If you’ve been involved in a car accident – particularly one with significant injuries – you’ll eventually be contacted by a car insurance adjuster or claims manager. And while you may assume that this is just the next step in the process, it’s actually an extremely important aspect that must be handled with great care.
The Goal of an Insurance Adjuster
You get a phone call fro a cordial, even-keeled individual who introduces himself as an insurance adjuster for “such and such” company. He seems to care about how you’re doing and ask questions about your health. He even goes so far to wish you a speedy recovery. But before he goes, he wants to ask you a few specific questions and gather some details so that the case can be quickly resolved.
Not so fast, my friend.
If you open up and start talking, the insurance adjuster has you right where he wants you. See, the goal of an adjuster is to save his company – the insurance company, that is – from spending more money on your case than they have to. In fact, his only goal is to take money away from your claim. If you aren’t aware of this, you may put yourself in a compromising situation that’s hard to recover from.
4 Tips for Dealing With an Insurance Adjuster
Let’s be clear about one thing up front: You probably shouldn’t be communicating with an insurance adjuster unless you’ve first been counseled on how to handle the process.
As Craig Swapp & Associates explains, “We don’t recommend dealing with the insurance company on your own. Insurance adjusters have a reputation for short-changing claimants.”
Instead, you should hire a personal injury lawyer or attorney to handle the negotiations on your behalf. But should you choose not to – or if you’ve already found yourself in a situation where you’re personally interacting with a claims adjuster – here are a few suggestions worth putting into practice:
1. Preserve Your Evidence
Before you even begin dealing with the insurance adjuster, it’s important that you take the time to gather and preserve as much evidence as you possibly can. This includes documenting the details of the situation so that you don’t forget what happens (or confuse elements of the case later on). With evidence in hand, you’ll feel far more confident in your ability to negotiate.
2. Don’t Jump at the First Offer
Never, under any circumstances, should you accept the first offer an insurance claims adjuster gives you. They’re trained to start well below their actual threshold in order to provide some negotiating room. The original offer could be just a fraction of what the claim is actually worth. They throw out a lowball offer as a way of anchoring the negotiations at an extremely low point. Your best bet is to laugh and hang up the phone.
3. Do Your Research and Ask for a Justification
If you receive what you believe is an extremely low offer, take the time to do your research and gather facts. Next, you can ask for a justification of the offer. The more they talk, the better.
Armed with your research, you can then pick apart each of their lousy justifications and present a counteroffer that’s slightly above the amount you think you deserve.
4. Emphasize the Emotional Components
You’ll certainly have to work through the cold, hard facts of the case – such as the cost of medical bills, lost wages, damage to your property, etc. However, you may be able to increase the value of your claim and speed up the time to settlement by emphasizing emotional points that support your case.
“If, for example, you have sent the adjuster a particularly strong photo of a smashed car or a severe-looking injury, refer to it,” Nolo suggests. “If your injury interfered with your ability to care for your child, mention that your child suffered as a result. Even though there is no way to put a dollar value on emotional factors, they can be powerful in getting an insurance company to settle a claim.”
Take Charge of Your Situation
You can’t always control how much you money you receive in an insurance settlement, but you can make sure you don’t get short-changed by mishandling the process. As previously mentioned, it’s best if you get some legal counsel from a car accident attorney. But regardless of what you do, stay informed and look out for your best interests.