Loose Lips Sink Insurance Cases
Have you been in a car accident, or had a homeowner’s claim? You know the routine: you’ve done the necessary reporting, and now you want to move on with your life. At this point in the process, the insurance company tells you to speak with their adjuster. We know you just want everything to be over, but—what do you do?
We suggest that you not talk to the adjuster until you talk with a lawyer. Or, at the very least, don’t speak with them until you have read our suggestions for getting a fair—or at least a fairer—shake from the insurance company.
What Do Claims Adjusters Do?
First, let’s examine what insurance claims adjusters do. Remember, an adjuster is not your friend, no matter how nice and polite they are. They work for the insurance company, and their job is to give you as little money as possible by determining how much they can minimize any damage that has been done.
Here’s how it works: When you file a claim, or another party files a suit against you, the policyholder, the insurance company’s adjuster is the one who will investigate the accident or incident and all aspects of the claim. As an investigator, a claims adjuster’s job is to obtain facts and evidence, which can include police reports, medical records, photographs and videos, interviews with witnesses, or anything else that might have relevance.
But, remember, adjusters are not a neutral party. Their job is to find the evidence that benefits the insurance company. Their mission, and the reason the insurance company pays them, is to pay you the least amount possible—or to find reasons not to pay you at all.
The Mistakes You Make Can Cost You Money
When faced with talking to an insurance adjuster, if you have a substantial claim (especially if it involves personal injury), your best bet might be to hire an attorney to protect your interests. However, if your first action is not hiring legal assistance, then we hope you’ll keep the following points in mind. They are crucial to your getting what you deserve.
Keep in mind the things you should never do:
- Do not give a recorded statement. Insurance companies and their adjusters will try to convince you that they cannot move to a settlement without obtaining a recorded statement. Except for an uninsured or underinsured accident claim, there is no legal requirement for a recorded statement. Be aware that such a statement can be used against you—and will likely be used against you—at every turn, up to and including in a court of law. If you have an attorney, they should be present for any statement you make.
- Do not give the adjuster anything but the facts. Do not give them any information that you do not personally know to be 100% true. Remember, anything you say can be used against you. Don’t speculate. Say that you don’t know if you truly don’t know.
- Do not allow blanket access to all your medical records. Past medical situations can be used against you to minimize or even disallow payment. If you have an attorney, they must see and possibly change any request for your records. Do not sign off on a request to see all your records.
- Do not apologize for the accident or make any statements that could be construed as putting you at fault for the accident.
- Do not accept a settlement in cases where you may not yet know the full extent of your injuries. If you have sustained serious harm, and you are looking at medical bills, you may feel compelled to pursue a quick settlement. But it can take time to diagnose the full scope of injuries. Do not let the insurance company or adjuster pressure you into taking a settlement which is not in your best interests.
- Do not take what the insurance company calls their “final offer.” Regardless of what the insurance company may say, their first—or even their third—offer is usually not their final offer. Do not be too quick to settle. This is one area in which an attorney can help greatly.
- Do not assume the insurance company will treat you fairly. We are not saying that insurance companies or adjusters are evil. But you do need to keep in mind that their goal is to pay you as little as possible, because they are profit-making institutions. The company may not stand behind what they say they will. If a company’s representative says they will “take care of you,” you can be sure that money is in play. Do not assume their offer is a fair one.
Should you be offered a settlement, two points are most important:
- Any settlement should be in writing. As someone (perhaps film mogul Samuel Goldwyn) once said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.” The insurance company is not obligated to honor anything that is not in writing. If your adjuster gives you a settlement figure but it has not been signed by those in charge at the insurance company, beware.
- Review any offer with your attorney. If you have not engaged legal assistance, do not sign a settlement offer until you are certain you understand all the terms and conditions. You may be giving up rights in exchange for the settlement amount, and you may be left with no recourse should you discover later that you got a raw deal.
We’re listening. How can we help?
Steve Heisler has been practicing law in Maryland since 1988. In 1996, however, he decided to focus exclusively on personal injury law. Why? Steve has a heart for helping people. He determined that his education and experience could best be put to use advocating for the rights of folks who were harmed through the actions of others.
Car accidents can be one of the most upsetting experiences of our lives. You may need to heal from injuries, and you may be dealing with the complete loss of your car and all the expenses and hassles related to it. One thing you don’t need to endure while you are trying to get better is negotiating with insurance adjusters. The Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler of Baltimore, Maryland, can provide you with all the legal assistance you need. Let us handle the insurance company, manage the paperwork, and negotiate on your behalf so that you can focus on getting better and going on with your life. Keep in mind, however, that there may be a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing your claim, so you should not delay. Call us for a free initial consultation at (410) 625-4878 today, or use our online form.
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