A person meeting with an insurance adjuster

If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident and decide to file an insurance claim against the other driver, one of the first things the insurance company will do is assign a claims adjuster to investigate your claim.

Unless you hire a personal injury attorney right away and channel all communication through them, sooner or later you will have to speak with that insurance claims adjuster. They’ll ask you questions about what happened. Most likely, they will seem very nice.

Of course, they might really be a nice person in real life! But it’s important to remember that the insurance adjuster isn’t your friend. Their job is to investigate insurance claims. Their employer, the insurance company, makes more money when those claims are denied. The adjuster’s role is to look for any evidence that allows them to deny or reduce the insurance claim.

In theory, this is to protect the company against insurance fraud. But over-zealous insurance claim adjusters deny legitimate claims all the time, too. If you say something to the adjuster that sounds fishy or even remotely like an admission of guilt—even if that’s not what you intended—your car accident case could suddenly get a whole lot harder.

If you’re fielding those conversations on your own, the best way to protect your legal rights is to be prepared. Here are 10 practical tips (with 2 bonus tips) on how to deal with insurance adjusters after your auto accident.

EMBED VIDEO: 10 TIPS on How to Deal with Insurance Adjusters-CAR ACCIDENT – YouTube

Be Nice …

As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Conversations with insurance adjusters can be stressful and frustrating. If the adjuster tells you that you don’t have a case, that their client did nothing wrong, or gives you an insultingly low settlement offer, your instinct might be to get into a shouting match.

Don’t give in to the temptation. As frustrated as you might be, the claims adjuster is still going to be the person who makes the initial recommendation to the insurance company about whether to approve or deny your claim, and how much to offer. Being polite and professional goes a long way, and in many cases can mean a faster, smoother ride to a fair settlement.

… But Be Firm

“Being nice” does not mean “politely agree with everything the adjuster tells you without pushing back.” In fact, if you seem like you’re agreeing with the adjuster (even though you don’t), that could be used against you later.

Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Be firm. If the adjuster tells you that you don’t have a case, disagree with them. Tell them, as many times as you have to, that you believe their driver caused the problem and that you believe you’re entitled to fair compensation.

Be a Good Listener

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when an adjuster is telling you things you don’t want to hear. But it’s a good idea to slow down and remain open-minded. Chances are they’ll give you important information that can help you in the next stage of the claims process.

Listen carefully to the facts that the adjuster gives you and their reasons why they’re unwilling to admit liability or pay a certain amount. Take notes. You can also write down your conversations in a journal after you get off the phone. If you fully understand the insurance company’s rationale, then you’ll have a much better idea of the evidence and arguments you’ll need to provide to change their minds.

Be Inquisitive

Ask open-ended questions—especially those that begin with who, what, and how. Then, listen carefully to how the adjuster responds. For example:

  • “What am I supposed to do with that?”
  • “Help me understand: how do you value an injury?”
  • When the adjuster tells you his offer is “fair”: “It seems like you’re ready to provide the evidence that supports that.” (i.e., open their books).

In other words, force the adjuster to be as specific as possible about the facts they’ve uncovered, how they arrived at their conclusion, or why they think that what they’re saying is fair. Then, go back to the point above, take notes on their response, and plan your next steps accordingly.

Be Prepared

As my old high school track coach always said, “proper preparation prevents poor performance.”

Before your conversation with any representative with the insurance adjuster assigned to the claim, make sure you grab a copy of the police report and read it. Have all your dates of treatment, medical tests, and other relevant information about your injuries and treatment. Know your end of the case and be prepared to talk about it.

Be Skeptical

Insurance companies like to say that they’re “good neighbors” or that their clients are in “good hands.” It’s all talk.

Again, remember what I said up front. The insurance adjuster’s main priority—the reason their job exists in the first place—is to protect the insurance company’s bottom line. Every claim that gets paid out goes on their books as a “loss.” You shouldn’t trust them to handle your claim quickly and fairly. That simply isn’t their goal.

Very likely, the adjuster is going to leave out certain details when they talk to you. They won’t bring up any facts that are inconvenient to their case. They won’t tell you if their driver admitted to any fault. They won’t tell you how much money they have to pay your claim. They may not even tell you what the other driver’s policy limits are.

In other words, don’t take their word for it. Do not be afraid to walk away. Say: “I’m sorry, your offer seems very generous, but I can’t accept settlement at that amount.”

Be Prompt and Responsive

If the adjuster leaves you a voicemail, call them back within 24 hours. If you set up a time for a call or teleconference, be on time. If the insurance adjuster requests evidence that they need to make a determination (such as a copy of the police report, photographs, relevant medical records, etc.), turn those over.

Just like “being nice,” being prompt and responsive helps make a good impression with a person who has a lot of influence over how much to offer you in initial settlement negotiations. A faster, smoother investigation also means a potentially faster resolution to your claim, whether you end up taking a settlement offer or taking your case to court.

Be Honest …

Whatever you do, do not lie to the adjuster. Don’t even exaggerate. Besides the facts, the most important thing that you have in any personal injury case is your credibility. And once you lose it, you won’t get it back.

If you lie to the insurance company, they will find out. Most likely, it will result in them denying your claim entirely, or at the very least significantly reducing the amount of money they will offer you to settle.

Even if the other driver was 100% responsible for the accident itself and you take your case all the way to court, you’ll still have to rely on a jury to determine how much you’ll get in damages. Chances are, even if you “win” the case, they’ll be a lot less generous if they think you’re a liar.

… But Don’t Say More Than You Need To

When discussing an accident with an insurance adjuster, keep it short and stick to the facts of the case. Answer only the questions you’ve been asked, don’t discuss matters you weren’t asked about, and don’t guess or speculate.

If you aren’t 100% sure about a detail, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” After all, that is the truth. If you guess or speculate and it turns out to be incorrect, you may appear to be dishonest or untrustworthy.

Be Ready to Talk to the Adjuster’s Supervisor

Unfortunately, this is something you might have to do.

Understand that the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim is probably handling dozens of claims at the same time, each with a high number of documents in their file. They might only have the authority to settle claims independently if the offer is under a certain amount.

If the adjuster won’t budge on an offer you think is still too low, ask for their supervisor. If they try to discourage you (“it won’t get you anywhere,” “my offer won’t change,” etc.), remember to be nice but firm. Tell them you’re not in a position to accept their offer and need to talk to someone else. Don’t let a little social awkwardness keep you from advocating for yourself.

Bonus Tip: Be Alert

Although you aren’t always going to agree with an insurance company’s decision, it seems like you should at least be able to trust that they’ll deal with you in good faith. Sadly, some insurance companies have been known to use sketchy, underhanded tactics to intentionally confuse and mislead injury victims.

Here’s a devious example. The insurance company might send you a check out of the blue, that you weren’t expecting to receive, along with a document to sign. If you’re already receiving checks from your own insurance company for wage loss benefits or medical reimbursement (under a no-fault or PIP policy), you might even be inclined to cash it. But be sure to read the fine print! That check is likely a settlement offer for your bodily injury case, and signing the paperwork and cashing the check could release the insurance company from further liability.

More commonly, the insurance adjuster may ask you to give a recorded statement about the accident. Don’t agree. You do not have to give one, and it won’t ever help your case. Any mistakes, exaggerations, omissions, or apologies you give in the statement—however innocent or unintentional on your part—can be twisted and used against you.

Bonus Tip: Call an Attorney

If you’ve never worked with a personal injury attorney before—and most people haven’t—you might find the prospect of calling one scary or off-putting. A lot of people feel like it makes them a bad person. Clients often tell me they “aren’t the suing type” when they come to my office for an initial consultation.

The thing is, though, that sometimes getting legal representation is the only way to get a fair deal out of the insurance company. That’s especially true if you suffered severe injuries, spent a lot of time in the hospital or out of work, or the insurance company is just being particularly stubborn.

An attorney can help you in many ways. Here are just a few:

  • Talk to the adjuster so you don’t have to—and protect you from any underhanded, bad faith tactics they might employ.
  • Gather the evidence you need to prove your side of the story. At a basic level that includes eyewitness statements, accident photos, police reports, and medical records. But it might also include speaking with accident reconstructionists, life care planners, and other experts who can analyze the evidence and support your liability claim or a demand for higher damages.
  • Stay on top of deadlines and ensure your case goes forward in a timely manner, while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
  • If necessary, sue the insurance company and represent you through the litigation process and a potential trial. (Most cases settle before trial, even if you do file a lawsuit. But an attorney willing and able to take the case to trial can be a powerful incentive for insurance companies to make better offers.)

Remember that this might be your first time dealing with the legal ramifications of a car accident, but the insurance company handles personal injury claims all day, every day. They know the tricks and tactics inside and out. You don’t. They have you at a serious disadvantage, especially if there’s any gray area in your case (and there are always gray areas when serious injuries are involved). The best way to even the playing field is by hiring an experienced car accident lawyer to help you with your claim.

Need Help Dealing With an Insurance Adjuster? Contact Jeff Marion Today

I hope you found this post helpful and informative as you consider what to do next about your personal injury case. If you need further assistance, please speak with an experienced lawyer in your area—and if your area happens to be near Buffalo (or anywhere else in the State of New York), feel free to give me a call at (716) 589-6655 or use the contact form on this website.

I’ve been fighting for people injured in crashes for more than 25 years and would be happy to sit down with you—for free—to go over your case and see what I can do to help.

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