In the days after a car accident or any type of injury-causing incident, you may get a call from an insurance adjuster whose company insures someone else involved in the accident.
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Let’s look at when and how an adjuster might contact you, what to say, and what to avoid discussing, especially if you think the other party is at fault for the accident.
when and how will the insurance adjuster contact you
The first contact from the other party’s insurance company could come as soon as the first few days after the incident that caused the injury, but it will almost certainly come within the first few weeks. As we will see later, one of the goals of the adjuster here at this first contact is to get you to accept a quick settlement offer, even before you understand the value of your injury claim. so the adjuster doesn’t wait long.
Why do adjusters prefer phone calls? there are a few reasons:
- The adjuster might think a live call will give them an idea of how comfortable you are with the injury claim process, including how likely you are to fight for a fair outcome.
- The adjuster may use a live call to try to get you to say something about the accident or your injuries that might harm your claim, or might be difficult to take back later.
- The adjuster might take the opportunity to pressure you into accepting too early (and too low) a settlement offer, often before you have any idea of the nature and extent of your injuries.
tips for talking to the other party’s insurance company
The first thing to remember is that in every moment of every interaction, the insurance adjuster has your company’s best interest in mind, not yours. their goal is to get you to accept the least amount of money possible in the shortest time possible. that’s the most important thing to keep in mind when communicating with your adjuster, and the following tips stem from that.
stay calm and courteous
Although you may still be angry about the accident and your injuries, taking your anger out on the insurance adjuster will not help you get a fair personal injury settlement. You may not know exactly how or when an insurance adjuster’s goodwill can pay off, either by quickly handling your claim or by believing their version of a problem that’s hard to prove, so it’s always best to keep calm down and be professional.
identify the person you are talking to
Before you discuss anything, get the name, phone number, and email address of the person you’re talking to, the name of the insurance company you’re with, and the name of the person or company which the company insures.
provide only limited personal information
You just need to tell the adjuster the basics, like your full name, address, and phone number. You can also tell them what kind of work you do and where you are employed. but at this point, you don’t need to explain or discuss any more about your job, your hours, your income, your medical/injury history, or anything else.
do not give details of the accident
Insurance adjusters or other representatives may try to get you to “give a statement” about how the accident occurred. or they may just strike up a conversation with you during which they will subtly try to get you to tell them about the accident.
politely avoid discussing any but the most basic facts: where, when, the type of accident, the vehicles involved if it was a traffic accident, and the identity of any witnesses. say that your investigation of the accident is still ongoing and that you will discuss the facts further “at an appropriate time.” Later, you will probably send a personal injury claim letter describing the accident in detail.
do not give details of your injuries
Naturally, an insurance adjuster will want to know about the nature and extent of your injuries. not give a detailed description yet. you may miss something, or discover an injury later, or your injury may turn out to be worse than you originally thought. if you need to say something, just tell the adjuster you’re “still trying” and leave it at that. Learn more about how your medical treatment affects the value of your personal injury case.
As soon as you finish your conversation, write down all the information you received on the phone, as well as the information you gave (or requests you made) to the person you spoke with.
resist pressure to come to an agreement immediately
Insurance adjusters sometimes offer a settlement within the first one or two phone calls. Quick settlements like that save the insurance company work. More importantly, they make you settle for a small amount before you fully understand what your injuries are and how much your personal injury claim is worth. don’t take the bait. Collecting a settlement may seem like a quick way to get compensation without going through the claims process, and the money may be tempting, but you’ll almost certainly be fooling yourself in the long run.
set limits on conversations
In your first contact with an insurance adjuster, make it clear that you won’t be arguing much over the phone. Not only should you provide very limited information on this first phone call, as mentioned above, but you should also set clear limits on any subsequent phone contact.
There are good reasons to limit your phone conversations with insurance adjusters. some will call frequently in an attempt to get you settled in quickly, and can become a real nuisance. it’s good to nip this in the bud.
More importantly, until you have had a full opportunity to investigate and think about the accident, and determine the extent of your injuries and other losses (these are your “damages” in legal parlance), you will not have accurate information to to give. And if you provide incomplete or inaccurate information over the phone, the insurance company may try to force you to comply later.
refuse to give recorded statements
many claims adjusters immediately pressure you into giving a tape-recorded statement, or casually ask if they can record your phone conversation, claiming it will protect you later. I do not accept any conversation to be recorded. You are not legally required to be registered, and it is against the law for an adjuster to register you without their permission.
The reason you should decline is that most people get tense when they know they’re being recorded, and they may forget to say important things or describe things clumsily or incompletely. A verbal statement or conversation is almost never as accurate and complete as the written correspondence you later send to the insurance company. In addition, the recordings take on much more importance than they deserve as proof of what happened. it can be almost impossible to correct or expand on what you have said on a recording later.
politely decline but sign an adjuster’s request to record your returns. tell the adjuster that you are not comfortable with any type of record and that when you are ready, you will provide all necessary information in writing.
getting help after an accident
If you’ve been injured in some type of accident, you may not always feel like fighting the other party’s insurance adjuster. That’s especially true if he’s still recovering from major injuries and things are getting contentious.
A personal injury attorney will not be intimidated by the tactics of an adjuster and will ensure that all angles of your injury claim are presented in the best light possible, to ensure a fair outcome. Learn more about how a personal injury attorney works for you and get tips on finding the right attorney for you and your case. And if you’re ready to discuss your situation with an attorney now, you can use the features on this page to connect with a personal injury attorney in your area.
For detailed information on each stage of a personal injury case, get the book How to Win Your Personal Injury Lawsuit (from which this article was adapted) by Attorney Joseph Matthews (NOLO).