Nobody wants to be in an auto accident. What is even worse is being in an accident where you are seriously injured through no fault of your own, and the other driver is uninsured. If you live in a no fault state, or have uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy, you might think you don’t have to worry about being compensated for your medical bills and lost wages. Think again. The goal of many insurance companies and the adjusters they train is to find any way possible to devalue or deny claims. They have specific strategies and tactics to accomplish this goal that everybody needs to know about.
- Calling you immediately after you’ve been injured
Adjusters do this for several reasons. They want to catch you when you are vulnerable. They want to talk to you before doctors have had a chance to assess the extent of your injuries. They want to talk to you before you talk to a lawyer.
The first call you get may be from the adjuster, who will be extremely sympathetic and give you the impression he is on your side. Don’t be fooled. At the same time he is commiserating with you, he may also be building a case for denying any claims you make in the future.
- Requesting that you put your statement on the record
When you are sitting in your hospital bed and the adjuster asks whether or not you mind if he records your conversation, it’s a reasonable assumption on your part that he is doing so to make sure you’re fairly compensated. This isn’t necessarily the case. For example, the adjuster may ask you to state, on the record, what injuries you’ve suffered before you’ve seen your doctor. You might tell the adjuster you have a problem with your neck and then find out later you have a back injury. Since the only thing on the record will be you saying your neck hurts, the insurance company may try and use that against any claim you make later.
- Requesting that you sign a medical authorization
Your assumption will be, and the adjuster may even tell you, that a medical authorization is necessary in order for the insurance company to pay your medical bills. In reality, a blanket medical authorization gives them access to all your medical records, before and after your accident. With this information, they can argue that you had pre-existing injuries or pain that your accident caused to recur.
- Requesting a signed release in exchange for a quick settlement
Stress levels are high right after an accident. Worrying about how much everything is going to cost is normal. The adjuster may take advantage of your vulnerable state and encourage you to settle immediately so you can get cash right away. They do this before you know the extent of your injuries. In exchange for quick cash, you have to sign a full release which satisfies your claim and releases the insurance company from any further financial responsibility. It’s a good practice not to sign anything until you have had a chance to discuss the ramifications of signing with an experienced professional.
- Using delaying tactics to try and get you to settle or give up
If the insurance company can’t get you to sign the release right away, it may resort to stalling. The strategy is to get you to the point that you feel desperate and decide to give up and take anything you can get. They are betting that your worries about mounting medical bills, repair costs to your car and lost wages will convince you to take a minimal offer.
- Denying liability
The insurance company may claim that you bear some responsibility for your accident. They are betting that any witnesses who can say it was the other driver’s fault won’t want to get involved in the case of a lawsuit. The goal of the insurance company, at the very least, is to devalue your claim. In twelve states, there is a 50% bar rule. That means if it’s determined that you were 50% or more at fault you can’t recover anything. A list of negligence laws by state is available here.
- Disputing some of your medical bills or suggesting certain treatments won’t be covered
The insurer may try to convince you to stop treatment for your injuries at some point because they aren’t covered. The purpose of this is to create a record of you not following your doctor’s advice. They can also argue that since you discontinued treatment your injuries must not have been as severe as you indicated. This can devalue your claim. Make sure you know what’s covered and what’s not by consulting professionals such as people from www.schaferlaw.com.
- Misrepresenting the law in regard to what you can seek for damages
Adjusters sometimes play on your unfamiliarity with the laws in your state regarding how much you can be compensated for your injuries. You might be told that what the insurance company is offering is generous considering the laws in your state. They may also tell you that you can’t recover lost wages or that there is a limit on the amount of money you can recover.
- Misrepresenting how much insurance will cover your claims
The adjuster may tell you that there is a fixed amount you can claim. Instead of taking the word of the insurance company, you should contact an experienced lawyer. This lawyer will research the policy limits available and help you maximize your claim.
- Advising you not to hire an attorney
The last thing insurance companies want their clients to do is retain the services of a good lawyer. These companies are in the business of making money, not satisfying claims. Their bottom line, not your best interests, is their priority.
If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, it is tempting to sign the paperwork you are given and accept what the adjuster tells you. It’s reasonable to assume you are being told the truth. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If you don’t get direct answers to the questions you ask or notice any of the devaluing tactics listed above, you need to contact a qualified lawyer immediately.