If you have been injured in an accident that was the fault of another party, there is a good chance you will be dealing with the other party’s insurance company to work out a settlement. Though the insurance adjuster for the other side may seem nice, polite, respectful, etc. it is important to understand that their interests are inherently opposed to yours. You want (and deserve) fair and full compensation for your injuries. The insurer for the other side wants to pay out as little as possible to settle the claim.
Since insurance adjusters represent their employers’ interests, it is not in their best interests to help you. With that in mind, what they say and do must be viewed with skepticism, and you must understand that their end goal is to deny, or at the very least devalue, your claim. Insurance adjusters are professionals who process and negotiate injury claims (like yours) day in and day out. They are very good at what they do, and there are a number of tactics they typically employ to minimize the value of your claim and mitigate their employer’s losses.
Here are six common tactics used by insurance companies during an injury case:
Contacting You very soon After the Injury
It is not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to call an injury victim within a couple days of the incident, sometimes even the same day. They are usually very friendly and express their regrets over what happened, ask how you are doing, and generally assure you that you will be taken care of. The main purpose of this tactic is to catch you off guard when you are vulnerable and have not had a chance to fully assess the extent of your injuries. In this conversation, they are also hoping that you will let your guard down and say something that could be used against you later on.
Asking you For a Recorded Statement
Once the adjuster believes he/she has earned your trust, you may be asked to give them a recorded statement regarding what happened and how the injury occurred. This might seem like a reasonable request, especially if you are under the impression that the adjuster is looking out for your best interests and is planning to “take care of you”. However, as mentioned earlier, the insurance company’s interests are not aligned with yours, and a recorded statement will most likely be used to devalue or deny your claim. If you are asked to provide a recorded or written statement, politely decline their request, unless you are advised otherwise by your attorney.
Making a Lowball Settlement Offer in Exchange for a Release of your Claim
Injury victims typically have pressing financial needs, and many are in a hurry to settle their claim. Insurance adjusters know this, and they often try to use this to their advantage. One common tactic used by insurance companies in an injury case is to make a settlement offer quickly before there is time to fully assess the injuries, in exchange for the injury victim providing a signed or verbal release of the claim. This allows the insurance company to say that your claim is settled, and you cannot pursue any further compensation in the future even if your injuries get worse and you require additional medical treatment.
Claiming You are Partially At-Fault for the Accident
If the insurance company for the other side can find any room in the case to argue that it is at least partially your fault, they will do it. This is one of the main reasons you should never give them a recorded statement or let your guard down and admit any fault at all for the incident. This is especially important in Alabama, where they apply the legal standard known as “contributory negligence.” With this standard, a plaintiff can be barred from recovering compensation even if they are found to be just 1% at-fault for the accident.
Delaying the Claim
If you refuse to provide a recorded statement and/or refuse an early settlement offer and the insurance company does not believe they have a basis to deny your claim, they may just decide to go dark and stop contacting you. This delaying tactic is typically designed to accomplish one of two things; cause you to become desperate and willing to settle for a low amount or run out the clock so litigation is no longer an option. Alabama has a two-year statute of limitations for most personal injury cases, and if the deadline passes, you lose the leverage of being able to pursue your claim in court if the insurer does not give you a reasonable offer.
Advising You that You do Not Need to Hire an Attorney
When an insurance adjuster contacts you early in the process and tries to earn your trust, they may also throw in a phrase like “you are totally free to hire an attorney, but it won’t change the amount of your settlement.” This type of phrase is designed to give the impression that the insurance adjuster is looking out for you, and that there is no need to retain the services of an attorney because ultimately, your settlement will be the same either way.
The truth is, injury victims needs someone by their side who is looking out for their interests, and not the interests of the other side. By working with an experienced personal injury lawyer, you have a strong advocate in your corner who understands the complexities of this area of the law, the common tactics used by insurance companies in an injury case, how to value your claim, how to successfully negotiate with the insurance adjuster, and how to successfully pursue your claim in court if necessary.