Russell & Hill, PLLC

What Not to Say to an Insurance Adjuster

Posted on : February 28, 2024Posted By : Russell HillPosted In : Insurance Claims

If you’ve been hurt in a motor vehicle accident someone else caused, you may file an insurance claim against their policy to recover compensation for medical bills, car repair expenses, and lost income from missed work. Insurance companies employ “adjusters” to investigate and process claims. After you file a car accident claim, the insurance company will assign an adjuster to your case. The insurance claims adjuster will ask you to provide documents and basic information about the accident so the adjuster can determine whether you have a right to compensation under the terms of their policy.

Although insurance adjusters may seem like they want to help you obtain a financial recovery, the insurance company employs them in part to protect its profits, and, therefore, the adjuster will do everything possible to minimize the insurer’s financial liability. As a result, you must exercise caution when speaking to an adjuster.

What Not to Say to an Insurance Adjuster

There are certain things you might say that adjusters can seize on to twist to their own purposes. Here’s what not to say to an insurance adjuster:

  • “I’m okay”/”I’m doing well”: An insurance adjuster may start a conversation by asking, “How are you doing?” While this question may seem harmless, even courteous, responding that you feel okay or another similar statement may give the adjuster evidence to undermine your claim that you’ve suffered severe or debilitating injuries. You can protect your interests by avoiding the topic of the severity of your injuries, as downplaying them may reduce the value of your claim, while exaggerating them can hurt your credibility. Instead, wait until you’ve received a formal diagnosis from your doctor before discussing injuries with the adjuster.
  • Admitting fault for the accident: Avoid taking any responsibility for the crash, even if you think you bear some or all the fault for a car accident. Remember, your experience is subjective, and other evidence you may not know about might prove that another party bears responsibility for causing the accident. You should also refrain from statements that an adjuster might interpret as an admission of fault, such as “I didn’t see the other driver.”
  • Discussing prior injuries or degenerative conditions: The insurance adjuster might ask about prior accidents or injuries you’ve suffered or whether you’ve been diagnosed with any degenerative conditions, such as degenerative disc disease or arthritis. Insurance companies might cite prior injuries or existing degenerative conditions as the cause of your claimed injuries rather than the car accident. You should also decline to sign a medical release, which gives the insurance adjuster full access to your medical records and history that they can use to look for other potential causes of your claimed injuries. Instead, your attorney can provide medical records from your injury treatment and rehabilitation as necessary.
  • Blaming the other driver: Avoid blaming the other driver for the accident. The insurance adjuster will determine fault based on the evidence rather than relying on your accusations. Immediately blaming the other driver can hurt your credibility with the adjuster or lead the adjuster to suspect that you’ve blamed the other driver to cover up your fault for the accident.
  • Making assumptions or speculations to fill in the blanks in your recollection: Remember, you might not know specific details about the crash due to your limited perspective of the event, or be able to recall specific details you did see. Avoid making assumptions to fill in the details of your account. You may hurt your credibility if the evidence later contradicts details you made up or assumed. Stick to the facts of the accident as you remember them when talking to an adjuster. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer.
  • Giving recorded statements: An adjuster may ask you to provide a written statement or agree to a recorded interview. Although you may have a contractual obligation to cooperate with your own insurer’s investigation, this does not mean that there is a legal obligation to provide a recorded statement. Insurance adjusters receive training in asking questions designed to induce injury claims to give responses the insurance company can construe into adverse evidence.
  • Unnecessary personal information: You do not have to answer questions the insurance adjuster asks about other personal details, such as your personal activities, work activities, or income.

Finally, do not sign any documents presented by an insurance adjuster until you’ve had an attorney review them. Signing documents without understanding their contents may cause you to give up critical rights and benefits.

Preparing for the Adjuster’s Visit

When you file a claim for property damage after a car accident, the insurance adjuster or their representative may come out to inspect your car or other damaged property. During the visit, the adjuster may take photos and measurements of damage to your car or other property. The adjuster may ask you for copies of any auto/body shop estimates or invoices you’ve received and any invoices or receipts for other property damaged in the crash, such as your cell phone or laptop. The adjuster may also ask you about the accident or your injuries. Again, you should politely decline to discuss details about your injuries except to state that you have sought treatment and will follow up with more information.

Understanding What Adjusters Won’t Tell You

Unfortunately, the insurance adjuster might engage in tactics to induce you into accepting less than fair value for your car accident claim. These tactics may include withholding information you need to make informed decisions, such as:

  • The applicable policy limits on insurance coverages
  • Deadlines for filing documentation
  • The fact that you do not have to agree to a written or recorded statement
  • The fact that you do not have to sign a medical release as a condition of obtaining coverage

You can navigate these challenges by carefully reviewing the insurance policy terms and consulting an experienced car accident attorney who can advise you on your rights and obligations in an insurance claim. Better yet, you can hire a car accident lawyer to handle your claim for you.

Effective Communication Strategies

Following these key communication strategies can give you a better chance of recovering the full value of your claim:

  • Adopt a calm, professional demeanor.
  • Avoid taking an argumentative approach.
  • Take the time to prepare and present a clear case for your right to compensation backed by compelling documentation.
  • Respond to the adjuster’s requests promptly.
  • Follow up with the adjuster if you’ve waited too long for a response or update.

Dealing with the Adjuster After a Car Accident

Here are some tips for successfully dealing with an insurance adjuster after a car accident:

  • Be firm but polite in your interactions with the adjuster. You will not help your claim by getting frustrated with the pace of its processing or expressing anger towards the adjuster.
  • Get everything in writing. When the adjuster makes a promise or representation, ask them to follow up with the details in a letter or email. Take notes of any phone conversations with adjusters, including the name of the person you spoke with, the date and time of the call, and details of the discussion.
  • Don’t take the first settlement offer. Although an adjuster might tell you the insurance company won’t negotiate, you can always counteroffer for a higher, more fair settlement. The insurance company typically starts with a “lowball” first offer in hopes that you will accept it before you know the true value of your claim.

Disagreeing with the Adjuster’s Assessment

If the adjuster determines that the insurer will cover your claim, they will calculate your losses to make a settlement offer. However, you do not have to accept the adjuster’s initial figure. Carefully review the adjuster’s offer letter to understand the basis of their assessment so you know what evidence or documentation you will need to make a counter offer.

Key Questions to Ask Your Insurance Adjuster

Some of the top questions to ask a car insurance adjuster include:

  • Has the other driver accepted liability for the accident?
  • What coverages apply to my injuries, property damage, and financial losses?
  • What are the available policy limits for those coverages?
  • Do any coverage exclusions apply?
  • Do you have the authority to settle my claim?
  • When can I expect a response/settlement offer?

The Adjuster’s Role and Actions Post-Accident

An insurance adjuster has several duties in a car accident claim, including:

  • Reviewing the details of the applicable policy
  • Reviewing documents, information, and evidence from the accident that you submit with your claim, including evidence of injuries and property damage
  • Investigating the accident scene and obtaining other reports and records, such as a police report
  • Interviewing relevant witnesses
  • Advising you as to which coverages apply to your loss and the available policy limits

Negotiating with Your Insurance Adjuster

When negotiating with an insurance adjuster, you and your attorney should take the time to prepare a concise, clear summary of the evidence showing the other driver’s fault for the accident and the documentation of your injuries and losses. If an adjuster denies your claim or settlement offer, review the details of their denial letter to identify the reasons for the denial so you can address them in your subsequent counteroffer.

When to Consult a Professional

You can best protect your rights and interests in a car insurance claim by engaging an attorney as early as possible. They can handle all communications with the insurance adjuster on your behalf, protecting you from tactics that might minimize your claim, as the adjuster cannot contact you directly once you’ve informed them that you’ve secured legal representation.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you’ve been hurt in a car crash in Washington, you need experienced legal counsel to help you navigate the insurance claims process and protect your interests as you deal with insurance adjusters. Contact the Washington car accident lawyers at Russell & Hill, PLLC, today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how a car accident attorney can handle communications and negotiations with adjusters on your behalf to stand up for your rights and fight for the maximum compensation for your injuries and losses.

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