The largest insurance company in the world, State Farm, spent a whopping $525 million dollars last year to gain your trust and convince you that it is your good neighbor.
Don’t fall for it. When you are in a car wreck, liability insurance companies are definitely not your friends. They pay you the least amount of money they can get away with to maximize their gargantuan profits.
Here are some of their most common ruses you should be aware of.
1. They call you immediately
You may still be recovering in the hospital or just be getting home after the collision. You may be on pain medications. They catch you off guard, make vague promises like “we’ll pay for your bills,” and rope you in before you have had time to consult with a lawyer to learn what your rights are.
2. They demand a statement
They ask you leading questions that can be used against you later. But you are not required to give a recorded statement. Only if one is absolutely necessary, a good personal injury attorney will review the facts, tell you the questions you can expect, practice with you, and require strict guidelines so the answers can’t hurt you in court.
3. They take your comments out of context
For example the adjuster might ask “how are you?” and if you say “I’m okay” — even though you are feeling pain — he’ll say you meant you were fine.
4. They delay you
Get used to hearing “we are processing your claim” or “we need more proof of your injuries” or “we are waiting to hear from our driver/another driver/the police/a doctor/a supervisor.” The excuses are endless. Then you aren’t sure if they’ll pay for your medical treatment so you don’t go, which they will use against you later when they give you a tiny offer.
5. They blame you and deny your claim
Since your damages are reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to you, if the adjuster can get you to admit you might have helped cause the auto collision or that you could have avoided it, he will limit the amount of your settlement check.
Sometimes the adjuster will flat out refuse to pay anything, knowing there’s not much you can do about it — other than hire an injury lawyer, of course — but by then it may be too late.
6. They blame other drivers or causes
The car behind you, the one in front, the one on the other side of the road, the weather, the setting sun, the pavement — all are used as excuses to get out of paying you money. I had a case where the at-fault driver’s attorney tried to sue “John Doe” who allegedly allowed a box to blow across the highway, causing my client and the young woman behind her, to brake. The judge threw that out and the case settled just before trial for a favorable sum.
7. They get you to sign a medical authorization or release of claim
The last thing you want to do is give the insurance adjuster the unlimited right to get your entire medical file from the day you were born. He will find some vague reference, typo, or mistake in the records and say you were already hurt at the time of the car wreck or had been hurt in the past. And the minute you sign a release, you can never recover any more money, even if you are later diagnosed with a herniated disc and need surgery.
8. They talk you into a fast settlement with a low ball offer
Insurance companies know that you have bills to pay and lost wages to worry about. They know that a lot of people will jump at instant cash, especially as they keep dragging things out.
9. They use computer programs that minimize case values
Many companies use a company called Colossus that unfairly minimizes how much your case is worth based on one-sided information the adjuster feeds into the spreadsheet.
10. They convince you not to hire a lawyer
Companies know that an experienced personal injury lawyer aggressively gathers necessary evidence, files suit, and gets a jury to award damages if a settlement offer is not fair. Studies have shown that injured victims who hire attorneys get three times as much money as people who don’t hire them. And most companies build the injury lawyer fee into the settlement formula since they don’t want to get sued and have to pay their own attorneys and risk a high verdict being awarded. Your accident lawyer can also negotiate for a reduction in your medical bills and liens so more of the money goes to you instead of hospitals and doctors.
I can answer any questions you have about dealing successfully with insurance companies. Call my Fort Worth law office for a free case evaluation and I’ll explain more about what to expect out of the process and how to empower yourself to recover the compensation you are entitled to.