Tips before Speaking to Insurance Adjusters
Speaking with an insurance adjuster can be intimidating, particularly after realizing the amount paid by the insurance company is largely up to them. Because of this, it is important to learn a few tips before meeting the adjuster. A qualified personal injury attorney could advise you on what steps you should take next.
Do Not Provide a Statement to Insurance Adjusters without the Benefit of Counsel
In the immediate aftermath of an injury, insurance adjusters are often sent out to contact the injured person to “adjust the claim.” What that normally means is that the adjuster is seeking to obtain a statement and sometimes obtained signed authorizations to collect private information about the injured person.
Adjusters may also tell a person it is standard to take a recorded statement. While that may be, it does not make it a requirement. What the victim says can come back to haunt them, so it is best to not answer any questions before speaking to an attorney. One tactic we sometimes see is to carefully ask questions designed to deflect responsibility for the injury onto another person or onto the injured party himself.
For instance, an adjuster may ask “When did you first see the other vehicle?” This implies the person did see the other vehicle, and the insurance company can use this against them during the claim process.
Adjusters may also ask leading questions to limit the degree of damages caused by their insured.
For instance, an adjuster may ask for every part of the body in which a person was harmed. The question seems innocent enough, but it is often asked within hours or days of the incident. The adjusters know that often time the consequences of the injury can take weeks or even months to sometimes appear and that it is common for injuries that appear minor in the early aftermath of an incident can grow significantly over time. Getting a statement before the injuries have fully manifested themselves is commonly used to harm the injured party.
Avoid Falling for the “Negative Comment” Trap
While insurance adjusters may act as though they are on the accident victim’s side, if they suspect the individual is being careful in what they say, they may start to make negative comments. This is solely to get the person upset and talking, even if it is only in anger. However, even if a person is just trying to defend themselves, the adjuster can use what they say against them. When an adjuster starts to make negative comments, it is best for someone to simply say they will ask their attorney.
Do Not Agree to Any Settlement
Before the insurance adjuster arrives, it is important to remember that they could offer a settlement—and that settlement will likely be well below what the person rightfully deserves. The tactic is called “swoop and settle” and is sometimes seen when the circumstances of an injury will likely mean that the injury could be much more severe than it initially presents itself. Concussions and back or neck injuries with significant impact forces are good candidates for this tactic because the injured person will not know the degree of injury and recovery for many weeks or months and may not yet recognize that the injury could be life-altering. Injured parties need to be prepared to decline this offer even if the adjuster tries to pressure a settlement, estimate future medical costs that will not cover expenses, or offer a settlement before a diagnosis is made.
Get Medical Treatment Right Away
Anyone in an accident should seek medical attention right away to get the help and treatment they need. However, this is also important because the adjuster may try to make a settlement before there is a full and proper diagnosis. After a diagnosis and prognosis on how long it will take to recover, it is more difficult for the adjuster to make those claims on their own.
Do Not Take Insurance Adjusters at Face Value
Even if an individual is making a large claim, the insurance adjuster will likely act friendly, concerned, and helpful. While this can be nice after an accident, those who suffered injury or significant property damage should be careful about trusting it.
Adjusters do this to make victims feel as though they are on their side, so they can offer advice without questions. They may say their company will accept responsibility for the accident, or advise not to hire an attorney since they will just take more of the benefits insurance will provide.
However, an individual should not believe either of these statements. The adjuster will not be on record as saying this, so, there will be no way to prove that they ever did if the benefits paid out do not reflect these promises.
Be Aware of Your Options
The truth is that persons with attorneys that know how to prepare the case ultimately recover many times more than persons without an attorney. Do not allow the insurance company to make you a victim. Do not give any recorded statement to the adjuster and do not accept a quick low dollar settlement before knowing just how bad the injury is.
Last of all, adjusters will often seek medical authorizations or other authorizations that will allow them to snoop through sensitive medical, employment or other records without the injured party even knowing about it. The goal of such snooping is to find irrelevant embarrassing material or anything else they can discover to drive down the potential recovery. Never give an adjuster authorization to gather private information about you. If they tell you that they must have it to evaluate the claim, do not listen. It is not the truth.
Once an attorney is hired and puts the insurance company on notice, these tactics stop.