When you purchase an insurance policy, you do so thinking your insurance company will protect you. You expect them to take care of you if you’re in an accident and help you cover expenses like medical bills and repairs.
Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. Insurance companies do not exist to protect your best interests; they exist to make profits by protecting theirs. They’re happy to take your money when you pay your premium, but when the time comes to reimburse you for expenses after an accident, it becomes all too clear that they aren’t your friend.
If you are dealing with an insurance company that refuses to pay after an accident or is offering you less than you deserve, the best thing you can do for yourself is to hire an attorney. At The Frickey Law Firm, our personal injury lawyers have seen clients be mistreated by insurance adjusters time and again. We know the tricks they use and how to combat them.
How the Insurance Industry Works
Insurance companies are businesses, just like restaurants and retail stores. They operate under the veil of serving their customers. They ask you to pay them in exchange for a service, in this case: financial protection in the event of an accident.
They want to make money, and they accomplish this by charging you a lot for coverage and hoping you never use it. If you do have to use your coverage, they will do everything in their power to minimize your potential settlement or deny your claim.
They accomplish this using well-trained negotiators known as insurance adjusters or claims adjusters. Adjusters attempt to steer your case in a direction that won’t cause the insurance company to spend more than they have to. They are trained to be persuasive and manipulative. Their goal is to get you to say something that the insurance company can use to deny or reduce the value of your claim.
In the end, you and your family end up suffering financially, and sometimes physically, at the hands of a company you placed your trust in. The best way to prevent this from happening to you is to work with an attorney and know how to deal with insurance adjusters when they contact you.
How to Handle Insurance Adjusters
In the days after your accident, you will likely be contacted by insurance adjusters, both from your own insurance company and those representing other involved parties. Speaking to an insurance adjuster without knowing what to do can hurt your case.
If you talk to an insurance adjuster, remember: don’t volunteer any information. Only answer the questions you are asked. Keep your answers short and simple by replying only with yes or no. Don’t make anything up. Simply say “I don’t know or “I don’t remember” if you don’t know how to answer a question.
Additionally, there are some things you should never say or do when speaking to an insurance adjuster:
- Don’t admit fault. Whether you feel responsible or not, admitting fault will compromise your case. Even saying the words “I’m sorry” could be used as an admission of guilt.
- Don’t discuss your injuries. Don’t say whether you were injured or not. Your injuries are between you, your doctor, and your lawyer.
- Don’t consent to being recorded. Anything you say in a recorded statement can and will be used against you. Never give a recorded statement without consulting with your attorney first.
- Don’t be too friendly. Remember: insurance adjusters are not your friends. You can be polite, but don’t volunteer information that is not asked for or is not relevant.
- Don’t offer options. Never speculate about anything to do with the accident, including who was at fault or what might have caused it.
- Don’t lie. Tell the truth, but do so while keeping your answers short and sweet.
- Don’t give them your social security number. Insurance companies do not need your social to conduct an investigation of your claim. Providing them with your social gives them an opportunity to look deeper into your past than they need to.
- Don’t bring up pre-existing injuries. These are not relevant to your claim, and bringing them up only gives the insurance company an opportunity to say that your injuries from the accident aren’t legitimate.
- Don’t give references. These are not necessary for your claim. Plus, you don’t want some pesky insurance adjuster bothering your family, friends or coworkers.
- Don’t say you feel “fine.” This is a very common mistake people make when answering the phone. It’s natural for someone to ask you how you’re feeling and for your reply to be “I’m fine.” Unfortunately, in this scenario, the insurance adjustor can use those words to argue that if you’re fine, you must not be suffering or injured.
Tricks Insurance Adjusters Use
If you end up talking to an insurance adjuster, you should be aware of the kinds of tricks they might use to get you to compromise your case. Some common insurance adjuster tricks include:
- Persuading you to use a specific body shop. Insurance companies are required to negotiate with any body shop that looks at your vehicle after a car accident. That said, there are insurance adjusters who will try to get you to go to a specific or “preferred” shop. This is usually because the insurance company has reached an agreement with that preferred shop to keep the cost of repairs low. This can result in the body shop doing a poor job or even “missing” repairs that should have been fixed.
- Persuading you to see a specific doctor. Just as in the body shop example, a “preferred” doctor is most likely someone who has reached a deal with the insurance company to keep the cost of medical treatment low. These doctors only serve the insurance company and have no investment in your health or well-being like your primary care physician would.
- Talking you out of getting an attorney. The insurance adjustor knows that you having an attorney makes their job a lot harder. The truth is, having an attorney is the best thing you can do to make absolutely sure you are getting the best settlement possible.
- Persuading you to sign a general release. Insurance adjusters may offer you money to cover a portion of your expenses and ask you to sign a general release after accepting. What most people don’t realize is a general release doesn’t just cover the damages you’ve been paid for. General releases are used to release all claims for the accident, including rental coverage, bodily injury, and medical expenses. Signing a general release means you have waived your rights to seek further compensation, effectively ending your claim. Never sign anything from your insurance company before consulting with an attorney.
- Convincing you a recorded statement is required. Remember, you do not have to give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. Recorded statements are opportunities for the insurance adjuster to catch you saying something that can be used against you. You may not be in the right state of mind to give a statement after an accident, which is all the more reason to hire an attorney to handle communications with the insurance company for you. If you want to give a recorded statement, never do so without an attorney present.
- Trying to get you to settle and quickly before your medical treatment is complete. Depending on your injuries, it can take months or even years for your treatment to be complete after an accident. Accepting a settlement before you’ve completed treatment means you may be missing out on thousands of dollars, and the insurance company knows this. Don’t accept a settlement before consulting with your lawyer, especially if you’re still being treated for your injuries.
There are many reasons why insurance adjusters are not your friend. The truth is, the only person who you can count on to protect your best interests after an accident is your attorney. That’s why it’s crucial you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident.
Don’t deal with insurance adjusters on your own. The Denver personal injury attorneys at The Frickey Law Firm are here to take care of everything for you. If you or a loved one have been in an accident, call us at 303-237-7373 or contact us online to arrange your free consultation.