Even if you get into a minor fender bender, you should be aware of these tricks used by insurance companies to get away with paying you as little as possible for your injuries.
Introducing: The Insurance Claim Adjuster
An Insurance Claim Adjuster‘s job is to investigate claims, determine who is at fault, and pay the smallest amount of money possible. They will always start with a low-ball offer, often far below the full amount that you are likely eligible for. At this point, most people will just accept that offer and move on with their lives. After all, who wants to drag out a scary, possibly even traumatic time in their lives?
One of the most common tricks used by insurance companies: Settle quickly, before an injury can be diagnosed.
You may later learn that you need to undergo an operation or months of physical therapy for a serious injury
When you get into a car accident, adrenaline and stress hormones dull pain. This physiological response served an important purpose during our evolution – Being able to delay pain allowed us the time and ability to escape danger. Great for when you’re running away from a bear or tiger; Not so great when trying to accurately assess injury after an accident. This is why it is incredibly important to visit a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident. Some injuries like whiplash and ligament damage often take several days to weeks to make themselves known.
Insurance claim adjusters know this, and they literally make money off the fact that you do not know this.
Other common tricks used by insurance companies include:
Getting you to admit fault
When you get into an accident, you will receive a phone call from the at-fault party’s insurance company. They will ask to record your statement of events, asking you what happened, when, where, etc. on a recorded line. Anything you say during this phone call can, and will, be used to reduce, deny or even reverse your claim.
You might end up paying the at-fault driver, for an accident that wasn’t your fault!
They want you to slip up and say the wrong thing. They know which statements to use against you. Even if you argue in your own favor, they will use the slightest admittance of fault against you. Saying something as simple as “i’m sorry this happened” or “I just didn’t see the other driver until it was too late” can be used against you.
Accident victims are often in a vulnerable state, having just been through a traumatic experience, medical treatment, and the added stress of paying future bills on their minds. Don’t put it past insurance companies to take advantage of that.
It is best to tell the insurance representative that you have legal representation and any questions will be answered by your attorney.
Getting you to release your medical records
In addition to asking for a recorded statement, the insurance company will likely ask you to sign a release so they can have access to your medical records. Why would they want access to your medical records? Most likely, they plan to downplay the extent of your injuries. They will argue that your injuries are exaggerated or not related to your crash. They may also ask why you waited so long to see a doctor if your medical treatment was delayed.
Adjusters use past medical records against you by claiming that the medical treatment you had was due to a pre-existing condition or old injury, and not a result of the accident. That’s why providing documents without the advice of a lawyer first is a big no-no.
If they ask you to sign a release, simply decline. Let our experienced attorneys get a copy of your medical records so we can link your injury to the crash.
Giving you an arbitrary deadline
This is one of the most common tricks used by insurance claim adjusters. They will issue a low-ball settlement offer, then tell you that you have until a certain date to accept this offer before it is rescinded. The truth is that this deadline is completely arbitrary. They want you to feel scared and uncertain, and that if you don’t accept this offer, you may get nothing at all. This is especially true if you are receiving medical treatment – They want you to accept their offer before the full extent of your injuries, treatment and recovery is known.
You are not obligated to accept this offer. Tell them that you will be consulting with legal council before accepting any offer they make.
Acting like they are your friend who is only here to help you
One of the oldest tricks used by insurance adjusters: They’re your buddy, your concerned friend, who just wants to help you get this all figured out quickly so you can get back to your normal life.
Put quite simply, this is a lie. They may be perfectly nice people in real life, but while doing their job, they are not there to help you. Their loyalty first and foremost is to their company and to the negligent party, so this is just a manipulation tactic to make you feel like you’re in good hands. Any assertion of working for your benefit is not only false but also contradictory to their job description. If they try to convince you not to seek legal representation because they claim they’ll take care of you, do not fall for it.
Steps you can take to avoid these tricks used by insurance companies:
Don’t give a recorded statement
You are not obligated to give an on-record statement, and anything you do say may be used against you.
Don’t accept the first settlement offer
Even if it seems like a lot of money, it is not nearly as much as you may be entitled to. The fact that they are offering you money at all means that they know they are at-fault. Their only job is to get away with paying you as little as they can, and their first offer will ALWAYS be for the lowest amount they think you will accept.
Don’t provide access to your medical records
Your attorney will provide them with ONLY the medical records relevant to your case. If you sign a release for your medical records, insurance companies can obtain records from years and years ago, which they will use to try and diminish your claim.
Provide only the bare minimum details necessary
Don’t offer up any unnecessary or extra details that could be used against you. Don’t let them convince you that the medical treatment you received was unnecessary or downplay your injuries. All details about the extent of your injuries or your medical treatment should be provided by your attorney.