The adjuster is not your friend. Seriously, they’re not.
The more significant the damages are in your car accident case, the more likely it is that the adjuster contacting you will act like your friend—at least at first. If the adjuster believes the value of your injury claim is below $5,000, they are more likely to be rude and abrupt. (Many of my clients relay in our initial consultation that the adjuster handling their claim actually hung up on them more than once.) If an insurance company perceives that they have a significant loss exposure, the adjuster is most likely going to establish rapport with you and will seem helpful and fair, at least until they start talking about money.
One reason, on high damage injury claims, that the adjuster may be friendly and even appear helpful is that they want you to trust them when they tell you, “you don’t really need to hire an attorney; they’ll just take part of your money.” The adjuster does not want a claimant to have an advocate that understands the ins and outs of the claims process—that would make it more difficult for them to settle the claim for a fraction of its actual value.
When an adjuster says “we accept responsibility,” it does not mean the adjuster will make a fair or reasonable settlement offer to resolve your claim.
Helpful Hint: Insurance adjusters commonly use phrases such as “we accept responsibility,” or “we are going to take care of you” to imply they will fairly compensate an injury victim for his or her damages.
Generally, the innocent victim mistakenly believes that if the insurance company accepts responsibility, then the company has a duty to fairly compensate the victim for his or her damages.
Frequently, it is only after the adjuster actually discusses compensation that the personal injury victim realizes that they need an attorney. Unfortunately, that usually happens many months after the accident, and many things that should have been done to document the claim have not been done because the victim expected fairness by the insurer.
What you say can hurt you!
Insurance adjusters will want to take recorded statements from a personal injury victim soon after a car crash. Some may even suggest they cannot process a claim unless you give a statement. This is not true in Tennessee for injury claims made to the other party’s insurer!
Helpful hint: It’s not a good idea to give a recorded statement to an adverse adjuster after a car accident.
However, if you give a recorded statement to an adverse adjuster, be very careful what you say.
The insurance adjuster handling a car accident claim has several huge advantages when dealing with a unrepresented claimant. Adjusters have usually handled hundreds of accident claims. They have been trained in how to take statements from personal injury victims that illicit information from the victim that hurts their injury claim. Do not let them put words in your mouth. A question such as “When did you first see the other vehicle?” is a loaded question because it assumes that you saw the other vehicle prior to impact.
Another area of conversation that comes up in recorded statements is the extent of injuries. Sometimes, a victim may not know the extent of their injuries until after a day or two, or even later. Other times one area hurts so badly that other medical problems are not identified. Also, be weary of an adjuster that asks you if you are okay. Many of my clients have had an adjuster justify low-ball settlement offers by saying “You said yourself you were okay when I spoke to you immediately after the accident.” Avoid giving statements while taking medicine.
If you give a recorded statement to the adverse adjuster, follow these guidelines:
- Don’t volunteer information.
- Do be truthful and concise.
- Don’t guess if you’re not sure.
- Qualify your answers when appropriate.
Make it clear to the adjuster you will not discuss any settlement offers until you’re fully healed or released from treatment by your doctors.
Adjusters often want to pressure injured claimants into prematurely discussing settlement amounts before they are done being treated. Don’t fall for it.
Communicate with the adjuster handling your claim by email whenever possible.
During the first conversation with the adjuster, get all their contact information, including email address, physical address, fax number and phone number. Immediately after that first conversation, send the adjuster an email confirming your conversation and stating you are willing to provide them with the necessary information to evaluate your claim, but all communications must be through email. Adjusters like to do their dirty work over the phone. They will be reluctant to use some of their shadier tactics if you force them to communicate with you in writing.