Dirty Tricks Insurance Companies Play in Accident Claims
The adjuster is on the job! Getting your car fixed, your medical bills paid, and your injury claim resolved – fast and friendly, right? Right?
Insurance adjusters are human beings, too. They love their families, they like their friends, and they have a job to do. Their job is to settle claims for as little money as they can. Here, let’s read that again. Their job is to settle claims for as little money as they can. Many are genuinely nice people to work with – as long as you keep in mind that they are doing their job.Pretending to be Your Friend
As part of that job, many of them are also perfectly willing to be your “best buddy,” to chat you up about what’s going on with your day, what your plans are for an upcoming holiday, or sympathize with you about the lousy weather we’re having or how bad your favorite sports team is doing. Whether or not an adjuster has an engaging personality naturally, he or she definitely has been trained by their employer to engage conversationally with claimants as a way to break the ice, make the claimants feel more comfortable, make them speak more freely, make them say things they ought not to say, make them more agreeable to fast and cheap settlements.
Whether or not the adjusters are interested in being your friend, they definitely are interested in doing their job. It’s important to approach a call with any insurance adjuster about a claim as a serious business transaction in which you want to get the details straight, provide only the information you want to provide, get all the information and cooperation you are entitled to get and separate the pleasant chitchat from the important business being done. If you are talking with an adjuster yourself, it is your job to approach it this way unless you want to shortchange yourself. If you decide instead to engage the services of an experienced personal injury attorney, then it’s our job to do this on your behalf.
The video below explains more about why insurance companies are not on your side.Offering Money to Settle Your Injury Claim Quickly
Insurance companies figured out long ago that there is a direct connection between how quickly an injury claim is settled and how cheaply it is settled. It’s a very common practice for an insurance adjuster to offer an injury victim a couple thousand dollars to settle their injury claim expeditiously, to “make it go away,” to “get it over with.” And for an injury victim who is dealing with the pain of an injury, the hassle of getting their car fixed so they can get to a doctor’s office for treatment, while also being off work, the idea of a quick couple thousand bucks may be an attractive option. Beware! You are likely cheating yourself!
As soon as an insurance company has a bare minimum of information about the accident and your injuries, they will have a dollar figure in mind for what they think the likely value of your claim will be. And it’s probably a pretty good idea. They will have worked through literally millions of injury claims and have the data and statistics to support the “reserves” that they set as a working estimate for paying your claim. This becomes the benchmark against which many adjusters will end up being graded, and if they can settle your claim for substantially less than this estimate, then the adjuster – and not you – is the one who gets a shiny gold star for success.
When injury victims choose to accept a quick settlement, they are almost always shortchanging themselves. Early in an injury case, neither the victim nor the insurance company knows exactly what the final value of the claim may be because so many of the crucial factors for setting a claim value aren’t yet known. The exact injury and diagnosis may be unclear. Sometimes, it takes many weeks, months, or even years of medical treatment and testing to reveal precisely what injuries were caused by an accident. How much medical treatment is needed to adequately deal with the injuries and the cost of that treatment are unknown early on. How much wage loss the victim may eventually have, how much pain and suffering they may undergo, how permanent their losses may be – all these are unknown early on in an injury case. But as we mentioned, the insurance company – due to the depth of their data and experience – has a pretty good idea what the minimum value of the claim is likely to be, and if they can get you to settle quickly for less than that, then they’ve done their job. When you retain an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your injury claim, one of the most important things we can do for you is to make sure your claim resolves for a full and fair amount.Lowballing or Denying Your Claim
If the insurance company strikes out on getting you to settle quickly and cheaply, they have other techniques to use. Even once you have been patient enough and thorough enough to let your injuries resolve and to collect your medical records and bills, your wage loss claim information, the traffic collision report, vehicle damage reports and photographs, and all the other evidence that goes into proving the responsible party’s liability and the degree and value of your own claim, the insurance company is perfectly happy to respond with a sub-par offer on your claim or even to deny it entirely.
Although insurance like to resolve claims quickly (and cheaply) if they can, in order to get them off their books, they’re also willing to be patient with claims if they know that their patience will be rewarded by a cheaper resolution to the claim. A “lowball” offer is intentional -- sometimes ridiculously -- low offer meant not to be taken seriously as much as it is intended to be a delaying device. Certainly, if an injury victim who doesn’t know the real value of his or her claim accepts a lowball offer, the insurance company is perfectly happy with this. But by merely stringing the claim along for more time, the insurance company is also profiting.
Insurance companies don’t just sit on all the premium money that we pay to them – they invest that money in many, many different ways, and the longer they can keep those premium dollars working in investments rather than being used to pay out claims, the more money they make. And while the investment return on settling for an extra $1000 of settlement funds over the space of a few days may be just a matter of cents, when an insurance company can add up those few cents each on millions of claims over weeks and months and years, it adds up to genuinely large numbers -- all pure profit for the insurance company.
Simply denying a claim is also a tactic some insurance companies will pursue unfairly, especially when the claim is being handled by the individual injury victim and not by a personal injury attorney. The insurance company knows that the complexities of an injury claim are daunting to most individuals who are handling their own claims – they know that a certain percentage will simply give up on a claim that has been denied, even if denied unfairly. And even those victims who then go out and retain the services of a personal injury attorney may have wasted weeks or months in their getting their claims resolved. And every week or month here or there of delay – whether by lowball offers or outright denials – is just more profit for the insurance company.
Not putting up with lowball offers and unfair denials but rather keeping an injury claim moving along toward a fair resolution is one of the most straightforward services an experienced personal injury attorney can provide.Using Your Own Words Against You
When you’re talking with an insurance adjuster about an injury claim – whether an adjuster from your own insurance company or another person’s -- it’s useful to imagine yourself in a television crime drama where the recently arrested person is being “read his rights.” Anything you say to an adjuster can and will be used against you in your claim. The adjuster will be listening carefully for any “admissions” that sound as though you may be admitting to any degree of fault in the incident that injured you or may be partly responsible for your injuries. If you admit to not being sure exactly how fast you were driving or that you’d forgotten to adjust your seat belt or that you hadn’t gotten that brake job your car needed -- each detail will be noted down for later arguments the insurance company may make that you were partly (or entirely) responsible for the accident or for your injuries. If you have an experienced personal injury attorney talking to the insurance company for you, however, we can help protect against this.
The adjuster will also be listening for any factual statements that are inconsistent with other information they’ve already collected. For example, if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident and a police report was prepared, the insurance company is likely to have a copy of that report just as soon it becomes available. They will then be comparing the statement you made to the police officer regarding how the accident happened, whether or not you reported any injuries at the accident scene, and any other details recorded in the report with what you tell them in conversation. Anything that isn’t consistent with the police report is something they will take notice of and markdown against you. Even a minor inconsistency that you may be thinking nothing of when you’re chatting with your “best buddy” insurance adjuster may be something brought up a year later in litigation by an insurance company attorney trying to attack your credibility as a witness. Before you even consider making a detailed statement to an insurance company, you should have professional advice from a personal injury attorney who can collect the evidence – the police report, witness statements, property damage evidence, etc. -- at least as thoroughly as the insurance company already will have done.
This can be particularly challenging when you’re speaking with your own insurance company’s adjuster because you have an obligation under your insurance policy to cooperate by providing information. Remember, however, that even though it’s your own insurer, there is still an adversarial relationship – you are trying to collect money from them for property damage, medical payments, or even uninsured and underinsured motorist claims, while they are trying to pay you the least amount they can get away with. We can help you directly in these situations where you are obligated to cooperate with your own insurance company.
For more information on the tactics and practices of the insurance companies, return to the top of this section.
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