As a personal injury law firm that deals almost exclusively with car accident cases, we have a bit of a unique perspective on insurance adjusters. Time and time again, we’ve witnessed the various strategies and manipulations used by insurance agencies, in order to minimize their payouts on valid insurance claims. Here in the office, we smirk a little when we see advertisements on TV and radio for the big insurers, touting slogans such as: “Like a good neighbor”, “under our wing”, “You’re in good hands” etc… The truth about how you may be treated by them is quite different when push comes to shove. Make no mistake, an insurance company is a business, whose goal is to make money. Insurers are in the odd position of having to elicit a client’s trust by promising to take care of them, while simultaneously serving their own bottom line needs. Basically, they want to settle your claim as quickly and for as little as possible, and they’re not on your side.
Be Careful What You Say To An Insurance Adjuster
It is common in the aftermath of an accident for the other driver’s insurance adjuster to contact you to “check on you”, get your version of the story, and hopefully get a recorded statement. I have had clients get this call while waiting for treatment in the emergency room.
It is not by accident that they contact you so soon after the accident. One of the main reasons for this has to do with the delayed onset of symptoms. Often in the minutes or hours after a crash, your adrenaline is still surging, and some of your musculoskeletal injuries may not have reached their full intensity of symptoms, as it can take hours or days for some soft tissue injury symptoms to fully develop. They are ultimately looking to get a recording of you saying that you’re OK, that the accident wasn’t that bad, and that your injuries are minor. This can be used against you when you submit a claim outlining the full scope of your injuries. An adjuster may reference this recorded statement in an effort to delegitimize your claim down the road when it comes time to settle your case, even though they know good and well that some injury symptoms take time to develop. Watch out for those early phone calls, and our advice after a serious accident is to not take their call until you’ve had a chance to talk with a skilled personal injury attorney.
Difficulty Connecting With An Adjuster.
In the early days of the claim, you will probably have a lot of questions for the insurance adjuster: Who is responsible for paying my medical bills? How do I go about getting my car fixed? Will you pay for my rental car? Should I keep getting medical care? These are all appropriate questions. However, adjusters typically handle over 100 cases at any given time, and they can be hard to track down. But in truth, there is a strategy in place here. They know that the more you have to struggle to get a hold of them, the quicker you will be to accept their offer when you finally do get them on the phone, exasperated from all the effort needed to do so. Or even better, the more likely you are to throw your hands up in frustration and walk away altogether after your calls go unanswered. Problem solved for them. I have even heard stories from clients where they have tried repeatedly to get in touch with the at-fault adjuster, to no avail, only to receive a check in the mail out of the blue, for way less than fair value. Presumably, the hope is that the client will “take what they can get” since there’s no open line of communication, cashing the check, and releasing the insurer from any future responsibility in the matter. In this case, the client is stuck with stacks of medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering that is uncompensated.
Statute of Limitations
Another factor an adjuster may use to their advantage is the Statute of Limitations, which in North Carolina, expires 3 years from the date of the accident. If you are close to the statute running out, the adjusters know that you’ll be more desperate to take a lowball offer, in the 11th hour. If they can run out the clock by being unresponsive, they can wiggle out of being financially responsible for your claim.
Remember, no matter how kind and reassuring an adjuster acts on the phone, they are not on your side. Typically, you will be dealing with the adjuster for the at-fault driver, the one who caused your crash. It is important to note that they will almost never admit that the accident was their clients’ fault. They know that admitting fault means they will have to pay out more money. Thus it is very common for them to deny liability, even when you, the other driver themselves, and the police officer who responded to your accident all agree that it was the other drivers fault. It gets even more challenging when they actually try to blame you for the accident, either directly or indirectly. Watch out for loaded questions like “what else could you have done to prevent this accident?”, or “Were you having a difficult time seeing the roadway clearly because of the rain?” or anything else that would possibly indicate that you may have contributed to this accident happening. In North Carolina there is a law called Contributory Negligence, where if it is determined that you were even 1% at fault for a crash, you are not entitled to collect any compensation for the accident. This law makes it really easy for adjusters to find some way to put enough blame on you to sidestep responsibility. If they can trick you into admitting even partial fault it can lead to a huge reduction in the value of the claim, or get the claim thrown out altogether.
What To Do Now
It is very common for clients to have these types of challenges dealing with an adjuster following an accident. Things can change at the drop of a hat if they see an opportunity to push back on the validity of your claim, challenge the severity of your injuries, or flat out accuse you of lying about your injuries. Because of this, we recommend not speaking to an adjuster before you talk with a reputable personal injury lawyer about your accident. Additionally, we recommend communicating in writing (email) so that there’s a trail of what was said by whom and when.
Get In Touch
If you’ve been involved in an accident, and are having trouble communicating effectively with an insurance adjuster, a personal injury lawyer can help. A reputable attorney has the tools and resources to make sure that you are compensated fairly for your injuries. Call us today to discuss your case. Our no-pressure consultations are always free.