Recovering from an auto accident is stressful enough. You have to contend with the physical pain of your injuries, and you might also be suffering emotionally and financially. After all, medical treatment costs valuable cash, and you may not even be able to work due to your injuries.
Then, as if you don’t have enough to cope with, an insurance adjuster comes knocking. This representative of the other party’s insurance company will want to speak to you to get your side of the story, which they’ll use to determine how liable their client (the person or party who caused your accident) is and how much they should offer you in compensation.
But are there any dos and don’ts when dealing with insurance companies after an auto accident? Here’s our advice on what — and what not — to say.
Dealing with Insurance Companies: Know What They Really Want
When a representative of an insurance company first approaches you after your accident, you might be surprised that they genuinely seem concerned about your wellbeing. They will likely be reassuring, compassionate, and keen to put you at ease. It may fly in the face of what you expect — especially given the horror stories you might have heard about stubborn and insensitive insurance adjusters trying to undercut you to the point that all they’re willing to offer is a paltry sum.
That’s not to say all insurance adjusters are like this, of course — we’re all human, and if it was our loved one who had been injured in an accident that wasn’t their fault, we’d want them to be treated with respect, dignity, and empathy. An insurance adjuster’s concern may be authentic, but it’s vital to remember one key fact:
Insurance companies are for-profit organizations.
Insurance companies ultimately make money by selling policies and paying out as rarely as possible. And, when they do have to honor a policy, the insurance company’s main goal is to pay out as little as possible.
All this means you need to be cautious when dealing with insurance companies. When you first speak to an insurance adjuster, two things are likely to happen:
- They offer you an immediate payout to agree not to proceed with a claim.
- They press you for details on what happened and your injuries, even trying to elicit an admission of guilt.
Here’s how you should deal with insurance companies when these happen and what you should — and shouldn’t — do.
Don’t: Get Defensive When Dealing with an Insurance Company
The aftermath of an auto accident is a vulnerable time. Car accidents can be devastating, not just hurting you physically but also knocking your confidence. It can take time before you feel comfortable getting back behind the wheel, and you might be concerned about how you will provide for your family while you can’t work.
You’re probably feeling a mix of emotions, ranging from sadness at the things you’re missing out on and anger at the person responsible to concern about how the situation will pan out.
Some injuries, like traumatic brain injuries, might even impact your ability to regulate your emotions, which can affect you for the rest of your life.
During times like this, maintaining your composure can be difficult, which is understandable. But when possible, it’s advisable to try to be as polite as possible. You don’t have to answer all their questions (we’ll cover that shortly), but you should avoid getting defensive when dealing with an insurance company. Ultimately, they have a job to do, and remaining polite can help cultivate a smoother relationship, especially if they’ve just come off the phone with an individual who took out their anger on the adjuster.
Do: Watch What You Say
When dealing with insurance companies, you might wonder if there are certain things you should or shouldn’t talk about. It’s important to give an insurance adjuster enough to work with — you want to ensure you get fairly compensated after your accident — but that doesn’t mean they can pry into your private details or opinions.
When an insurance adjuster asks for a statement, you should avoid discussing your role in the accident. For example, perhaps you say you didn’t react in time to another driver or that you didn’t see them. This could inadvertently be used against you to indicate you weren’t paying attention and that you are partially responsible — even if the accident was wholly another person’s fault.
Also, stick to the facts about the accident — such as where it happened, what time, and who was involved. If an insurance adjuster starts asking you about how the accident happened or what injuries you sustained, it’s okay to refuse to answer the question. Just remember to do so politely — a simple statement that you’re seeking legal advice, are receiving treatment, or that it’s too early to comment and you’d rather not answer the question now are all great ways to handle the conversation politely.
There are two key reasons for doing this — firstly, to prevent an insurance adjuster from looking to blame another party, including you, and secondly, to stop an adjuster from taking your injuries at face value. Some injuries worsen over time or may not show symptoms until weeks or months after your accident. For example, you might experience back pain when you initially deal with an insurance company, which later gives you a tingling or numb sensation, indicating a more severe spinal cord injury. Because you failed to mention it at the time, the insurance company may argue that events after the accident aggravated your condition and that you can’t claim compensation for that injury.
Just as you should be careful about what you say to an insurance company, you should also watch what you post on social media. It can be tempting to post an update online — especially if it’s your main method of keeping in touch with family and friends — but any statements you make online may be used against you. For example, you may downplay your injuries to reassure your loved ones that you’re okay or avoid worrying them. An insurance adjuster may use this to dispute the severity of your injuries, especially if it’s at odds with the statement you’ve provided. It’s best to avoid social media until your claim is settled, but if you must use it, avoid talking about your accident or claim.
Don’t: Accept the First Offer
As we said at the beginning of this blog post, it’s not unusual to receive an offer the first time you deal with an insurance company. If you’ve given any thought to how much it’ll cost to pay your medical bills, repair your car, and afford groceries for the next few months while you’re out of action, you might even be tempted to take it.
At this point, the insurance adjuster may even use scare tactics to convince you it’s the right choice, such as telling you your claim will take years to settle or that you’ll be dragged into an expensive legal battle and it’s best to accept the offer now so you can move forward with your life.
The reason it’s rarely advisable to accept the first offer is that it’s often less than what you’re entitled to. Early on in the process, neither you nor the insurance company knows the full extent of your injuries or the long-term impact they will have.
A broken bone may typically heal within a few months, so you might think an immediate payout will cover all your expenses. But what if the break doesn’t heal correctly and you need surgery, or you’re left with permanent weakness that requires ongoing physical therapy?
As soon as you accept a settlement, you release the liable party of responsibility, so even if your injuries worsen, you can’t revisit your claim.
If you feel pressured into accepting a settlement from an insurance company after your auto accident, remember you have a right to a fair settlement. Negotiation is a typical part of the process, and insurance adjusters expect this.
If you’re worried about paying your medical bills in the meantime, speak to a personal injury lawyer. If you have a claim, they may be able to delay payment until you receive a settlement.
Do: Keep Records
Records, photographs, and receipts are all valuable evidence for your compensation claim, as they show the injuries and damages you’ve sustained, when you sustained them, and the expenses you’ve incurred since.
The more evidence you have, the less room you leave for an insurance company to dispute your claim.
This is why it’s vital to seek medical help after your accident, even if you don’t feel physically hurt. You should also take photos of your injuries and any damage to your vehicle — if it’s safe to do so.
Then, you want to keep a detailed record of any expenses related to your accident. These might be medical expenses for hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, prescriptions, car repair bills, and lost wages.
Don’t: Feel You Have to Deal with an Insurance Company on Your Own
Dealing with insurance companies can be stressful, but you don’t have to go it alone.
In fact, you don’t have to do it at all.
The role of a personal injury lawyer doesn’t stop at filing your claim. They are there to support you throughout the entire process, which means they can deal with insurance companies on your behalf. If you don’t want to speak to an insurance adjuster when they ask for a statement, politely say you have an attorney, and all communication will go through them.
A personal injury attorney can also determine who is liable for your auto accident — and, therefore, who to pursue for compensation — negotiate your settlement, advise you on whether a settlement is fair, gather evidence, and speak to expert witnesses who can testify to the extent of your injuries, including how long they will impact your life and how much time you’ll need to take off work — or if you can ever work again.
At Patino Law Firm, our car accident lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio also work on contingency, which means you won’t pay any fees until we win your case. This reduces the risk for you — if we don’t win, you don’t pay us a cent — and it also helps relieve the financial burden.
If you’re worried about dealing with insurance companies after your auto accident, contact our personal injury lawyers in McAllen today for a free, no-obligation case review. We’ll let you know if you have a claim and what you can expect to happen next and handle conversations with insurance adjusters so you can focus on your recovery.