After an automobile accident, an insurance adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company might contact you. The adjuster could even offer you what the insurance company considers a fair settlement. Car accident victims should never agree to a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company without first obtaining legal advice because the insurer has no incentive to offer the full value of a claim. In this blog, we review strategies insurers use to reduce the amount paid on valid claims.
Strategy No. 1: The adjuster could request that you provide a recorded statement.
While the adjuster or investigator might claim that this information will help “process your claim”, the actual goal of the interview will be to obtain information that can be used to defend against your claim. The interviewer might ask whether you were wearing a seat belt or were fatigued and tired after a long day of work. The questions will be skillfully asked to elicit information, so the insurance company can evaluate the claim. However, the primary objective of the interviewer will be to uncover information that might be used to minimize any payout on the claim or to deny the claim entirely. Because the interviewer typically will have a great deal of experience conducting such an interview, a car accident victim should have an attorney present to object to improper questions and to control the scope of the interview.
Strategy No. 2: The insurance company might ask you to sign a release authorizing the disclosure of your medical or employment records.
The insurance adjuster’s explanation might be that he or she needs the information to determine your damages (i.e., the value of your claim). Injury victims should avoid releasing their confidential information without consulting an attorney. Although the adjuster may seem friendly and appear to be trying to help resolve the claim, the adjuster’s job is to save the insurance company money by finding a basis to deny or settle the claim for far less than its actual value. Insurance adjusters routinely offer far less than an auto accident claim is worth to increase their employer’s profits.
Strategy No. 3: The insurer could make an early settlement offer before you determine the true value of your claim under applicable law.
The average car accident victim has little to no experience evaluating auto accident claims. Insurance company adjusters recognize that knowledge is power. Adjusters often offer a lowball settlement early in the claims process when the liability of the insurer’s policyholder is clear, and the other driver has clearly suffered significant injuries. The insurance adjuster will try to settle the claim before you have a chance to have an attorney evaluate the claim and provide an accurate estimate of potential damages. This is especially true for damages that are hard for the average layperson to quantify, such as pain and suffering, diminished enjoyment of life, and permanent disability.
The adjuster also understands that some injuries do not immediately manifest notable symptoms. A thorough examination by a doctor might enlighten an injury victim about the existence of more serious injuries. Therefore, the adjuster might try to settle the case before the injured party obtains this type of information from legal and medical professionals.
Strategy No. 4: The insurance company often minimizes the severity of any injuries.
While this strategy constitutes a standard approach to defending against car accident injury claims, insurers often rely heavily on this defense when the liability of their insured seems readily apparent. The insurer might point to the fact an injured party denied medical treatment at the scene or delayed seeking treatment for any injuries as evidence of exaggerated or fabricated injuries. Insurers also might allude to the failure to complete the full course of treatment and/or rehabilitation. Although vehicle damage does not necessarily constitute a fair indication of the severity of the injury, insurance companies often argue that a lack of vehicle damage equates to a “low impact” collision, which would not cause significant injury. An experienced auto accident lawyer will anticipate such claims and have the skill to oppose such specious arguments.
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