When you have been involved in an auto or vehicle accident you likely expect financial compensation that will make you “whole” again. You expect the compensation to pay your medical bills and repair or replace your car. You also expect compensation for harm or loss of other possessions damaged in the crash and payment for lost wages. You expect that this compensation will be paid by the insurance company of the driver who caused the auto accident.
Many people believe that the hero of an auto accident story is the insurance adjuster, who will ride in on a white steed and ensure that each person involved in the crash will be fairly and generously treated in a large settlement. Unfortunately, although the insurance company is required by law to meet the terms of your policy, the adjuster will not be working to pay you a large settlement for your hurts, harms, and losses.
There are a few things that you should know in advance about working with an insurance adjuster.
- It is not in your best interest to speak with the other driver’s insurance company.
- No matter how nice and caring an insurance adjuster may seem, she is not your friend, and she is not going to pay you a larger settlement than necessary.
- Some insurance adjusters try to lull you into trusting them and want you to have a false sense of security. This is a tactic some use to persuade you to settle for less money than you should.
- Claim adjusters and insurance companies have an important goal: to settle your claim for the smallest possible amount of money. If they can settle your claim for less or nothing, they will do so.
- Insurance companies and claims adjusters have a responsibility to the company’s bottom line and the shareholders in the company.
- Proving liability for the crash is the first step in winning a settlement. The second step is proving damages. Damages are of two basic types: economic and non-economic. Economic losses are monetary losses caused by the accident: medical bills, lost wages, property damage, vocational rehabilitation, household services, out-of-pocket costs. Non-economic damages are less concrete and are evaluated more subjectively by a jury.
- Insurance companies will pay for medical costs that are warranted. If a health care provider suggests a treatment that is considered “overtreatment,” the insurance company will likely challenge it.
- Pictures you or others take at the accident site are important. Photos show proof of the events involved in the accident. They may prove that the other driver was negligent or liable for the damages sustained during the crash. Take pictures that will show the location of the crash, the position of the vehicles, damage to the vehicles, and your injuries (as well as your passengers). Remember to take pictures of broken windows or glass, deployed airbags, scratches, and dents to the car. And take pictures that show interior damages to your vehicle and the items that were in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Continue to take pictures of your injuries and treatments throughout the recovery process. Do not give the photos or digital files to an insurance company. You should not expect them to be returned. Pictures taken with the camera of a cell phone are generally adequate.
- The insurance company is not likely to tell you about a type of claim called “diminished value.” This claim cannot be made in some states. This refers to the amount the accident causes your car to be worth, even if it is repaired. Many people will not purchase a car that has been in an accident, especially if the damages to the vehicle are serious and extensive. Diminished value is the amount of value the vehicle has lost as a result of the accident.
- Items in your vehicle that are damaged or lost may also be covered. These are items that are not part of the car: GPS, laptop, camera, items in the trunk, back seat, and glove compartment, and child safety seats. Make a list of lost property and the estimated value of each item.
- Do not give any recorded statements. Some claims agents will try to trick you into saying things that can be taken out of context and used against you.
- An offer made soon after the crash will always be very low. Many adjusters make their initial offer low enough that they can increase the offer several times and still pay you less than they should. Some insurers will use a tactic of denying a claim altogether in the beginning.
- Claims adjusters are legally required to assess your claim in good faith. “Good faith” is a complicated legal doctrine. In essence, it is the belief that people should treat one another reasonably, honestly and fairly.
- Adjusters will likely try to get you to settle your claim as quickly as possible. This tactic may enable them to pay far less than necessary. If they can get you to agree to a settlement early, they will require your signature to a document that signs away your rights to additional compensation. When you sign it, you lose all rights to claim more money later.
- Do not honor requests for irrelevant and unnecessary information. These requests are typically made to find something that can be used against you.
- Meet with claims adjusters only during ordinary business hours so that you can contact sources of information and guidance if necessary.
- Don’t meet with an insurance adjuster alone. If you do not have an attorney, take an adult who can attend all meetings related to the accident.
- Never name a settlement amount. Let the adjuster make the offers.
- You need an auto accident or personal injury attorney. Your attorney can ensure that you understand what is happening at every stage and will protect you and your case. The insurance adjuster will likely try to convince you that you do not need an attorney.
- Only five percent of auto accident claims are settled in court. Others are settled in mediation or negotiation.
- Cases settled by an attorney typically settle your claim for an amount at least three times higher than you could negotiate with an adjuster.
We live in a culture of trying to do everything for ourselves. Settling an auto accident case is not one of the things you should do for yourself. You need a trusted personal injury and auto accident attorney to protect you from insurance adjusters and to fight for a settlement for you that is as high as possible.
When you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident or other vehicle accident through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and losses. Call Altizer Law, P.C., to help you and protect you in an auto accident claim negotiation. Bettina Altizer and her expert team have been helping people recover maximum settlements for more than 30 years. We deal with insurance adjusters every day. When you are trying to rebuild your life after injury and accident, we understand that it’s about the money. And we fight for you.