Here's more information about how Colossus works.
Type of injury. Higher values are given to objective, easy-to-verify car accident injuries such as broken bones and herniated discs. Soft tissue injuries (sprains and strains) are given lower values. Generally, these are some of the medical findings -- "value drivers" -- that increase the value of a claim in the Colossus system:
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you must be sure to report them to your doctor so that the symptoms can be treated and documented in your medical records.
That leads to another reality of the Colossus system. Whatever you say, such as in an initial questionnaire that you fill out for your doctor, is ignored as "self-evaluation." The system only recognizes your medical records as authoritative.
Hospitalization. Colossus considers whether you were taken from the scene to the hospital and whether you were kept in the hospital overnight. If you did not go to the hospital after your accident, the claim is given a lower value.
Type of treatment. The system only recognizes certain diagnoses from chiropractors, such as sprains and strains of the neck and back. Other diagnoses made by chiropractors are ignored. Treatment by specialists is given a higher value than GP treatment.
Treatment length. When treatment continues "too long," such as more than 20 or 25 chiropractic visits, the system ignores or devalues further treatment.
Physical therapy. This must be accurately documented to be given "full credit." In the system, 90 days of physical therapy is considered "up to three months of treatment," while 91 days of treatment is considered "three to six months of treatment," which is given a higher value by the system. The system generally treats physical therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture the same way.
Delays and gaps in treatment. These can devastate an evaluation in the Colossus system. Make sure your doctor explains them in your medical records. For example, if you delayed initiating treatment for 2 weeks after your car accident, it is considered to be a satisfactory explanation if you were waiting to see if you would recover without seeing a doctor.
Medication. Whether you used medications, and, if so, how regularly and for how long, are issues that the system considers.
Level of impairment. If your doctor does an "impairment rating" under the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, that will enhance your claim in the Colossus system. Doctors don't usually do such an evaluation, but they will if you have a permanent injury and ask them to. There may be a charge for this service, but it is worth it to document the permanent injury.
While you need to know about Colossus because most insurance companies are using it or something similar, there is nothing magic about the Colossus evaluation. You certainly don't have to agree with the system's evaluation. These systems don't know you or many of the specifics of your case. They can't feel the pain you felt and they haven't suffered the harms and losses you have.
When you disagree with a Colossus evaluation that your insurance company is relying on, don't be afraid to take your case to court where real human beings -- judges and jurors -- will decide your case.