Anyone who has been seriously injured in an accident knows that the pain, suffering and financial loss are real. The law combined with insurance should protect all of us from losses incurred due to someone else’s negligence. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation being passed around that has led to some victims getting less compensation than they deserve, and some getting no compensation at all.
Trick #1 – Encouraging you to not hire an attorney
An insurance company’s first priority will be to try to convince you that you do not need an attorney on your side. They know what studies have shown and their own experience tells them, that you will receive more money on average when you have an attorney rather than negotiating on your own.
If they are able to prevent you from hiring an attorney or at least delay it, they can use the following tactics to reduce any final settlement amount.
Trick #2 – Giving the impression that they will accept responsibility
The insurance adjuster may contact you and imply that they are accepting responsibility, encouraging you to begin your medical treatment and rest assured that they will pay the bill. In reality, this tactic is used to put you in a difficult position. After you’ve received treatment and incurred significant expenses, they will likely challenge your treatment and offer to pay only a fraction of the costs. They are hoping that you will have incurred debt and may find yourself in financial difficulty, making you more likely to accept any financial relief, even if it’s an unfair offer.
Trick #3 – Recording a statement
The adjuster will likely contact you and ask your permission to record a statement, offering to give you an opportunity to tell your side of the story. This is often a trap and you should politely refuse to give a statement without your attorney present and under no circumstances give permission to record your conversation.
A simple question like, “How are you today?” in which you respond, “I’m doing ok” can be used to show that you aren’t suffering as much as you claim you are.
Trick #4 – Getting you to admit some fault for the accident
Another reason for not giving a statement is that adjusters are specially trained to lead you to say certain things that may seem harmless to you, but can be twisted in their favor.
You may be trying to be polite by expressing sympathy for the injuries sustained by the other driver, such as by saying, “I’m sorry that the other driver was hurt.” It wouldn’t take much for the insurance company to use that statement to imply you were accepting some responsibility for the accident.
Trick #5 – Offering a fast settlement…too fast
Another common tactic is for the insurance company to attempt to settle the claim before enough time has passed to properly assess the extent of the injuries. The offer always comes with the requirement that you sign a release, which means if your injuries turn out to be more serious than you initially thought, you will be unable to seek fair compensation.
Trick #6 – Requesting full access to your medical records
The insurance company will often request that you give them full access to your medical records. They claim this is to assess the extent of your injuries and ensure that you are properly compensated. What’s actually happening is that they are looking for pre-existing conditions or other factors which will enable them to argue that at least some of your injuries were not a result of the accident and therefore you deserve less compensation.
Trick #7 – They claim that there is less coverage than there really is
Insurance can be complicated. One tactic used to encourage victims to accept less compensation is by presenting confusing information that implies that there simply isn’t enough insurance coverage to pay any more. Remember that they live in the insurance world every day and no one could expect you to have the same level of knowledge that they do. Before taking their word for it, check with an injury attorney.
Trick #8 – Imposing an arbitrary deadline
In an attempt to scare victims into accepting a settlement too soon, insurance companies sometimes inform you that you must accept their offer within a limited time. Remember that not all injuries present themselves fully right away and it takes time to evaluate the full extent of the repercussions you will suffer. Don’t be scared by the insurance company’s deadline. An experienced attorney has done this many times before and knows the proper timeline to follow to achieve the best results for you.
Trick #9 – Trying to do your doctor’s job
An insurance company will often attempt to evaluate your medical treatment, claiming that certain parts were not necessary or cost too much. Remember that only you, along with your doctor, are in a position to determine which treatments are necessary for your injury. Insurance companies are required to reimburse you for your medical treatment, not determine what that treatment should be.
Trick #10 – They claim that their driver was not to blame
An insurance company will often try to get you to share the blame for the accident, but it doesn’t end there. They may also blame a third party for the accident. They will likely attempt to use this tactic even in the presence of a police report clearly identifying the other party as being at fault.
Adjusters aren’t bad people, but it’s their job to pay as little as possible
If you’ve been injured, you should firstly be concerned about protecting the rights of yourself and your family. We know that adjusters are not bad people, and in truth they may wish that they could give you more money for your injuries. Regardless of their best intentions, insurance company policies and procedures are designed to pay as little as possible in injury claims. The adjuster’s career prospects are closely linked to his or her ability to minimize payments to accident victims.
On the other hand, a personal injury attorney’s interests are aligned with yours. Studies have shown that accident victims who seek the help of a qualified personal injury attorney come out with more money in their own pocket, even after paying their attorney, than those who go it alone.
You have enough to worry about, let your attorney handle the insurance company, and you focus on getting better.
Attorney Greg Bagen has been helping accident victims in Putnam County for 40 years. If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident, contact him for a free consultation.