If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you’re going to have to file insurance claims for the injuries you sustained, as well as for the damage to your vehicle. This means that, at some point, you’re going to come in contact with insurance claims adjusters.
By definition, an insurance claims adjuster is employed by an insurance company to “adjust” or settle an insurance claim. This means that they have they conduct an investigation into the claim; in this case, a car accident. They then prepare a report on their findings and are empowered to conduct settlement negotiations with the claimant. Sounds fairly straightforward, right?
Well, it’s not as straightforward as it might seem at first glance. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you need to know how to deal with insurance claim adjusters in a way that most effectively preserves your ability to receive full compensation for your damages. That’s why this article is going to let you in on five secrets that insurance claims adjusters don’t want you to know.
Evidence is the foundation to every successful case. However, evidence is like milk – it’s extremely perishable. That’s why it’s important for you to preserve every bit of evidence that you can while it’s still available. If you have photographs of the accident scene, make sure that they are in a safe place. The same goes for the names and personal information of any potential witnesses.
Write down a detailed account of the facts of the accident, as you remember them, as soon as possible after the accident. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that crucial pieces of evidence may be unavailable and that the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim will be able to fashion the “facts” in a way that may harm your case.
Insurance companies are in the business of making money. Yes, they insure risk and yes, they make payments on claims made against policies insuring against that risk. Nevertheless, their profit partially comes from minimizing the amount of those payments as much as possible. This is why the claims negotiation process is an adversarial proceeding.
The job of the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim is to minimize the amount of money paid to you as much as possible or, if the opportunity arises, to deny your claim altogether. This means that the insurance adjuster is not on your side. You are not both working together towards a common goal. Your interests are not aligned. He or she may act friendly, give you “tips” and tell you they want to make sure that you’re taken care of as soon as possible. All of that is simply a tactic to get you to let down you guard and do or say something that will compromise your claim. Don’t be fooled. Insurance companies take every claim filed against policies that they issue very seriously. You should treat your claim in the same way.
An adjuster will often contact you for information under the guise that they are somewhat in the dark about the facts of your claim and need your help to shed some light on the “truth”. They are just information gatherers, drones really, collecting information for the good of all involved. Nothing could be further from the truth.
By the time the insurance adjuster contacts you, they already have a fairly good understanding of how your accident occurred, as well as the nature of the resulting injuries and damages. They also have a pretty good idea of how to “frame” what happened in a way that’s most favorable to their employer. All they need you to do is provide them with information in a way that will help them complete this frame and negatively impact your interests. Remember, everything you say to an insurance adjuster can and will be used against you and your interests if at all possible.
Avoid the natural urge to help them “gather” the facts. Keep your statements to them neutral. Do not embellish. Do not estimate. Do not suppose. If you don’t know something, say so. If you don’t feel comfortable answering a question, don’t answer. Better yet, defer making any statement to an insurance adjuster until after you’ve hired an attorney to represent you and have had an opportunity to talk to him or her.
The job of an adjuster is to try to settle your claim in a way that favors the insurance company they work for. This means that they are trained negotiators. They have spent a significant amount of time learning techniques that allow them to get the results that they want. The longer that they’ve been on the job, the more skilled they are in using these techniques to get you do or say something that isn’t in your best interest. This is what they get paid to do.
You are not a trained negotiator. You are someone who has been injured and are looking for a way to right a wrong. Don’t try and go head-to-head with an adjuster. Don’t argue with them. The adjuster is the enemy in this process and they want you to lose.
The last thing an insurance adjuster wants is for you to hire a lawyer to represent your interests. Alone, you’re an easy mark. They know that they have a much better chance of obtaining an outcome favorable to their employer if they can deal with you one-on-one. These odds are reduced considerably when they have to negotiate with your attorney.
A skilled car accident attorney has the same negotiation skills as the adjuster. They have the experience necessary to counter all the tricks of the trade and force the adjuster to deal with reality of your situation. Very often, this results in a settlement of your claim far in excess of what you would have been able to achieve on your own.
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