We suffer injuries, damage to our vehicle and take time off of work, to name just a few. But one of the unexpected pains that we encounter after being involved in a vehicle accident is dealing with insurance companies.
How we deal with insurance companies can have major implications for our finances. Many people don’t realize that the actions we take and the words we say to insurance companies impact the payments we receive following an accident.
These matters can be so complicated that attorneys specialize in dealing with insurance companies as part of their job. But that doesn’t mean that you need to pass a bar exam just to talk to insurance adjusters. In fact, by keeping a few guiding principles in mind, you can learn how to engage with insurance adjusters without fear of shooting yourself in the foot.
Understanding the Mindset of Insurance Companies
Understanding how these businesses work is central to learning how to talk to insurance companies. Insurance companies are, after all, businesses. Businesses are built to make a profit. Insurance companies, just like other businesses, make money by maximizing the amount of money that they take in, and minimizing the money that they spend.
This means that it is in the best interest of an insurance company to reduce the amount of money they pay to their customers and to all other parties involved in vehicle accidents. For example, one of the most common methods of minimizing payment is to prove that their client wasn’t the one responsible for the accident, thereby shifting the financial responsibility from the insurance company to the negligent party.
But let’s take a look at what you can expect when dealing with your own insurance company. You will likely do this through a representative of the insurance company, referred to as an insurance claim adjuster.
The Role of an Insurance Adjuster
An adjuster is the person that investigates claims, advises insurance companies and negotiates settlements. They can be private adjusters who work under contract for an insurance company, direct employees of an insurance company or public adjusters who don’t represent an insurance company at all.
Insurance claim adjusters are trained to evaluate all losses and damages suffered in automobile accidents and, in many cases, to make sure that insurance companies don’t pay more than necessary for damages in an accident.
Remember These Things When Talking to Adjusters
- Adjusters are looking for ways to minimize payment. Keep this fact in mind when speaking to an adjuster. You have to stand up for yourself, or you might risk receiving less compensation than you deserve.
- You don’t have to accept their first offer. Many claimants think that when they are presented with a figure, they must accept that amount. In many cases, the figure presented to you is simply a starting off point. Through further negotiations, you can receive compensation that is much more likely to cover your damages. Be sure to let them know about the suffering you’ve encountered that goes beyond physical injuries, property damage and medical bills.
- You don’t have to give a statement in the first encounter with an adjuster. An adjuster will often encourage you to make a statement when they first meet you, but you are not required to do so. If you are still reeling from the experience of your vehicle accident, request that you speak with them at a later time. While you will eventually need to give some form of a statement to the insurance company, you do not have to do so in the very first meeting.
- You can ask questions. The conversation with an adjuster isn’t an interrogation. It can be a dialogue. When you are presented with an offer, you can ask how they reached that amount. Don’t forget to include things that they might have overlooked, like lost wages or emotional suffering.
- Get it in writing, and keep it in a safe place. Whether it’s ongoing correspondence or a settlement offer, keep records of your correspondence with adjusters and insurance companies. This documentation could come in handy during the negotiation processing.
- Keep your own personal records, too. It can be easy to lose track of all the small costs you encounter after a vehicle accident. If you fail to remember or mention these costs, your insurance company might do the same. Keep all bills and receipts that you receive, from prescription medication receipts to car repairs. As part of your personal records, consider keeping a journal documenting your recovery and expenses. This can serve as a reminder to both you and your insurance company of the damages you’ve been facing.
- You are your own advocate. Don’t expect an adjuster to stand up for you and your best interests. They might be sympathetic or even pleasant to work with, but at the end of the day, they are usually going to help their employer minimize the payments that they you give you. You must be willing to speak up if something is overlooked, or if you feel like their offer is inadequate.
- Be reasonable. While you do have to negotiate with an adjuster to get the best settlement possible, you also have to be realistic in your requests. It might be okay to go a little higher than your actual expectations in the course of negotiations, but astronomical demands might end up causing you more problems and making the process more difficult.
You don’t have to be a skilled negotiator to get the most out your settlement, but you do have to be vigilant. Voice your concerns and don’t be afraid to stand up for your own interests. Believe it or not, adjusters expect to have a little back-and-forth in the course of investigating and negotiating a claim. Show them that you have put your own thought and effort into reaching an acceptable settlement, and be consistent in your negotiations.
It might seem a little intimidating to deal insurance claim adjusters, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Adjusters are just doing their job and meeting the expectations of their employers. Think of yourself doing the exact same thing, except in this case, you are representing your own best interests.
Guajardo & Marks is a personal injury firm in Dallas, Texas. They represent clients who have been involved in vehicle accidents to make sure they receive fair compensation for their damages. Contact them by calling 972-534-2839 or visiting their website.