Insurance Tactics to Reduce Values of a Claim
Insurance Company Tactics Your Should Know About Before the Adjuster Calls
Most people assume that insurance companies exist to offer a service for the benefit of their policyholders. While that is the picture your insurance agent will paint, if the day comes when you have a loss and need to file a claim, you may be in for a rude awakening.
The truth is, the insurance company is not on your side. The company’s interests are diametrically opposed to yours: They exist to make profits; you want to receive a fair payout for your damages, which will reduce their profits. So don’t expect them to whip out the checkbook and write you a draft for the fair amount of your damages. They will be in no hurry to do so, and in fact will likely employ a variety of tactics to help protect their bottom line—at your expense. Here a few of those tactics that you should be aware of:
- A very personable claims adjuster calls and offers to “help” you settle your claim. The adjuster will likely explain that you don’t need a lawyer, and that he or she will take care of you so you don’t have to pay a percentage to an attorney. The adjuster won’t tell you that research shows that those with experienced legal representation walk away with considerably more money than those who attempt to negotiate directly with the adjuster.
- The adjuster asks you to make a recorded or written statement, possibly implying that you are legally required to do so. You are under no legal obligation to give any statement to the adjuster for the liability carrier, and you should not do it. The adjuster may try to entice you to say something that can be misinterpreted to the detriment of your case. Never give an insurance company’s representative a recorded or written statement unless instructed to do so by an experienced personal injury attorney.
- The adjuster presents you with a general authorization for medical records that gives the insurance company the authorization to see records of any medical treatment you have ever had. They will often use these authorizations to go on a fishing expedition to dig up all kinds of irrelevant personal information about you, which they will use to try to blame your injury on a medical condition that is ancient history or to discredit you personally, based on a mental health issue for which you may have sought treatment.
- The adjuster tries to get you to settle quickly for a small amount, before you have time to realize the extent of your injuries, in exchange for a signed release. Recently, some insurance companies have been sending their representatives to the accident scene. Don’t be tempted to accept their offer. Once you’ve signed a full release, if you find out later you have a serious injury that was not apparent right away, for example a herniated disc or bleeding in your brain, it will be too late; you will have lost your right to recover for it.
- The insurance company delays paying your claim, sometimes asking for excessive and redundant amounts of paperwork. They want you to feel enough financial pressure to be willing to accept anything they offer, regardless of the value of your case. If you’re having trouble paying your medical or other bills, talk to your lawyer. He or she may have some suggestions to help you hold on until you get an offer for the amount your case is worth.
- The insurance company sends out an investigator to place you under surveillance. The idea is to catch you in the act of doing something the injury you are claiming would prevent you from doing. Be honest and only claim injuries that you are actually suffering from. It’s not worth damaging your credibility by exaggerating. But even if you are meticulously honest and accurate, a cleverly staged photo can sometimes create an erroneous impression.
- The adjuster misrepresents the insurance coverage available to pay your claim. Don’t assume the adjuster is telling the truth about the coverage available. Let your lawyer review the policy and explore other possible sources of coverage. You need an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with the insurance business, and who can wade through the often confusing and seemingly ambiguous language of most policies and make an accurate determination of the available coverage.
- When the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, your own company may deny that you have uninsured motorist coverage. In Alabama UIM coverage is optional, but it must be offered. If you decline the coverage, you have to sign a statement saying that it was offered and you turned it down. If your insurance company can’t produce your sign statement declining UIM coverage, they need to pay your claim. This is something your lawyer will need to handle.
- The insurance company denies liability, saying the accident was either entirely or partially your fault. Alabama is one of a small handful of states applying the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, which means that states if you are found to be even one percent responsible for your own injury, the other party cannot be held liable.
- The insurance company disputes your damages and denies that you needed medical treatment, or they may blame your injury on a pre-existing condition. Your attorney will bring on board medical specialists to testify on the nature of your injury and the necessity of the prescribed treatment if the company employs this tactic.
Protect Your Rights with a Good Personal Injury Lawyer
An experienced Birmingham personal injury lawyer is familiar with these tactics and knows how to plow through them to get you a fair settlement that is adequate to compensate you for all of your damages, both to your finances and your quality of life. Call the Drake Law Firm in Birmingham, a dedicated personal injury firm exclusively handling accident claims to schedule a free appointment to learn how we can help you get the recovery you deserve.