Understand the Adjuster's Motives for Contacting You
After insurance companies are notified about injury accidents, they assign adjusters to investigate the claims and determine how much they might be worth. A part of the job of an insurance adjuster is to try to keep any claims the company might be forced to pay as low as possible. When you are contacted by an insurance adjuster from the at-fault party's company, you need to remember that the adjuster's loyalties lie with the company instead of with you.
The adjuster might seem as if he or she truly cares about your situation and injuries. However, remember that the adjuster works on behalf of the company's interests instead of yours. While an adjuster will try to find ways to pay you as little as possible, he or she will also likely want to avoid you filing a personal injury lawsuit. Lawsuits that go to trial are decided by juries or judges, meaning the company won't have control over which party is held liable and the amount of compensation that might be ordered. Because of this, insurance companies and adjusters view lawsuits and potential trials as carrying a significant degree of risk. If a jury finds you to be sympathetic, the damages award could be high.
Because of the risks insurance companies face from lawsuits and trials, adjusters try to convince injured victims to accept the lowest possible settlement offer instead of filing a lawsuit. The adjuster and the insurance company might try multiple tactics to try to convince you your claim is worth less than it is and to undercut the strength of your claim.
Factors Considered by Adjusters When Considering How Much to Offer
Insurance adjusters in injury accident claims consider the following factors when they decide how much to offer for a claim:
- Medical expenses already incurred and an estimate of future medical costs
- Wage losses
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Policy limits
- Strength of your case
Insurance companies won't pay more than the policy limits. If your losses exceed the policy limits, you will need to identify additional sources of recovery or try to collect the difference directly from the defendant. If your case is strong, the insurance company is likelier to offer a higher settlement because the risk of taking it to trial and losing would be great for the insurance company. If the adjuster believes your case is relatively weak, you might expect to receive a low offer or for the insurance company to dispute liability outright.
Tactics Used by Insurance Companies and Adjusters
Insurance companies and adjusters use several tactics to try to avoid paying the full value of personal injury claims. You might receive an early settlement offer. However, fast settlement offers are typically far lower than the actual value of your claim. The insurance company might send a lowball offer to you to try to convince you your claim is worth less than it is and in the hope that you might sign it. If you accept a low settlement offer, you will not be able to seek additional compensation later when you discover it was insufficient to cover your losses.
Another tactic is typically used by insurance adjusters. The adjuster might be personable and friendly to put you at ease. He or she might tell you that the insurance company needs to learn more about what happened and about your injuries to determine your offer as quickly as possible. The adjuster will then ask you to provide a recorded statement.
You should never agree to give a recorded statement to an adjuster from an at-fault party's insurer. Insurance companies use these statements to look for ways to take what you say out of context to harm your claim.
A third common tactic used by insurance companies is to send accident victims medical authorizations. The company might tell you it needs you to sign a release to allow the company to access your medical records so that it can determine the extent of your injuries. However, if you sign a blanket authorization, the company will use it to search through your entire medical history to find something else to blame for your injuries.
Tips for How to Respond to an Insurance Adjuster or Insurance Company
There are a variety of things you should do when you are contacted by the at-fault party's insurance company or insurance adjuster. Remember that the company and adjuster do not have your best interests in mind, and respond in the following ways.
1. Be Polite and Calm
Following an injury accident that someone else caused, you will likely experience strong emotions. However, you should avoid taking your anger out on the insurance company or adjuster. Instead, be polite, calm, and professional.
2. Get the Representative's Contact Information
The first thing you should do when you are contacted is to ask for the person's name, telephone number, extension, and address as well as the name of the insurance company with which he or she is employed. You should also ask for the name of the person or company the insurer represents. Write this information down together with the date and time you were contacted.
3. Provide Only Basic Information
Limit the information you give to the insurance adjuster. Only give your name, telephone number, and address. You can also tell them where you work, but do not tell the adjuster the schedule that you work, how much money you earn, or discuss anything else about your job.
4. Avoid Talking About Your Accident
If you are asked to provide a statement about what happened as previously discussed, politely decline to do so. Even if the adjuster tries to engage you in conversation and does not ask for a recorded statement to try to get you to talk about your accident, don't do so. Do not talk about any of the facts of your accident beyond where and when it occurred and the vehicles or parties involved. You can tell the adjuster that you are in the process of having your accident investigated and will talk about what happened when it is appropriate. You can also tell the adjuster that you want to consult a personal injury lawyer before agreeing to talk about your case.
5. Do Not Talk About Your Injuries
Similarly, don't provide a detailed description of your injuries. You might not know their full extent yet, and if you leave something out, it could come back to haunt you later.
6. Document Everything
Once you have finished speaking to the adjuster, write down everything you were told and the information you provided or requests that were made by the person who spoke with you. If you are offered a settlement during the phone call, document it as well. However, resist the pressure to accept the offer. Instead, tell the adjuster that you want to have it reviewed by an attorney.
7. Limit Conversations
During the initial call from an adjuster, tell him or her that you want to get everything in writing and do not want to discuss your case over the phone. You want to avoid further phone calls until you have had a chance to fully investigate your case and think about your losses. Before then, discussions will be premature.
Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Attorney Steven. M. Sweat has years of experience dealing with insurance companies on behalf of his clients. If you have been injured because of the negligent actions of someone else, you should consult an attorney at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. We offer free consultations and can help you understand whether your claim is viable. Call us today to request an appointment at 866.966.5240.