WHAT SHOULD I SAY TO AN INSURANCE ADJUSTER?
According to statistics from the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, the average driver in the United States will be involved in an accident every 17.9 years. Depending on how long you drive or live, the total number of accidents to be expected in a lifetime is roughly three or four. Also, with medical costs constantly rising, treatment and other compensation for injuries in accidents now average $23,450, according to the Insurance Research Council.
In other words, no matter how cautious, smart, or safe a driver you are, something is pretty much bound to go wrong one way or another. If you report the accident to your insurance company, or deal with the other driver’s insurance company, you can be sure to be contacted by a person known as an insurance adjuster, who will ask you about what happened to determine liability, damages, and potential compensation.
If you need help with a car accident claim in Houston, Texas, Southeast New Mexico, or anywhere in the U.S., call me, personal injury attorney Clay Fostel, at The Fostel Law Firm, PLLC. I have been dealing with claims – and adjusters – for more than 20 years, and I will protect your rights in obtaining the just compensation you deserve.
What To Expect From
An Insurance Adjuster
If your claim is for more than a routine fender-bender — say, you’ve suffered injuries that you’re being treated for — these insurance adjusters are going to double down on low balling, delaying, or even denying your claim, using every trick in the book.
How to deal with an insurance adjuster is a matter of urgency when you or a loved one has just been injured by the negligence or inattention of another driver. Your best bet may be to let an experienced personal injury attorney handle the adjuster for you, or at least counsel you.
The Insurance Adjuster’s Role
An insurance adjuster works for the company that he or she represents, and as such, their main task is to limit the liability — in other words, the payout — arising from any claim. The bottom line is always a dollar amount — the lower, the better.
Insurance adjusters are highly trained in negotiation tactics, and depending on the insurance company, separate adjusters may be assigned according to the claim. This means that they may assign one adjuster for personal injuries, another for vehicle damages, and still another for total losses. Their focus, however, is always the same: to protect and minimize the liability of the parent company.
If You’ve Been Injured…
If you’ve suffered just scratches or something minor, you may be able to get a fair, or at least decent, settlement by dealing with the other party’s adjuster — or by letting your own insurance company handle the issue. If your injuries are more serious, you may be startled or confused by some of the questions and demands the adjuster might make over the phone.
Signing a Medical Release
When there’s an injury involved, the adjuster will often ask you to sign a medical release form, which is usually so generic that it will allow them to probe into your whole medical history to see if you had any pre-existing conditions that could have contributed to your injury (and thus lower their liability). You do not have to immediately sign this. Take it to an attorney for review.
Asking Questions About Your Condition
Through a series of questions, they will also try to pry out of you any information that could help them downplay the extent of your injuries, or even prove that it’s not what you claim it to be. When they call, they may ask, “How are you doing?” If you say “fine” or “good,” that’s a tool they can use to argue that your injuries weren’t that serious.
The adjuster will also ask you to agree to a recorded interview, or statement of what happened. You don’t have to initially agree to this if you don’t feel you’re ready to do so. You can contact an attorney to represent you or to guide you on what to say. Or you can ask that it not be recorded. If the interview is recorded, demand a copy of it.
Never Admit Guilt
When you are conversing with the adjuster, don’t admit guilt or volunteer information that is not asked for. It’s like the warning issued under your Miranda Rights: anything you say can and will be used against you.
After your conversation, the insurance company may send you what’s called a Reservation of Rights letter, which basically says the insurance company has agreed to discuss your claim with you but has not accepted liability for the accident or your injuries.
Never Accept The First Offer
If you reach the settlement stage, never accept the first offer, which will no doubt be a low-ball attempt to basically get rid of you and your claim. Also, never agree to a settlement until all your medical needs have been attended to. Once you agree to a settlement, the case — as they say — is closed, and you can make no further claims, even if your injury resurfaces later on.
Work with an Experienced
Personal Injury Attorney
As you may have guessed after learning about the insurance adjuster’s role, one small slip-up by you in your interview can quickly come back to haunt you throughout the settlement process. Perhaps if your injuries were minor and caused you to only miss a couple of days of work, you may be able to get a decent settlement by submitting the proper documentation (expenses, lost wages, and so on) and by being prudent during the interview process. But if the insurance adjuster knows what they’re doing, they’ll try to do everything they can to minimize your claim and your settlement.
When filing a personal injury claim, it’s always advisable to consult with an attorney who has extensive experience with the insurance claims and settlement process. You could literally be leaving thousands of dollars or more on the table if you try to navigate this process alone.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident and is considering filing a personal injury claim, contact me at The Fostel Law Firm, PLLC, immediately for an initial consultation. My office is based in Houston, Texas, but I serve all of Texas and the Southeast New Mexico area. I am also available as a nationwide resource to car accident victims looking to file a claim for compensation, so reach out today to learn more about how I can help you with your case.