What to Do When an Insurance Adjuster Wants to Speak to You After an Accident
If you’re in an accident caused by someone else, there will no doubt come a time — usually not long after your accident — that you’ll get a phone call from an insurance adjuster representing the other party’s insurance company.
It’s their job to understand the accident and determine whether their client (the person or party that you argue caused your accident) is liable and how much compensation they should offer you in a settlement.
But what should you say if an insurance adjuster wants to speak to you? Can they twist what you say so they can offer you a lower sum? Should you even speak to them at all?
Here are the answers you need.
Should You Speak to an Adjuster?
If you’re wondering if you have the choice not to speak to an adjuster, you do. You are well within your rights not to, but there is a caveat.
Avoiding an insurance adjuster can impact your claim. Their role is to get your side of the story, so by not explaining the facts, all an insurance adjuster has to go on when calculating your settlement is the other party’s side, and they may be painting you as the one at fault.
Instead, if you don’t want to talk to an adjuster, it’s worth considering hiring a personal injury lawyer. They can handle all communication (and, later, negotiations) on your behalf so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
What to Do If You Choose to Speak to an Adjuster
If you choose to speak to an adjuster, either because you’ve yet to hire a lawyer or because you intend to claim compensation without legal representation, there are some important things to bear in mind to maximize your chances of securing a fair settlement.
What to Say and How to Say It
Arguably the most important thing to remember in any interactions with an insurance adjuster is to be polite. When you’ve been in an accident and may be physically hurt, confused, upset, and angry, the last thing you need is another person blowing up your phone wanting to ask you questions, and you might get angry or defensive towards the adjuster.
However, this won’t help in your efforts to get a fair settlement, and it could actually reduce the offer on the table.
During your conversation with an adjuster, there are also some things you should avoid talking about.
The adjuster will certainly press you for details about how the accident happened, but you only need to give the facts. This means you can discuss the when, where, what type of accident (car, truck, slip and fall, etc.), and who was involved. If you’re asked about specifics, such as how it happened, what you were doing, or what you could see just before the accident, politely decline to answer the question, saying that the accident is still being investigated and you will answer — or instruct your lawyer to — later on. Be particularly careful about apologizing for the accident — even if you’re only sorry for the fact it happened — as it may be taken as an admission of guilt. This can impact your settlement. Depending on which state you’re in, it could prevent you from claiming compensation entirely.
The insurance adjuster will also likely question you about your injuries. Again, politely state that you are still treating your injuries and move on. If you start talking about the injuries you’ve sustained and accidentally leave something out, or another injury develops later (such as a concussion or complications from treatment), it may affect the compensation you’re entitled to.
Negotiating a Settlement
Regardless of whether you decide to deal with an insurance adjuster by yourself or hire a lawyer to do it for you, the insurer may make an early settlement offer. You might be tempted to accept it, especially if you have bills to pay and the adjuster warns you that your claim may take a long time to settle, but the first offer is usually significantly less than what you’re entitled to.
Another problem with accepting the first offer is that it won’t account for any future medical treatment you might need. For example, if you suffer a back injury that worsens over time and develops into paralysis, you will need ongoing treatment and rehabilitation. There will also be additional costs, such as a wheelchair and living aids or even in-home care, not to mention the significant loss of independence and the mental anguish it’s caused. You can recover these expenses as part of a personal injury settlement. However, if you accept an early payout, you cannot hold the other party liable for your injuries getting worse, and your compensation may not cover all the future expenses you’ll incur, leaving you financially worse off in the long run.
When negotiating a settlement, go in with a figure in mind, but don’t reveal it to the adjuster. This is purely for you to use as a gauge to determine how much wiggle room you have. If the first offer is close to what you are willing to accept, you can probably adjust your target figure upward. The first offer will always be less than what you could negotiate, but you may need to reset your expectations if there’s a massive difference between the two figures.
When an adjuster makes an offer, it can be helpful to ask them to justify it. They may raise a point you hadn’t considered when determining your ideal figure.
Gathering evidence to support your claim is also a crucial determining factor. The stronger your evidence — such as medical bills and expert opinions disclosing the severity and of your injury, photos of your injuries and the scene, and eyewitness testimony — the more likely you will get a fair settlement. Bear in mind that the other party will try to refute it, but if all they have is their word that you caused the accident, yet you have evidence that they definitively caused the accident, you’ll be in a much stronger position. For example, if you’re in a car accident and the other driver claims you recklessly stopped your car, causing them to rear-end your vehicle, but you have a witness to the accident and a crash report that supports that the other driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash, your claim is more likely to succeed.
When to Hire an Attorney
Even if you want to handle your compensation claim yourself, it’s always valuable to speak to a lawyer to make sure you have a claim and get advice on how to proceed and how much you could be entitled to.
However, personal injury lawyers exist, so you don’t have to handle it alone. Recovering from an accident is stressful enough without the weight of having to represent yourself and deal with a stubborn and persistent insurance adjuster.
A personal injury attorney can not only skilfully negotiate a settlement on your behalf, but they can also help gather evidence, collect expert testimony, and arrange medical care on your behalf. If you’re worried about the cost, many lawyers also work on a contingency fee basis, so you’ll only ever have to pay legal fees if you receive compensation.
Having a lawyer on your side will also alleviate the need to brush up on your legal rights. Claims can be complex, and time is of the essence. Depending on the statute of limitations in your state, you could have anywhere from one to six years to make a claim, but that time can pass quickly, especially if you’re still dealing with the impact of your injury.
Dealing with an insurance adjuster can be intimidating, but with the right preparation and professional support, you can ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.