Dealing with an Insurance Adjuster: Tricks to Watch for when Negotiating Your Personal Injury Case
It’s part of a personal injury lawyer’s job to make dealing with an insurance adjuster less intimidating and fairer. At Grimes & Fertitta, we use our experience as former insurance lawyers to steer clients clear of the tricks that insurance adjusters use to whittle down settlement offers.
As a small and reputable firm, we work closely with our clients, helping them to determine the best course for their claim as they recover. One of the ways we do this is by making sure our clients understand what’s at stake when dealing with an insurance adjuster.
Let’s go over the basics of what happens when you meet with an insurance adjuster, as well as some of the tactics they employ during negotiations.
What happens when you meet with an insurance adjuster?
The insurance company will likely contact you soon after they are informed of the accident. Most of the time, an insurance adjuster will then request an initial meeting.
During this meeting they almost always ask for a recorded statement. They may also ask for you to sign a release of your medical records. However, you are not legally obligated to make a recorded statement or release your medical records. Politely refuse—your lawyer can step in to help if necessary. We will go into more detail about why giving in to these requests is a bad idea below.
The initial meeting is also an appropriate space to ask questions about:
- Whether or not the insurance company accepts responsibility for the injury
- How much coverage the insurance policy provides
- Whether or not the insurance company intends to pay your medical expenses as they are incurred
- How the company intends to address any material damages (such as damage to a car in a vehicle accident resulting in personal injury).
Depending on your circumstances, you will then want to either wait to see the insurance company’s initial settlement offer or to submit a demand letter that specifies the amount of compensation you wish to claim.
Typically, the adjuster will then call you within two weeks with a response to your letter. During that time they will continue to investigate the accident and calculate what they believe your claim’s value should be. Once you hear from the insurance adjuster, you and your personal injury lawyer must then decide whether or not the offer is acceptable and if not, either continue to negotiate or go to court.
See our blog for more information on types of personal injury damages and claims.
FAQ: Do insurance adjusters lowball?
Yes. Insurance adjusters are known to lowball the settlement amount. They are hoping you will accept the initial amount offered without question. Insurance adjusters also recognize that some people would rather take what they can get instead of trying to negotiate.
What should you not say to an insurance adjuster? Understanding the insurance adjuster’s playbook.
If you or a loved one are pursuing a personal injury claim, then the likelihood that you’ll be dealing with an insurance adjuster at some point is very high. Insurance adjusters come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be pushy, others may act friendly… but all of them work for the insurance company.
That means it’s a part of their job to reduce costs and help their company’s bottom line. Their salaries and bonuses are contingent upon their success. So while it’s not exactly right to assume that all insurance adjusters are out there to really and truly rip you off, it would also be naïve to believe that they are always acting in your best interest. Keeping that in mind, here are a few things that can make dealing with an insurance adjuster a little less treacherous.
Do not admit fault
After an accident—especially one in which other people got hurt—many personal injury victims feel guilty even if the accident wasn’t their fault. When this occurs, it’s easy to fall into the trap of apologizing, especially since many people also struggle with the added guilt of needing money.
But language that may sound merely empathetic to you can be twisted into an admission of fault. If you say something that can be interpreted as taking on some or all of the blame for an accident, your insurance adjuster can use that statement as evidence that their insured client is not-at-fault.
If an accident was obviously their insured clients’ fault, they may still try to apportion some of the responsibility for the accident off on you. Should they succeed, you will likely be paid a portion of the compensation you need.
Even if you do think you’re at-fault for the accident, it is still not best to say anything. Let an official investigation determine fault first. Your personal injury lawyer can also help you investigate whether or not a third party (such as a manufacturer) may be partially or wholly to blame for the accident.
Do not speculate about what you do not know
Your insurance adjuster will likely have many questions to ask you about your accident and injuries. It is both smart and within your rights to decline to answer questions if you don’t know or are unsure of the answer. Insurance companies may wield incorrect to weaken your case.
Do not give a recorded statement
As with speculation, a recorded statement can come back to bite you if there are discrepancies between what you said initially and what comes to light in the present. Keep in mind that giving a recorded statement also places more information into the hands of the insurance adjuster, who otherwise has only limited insight into your case (and limited time to dedicate to it).
Even if you have nothing to hide, a talented insurance adjuster has likely had training in how to get individuals to admit guilt. A few hasty answers to well-placed leading or loaded questions can significantly lessen your chances of receiving full compensation.
Do not sign a release form for your medical records
While you will eventually need to release information about your injuries, it’s best to avoid doing so without help from a lawyer. That’s because insurance companies will often want you to sign a form that releases all of your medical records. Once they have these in hand, the insurance adjusters can comb through them and find pre-existing health issues and injuries that they will use to justify a reduction in your settlement.
To avoid this issue, your lawyer can help you prepare a more specific release form. This form gives the insurance adjusters access to records pertaining only to your injury.
Do not make definite remarks regarding the extent of your injuries
If an insurance adjuster asks you questions about your injuries, it’s best to answer truthfully but without many details. Doing so protects you from being challenged if you discover additional injuries or learn that you need additional treatment. Adjusters often try to reduce a claim amount by asserting that some of your injuries are not related to the accident. They may also claim that the treatment you received for your injuries was unnecessary or excessive.
Do not believe the insurance adjuster if they “accept responsibility” for an accident and then quickly turn around with a settlement offer
After being injured, it can be a big relief to finally hear someone say that they accept responsibility. Unfortunately, when insurance adjusters use this type of language, they are often trying to manipulate you. They want you to believe that they are your allies and that a low settlement is fair.
Do not believe the insurance adjuster if they try to convince you that you do not need a lawyer
If your insurance adjuster tries to dissuade you from seeking legal assistance, that is a huge red flag. Insurance companies have an advantage over personal injury victims in that they handle claims day in and day out. A lawyer can help balance this difference in knowledge and power.
Do not assume that the insurance company will attempt to repair damaged belongings with quality parts
Insurance companies are notorious for nickel and diming those that need their help using methods that are hard to detect. One example of this kind of practice involves the use of “aftermarket parts.”
Say that you received your personal injury in a car accident; if the insurance company pays for your car to be repaired, it can opt to pay for subpar parts. These subpar, “aftermarket” parts are cheaper and much less safe; their use saves the insurance company money but can put you in danger.
Dealing with an insurance adjuster? The Grimes & Fertitta personal injury attorneys in Houston and The Woodlands can help.
The Houston personal injury attorneys at Grimes & Fertitta aim to relieve you and your family of the burden of dealing with an insurance adjuster alone. Settling a personal injury claim with an insurance company can often feel overwhelming and dehumanizing. By keeping our firm small and close-knit, we make sure that our clients never feel like just another case number.
Unlike insurance adjusters, we do have your best interests at heart. For a free consultation, call 713-224-7644 or contact us online today.
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