Obtaining full and fair compensation from an insurance company can be a challenging and confusing process. Most injury victims have never been involved in a car accident and are unfamiliar with the claims process. The insurance company adjusters, however, are professional claim handlers who handle car accidents claims every day. Insurance companies are not in business to lose money, and their goal is to pay out as little as possible for the injuries caused by their insureds. Insurance adjusters are also professional negotiators who handle claims like yours for a living. This puts you at a significant disadvantage when you file a claim, especially if this is your first time doing so and you are not familiar with the process.
Insurance carriers have numerous strategies and tactics that are designed to trip up claimants and undermine their claims, and it is very important to be aware of these before going into the process. Here are some of the most common tactics used by insurance companies during a personal injury claim:
Acting Like your “Friend”
One of the strategies adjusters commonly use is to try to quickly establish rapport with a claimant, so the claimant will trust what they say. Very soon after the injury (often within just a couple of days), you may be contacted by an adjuster on what appears to be a courtesy call to introduce themselves and find out how you are doing. The adjuster will typically be very nice and polite, and they will act like your best friend.
The main purpose of this call is to catch you off guard and earn your trust before you have had a chance to find out what your legal rights are. They will reassure you that you will be “taken care of”, and they may even imply that you should not talk to a lawyer. While talking with the adjuster, keep in mind that they represent the insurance company, and their interests are not aligned with yours. Be polite and courteous with them but be very skeptical of what they tell you.
Requesting a Recorded Statement
Once the insurance company believes they have earned your trust, they may follow up with you and ask you to give them a recorded statement about the accident or event that caused your injury. They may present the recorded statement as a “formality” that is necessary to process your claim.
The truth is that a recorded statement is not required, and the main reason the insurance company wants it is so they can have you on the record saying something that could be detrimental to your claim. For example, during the recording, you could say something that implies that you are at least partially at fault for getting hurt. And under California’s comparative negligence laws, this could cause you to lose a portion of the compensation you are entitled to.
Requesting a Medical Release
Another request that an insurer might present as a formality needed to move your claim forward is to ask you to sign a medical release. They will probably tell you that they need this in order to start paying your medical bills. The problem is that these releases are usually all-encompassing, giving them the right to review your entire medical history. This will allow them to go on a fishing expedition in hopes of finding a pre-existing injury or something else they can use to claim that your injury (or at least the seriousness of it) is not the fault of their client.
Giving You a Quick and Unfair Settlement Offer
Insurance companies are well aware that those who suffer personal injuries are often short of cash. The combination of high medical bills and being out of work for a period of time can put a major strain on household finances, and injury victims are often motivated to get a settlement check as soon as possible. Insurers may look to capitalize on the situation by giving you a quick settlement offer.
The problem is that this offer will most likely be for far less than your claim is worth, and in fact, you may not even know the full extent of your injuries at this point, which you will need in order to accurately calculate the value of your claim. Before accepting any type of settlement offer from the insurance company, at the very least, have your case reviewed by an experienced personal injury lawyer. A reputable lawyer will be able to tell you whether or not the offer is fair and what legal rights and options you have going forward.
Needlessly Delaying Your Claim
If you have not accepted their lowball settlement offer, another tactic the insurance company might use is to delay your claim without any valid reason. Again, they know that you want to get paid, so they may simply stop communicating for long periods of time in hopes that you will get frustrated and finally give in and accept their offer. By delaying the claim, the insurance company gets to hold onto their money longer, and at the same time, they can “run out the clock” on the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit.
In California, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years. This may seem like a long time, but it can go by fast when the insurer is communicating with you infrequently. If an insurance company is needlessly delaying your claim, get in touch with a seasoned personal injury attorney right away to discuss your case and assess your legal options.
Not Telling You That You Don’t Have to Give a Statement
One of the tricks insurance companies use in car accident cases is to influence the victim to make a recorded statement before they have had a chance to hire a car accident attorney. When you are in a physically and emotionally vulnerable position, the insurance adjuster will attempt to prompt you to say things or make guesswork about the circumstances of the accident which could all be used against you later.
Contacting Your Insurance Provider after an Accident
After you report your accident to law enforcement and receive the necessary medical care, you will need to inform your insurer about the incident. When speaking with your insurer about an accident, be forthright but do not volunteer unsolicited information and do not admit fault, even if you think that you are at least partially responsible for the crash.
Your insurance agent should only seek the basic details on the incident, such as:
- The date, time, and venue of the accident
- The name of the responding law enforcement entity
- The names and contact details for other involved motorists and passengers
- The insurance details for other involved motorists
It is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident, but it is also a good idea to speak to an attorney first if the accident resulted in major injuries or if there are doubts on who caused the crash.
Contacting the Other Motorist’s Insurers after an Accident
In the days after a vehicle crash, the insurance companies for other involved motorists may reach out to you. Under the law, you are NOT required to provide a statement to the other motorist’s insurer.
It is best to politely decline to address their questions and to refer them to your own insurer or your car crash attorney. Don’t agree to give a recorded interview, do not discuss responsibility, and do not offer information about the seriousness of your injuries.
Do Not Settle for the Initial Offer that Comes Your Way
Often, accident injury victims are faced with skyrocketing medical bills and time away from work. Insurance providers understand that many injury victims require funds for damages promptly, and they may put pressure on you to accept an ostensibly substantial settlement.
However, the initial settlement offers from insurance companies are rarely enough to cover the long-term necessities. Even injuries that seem minor may warrant extensive rehabilitation or time off work resulting in lost income.
Contact Garmo & Garmo LLP for a Free Consultation
If you or someone close to you has been injured through no fault of your own, you need a strong legal advocate by your side who is looking out for your interests. If you are in San Diego, El Cajon, or anywhere in Southern California, call Garmo and Garmo, LLP today at 619-441-2500, or send us a message through our online contact form to schedule your free consultation and case assessment.