Many accident victims are nervous about their first contact with the insurance company’s adjuster, and justifiably so. Assuming anyone who was recently in a car wreck is dealing with injuries and emotional stress that come from a traumatizing event, it’s hard to think clearly through a claim negotiation.
Here are some tips for that first contact with the insurance adjuster to help you advocate for yourself or a loved one and set the stage for financial recovery instead of further anxiety and financial stress.
- You can ask for more time to make a recorded or written statement even if the adjuster requests one. This statement could include a release for their access to your medical records – a history that can go back many years. Since you will be bound by what you say in your statement and prior medical issues may factor into your recent accident, it often makes sense to let clearer heads prevail. Wait to make any statement the insurance company recommends or requests that you make, and consult with a lawyer before you do so.
- Be willing to take your time and resist the urge – or pressure you may feel from the adjuster – to agree to a quick initial settlement offer in cash. You may have already visited the ER, and are anticipating some medical bills, so it can be tempting to take the “bird in hand”. However, sometimes it makes sense to consider a second medical opinion. Also, it’s important to consider long-term effects of some injuries. If an injury received in an accident will prevent you from certain activities or types of employment for the rest of your life, does it make sense to accept coverage for just the cost of initial treatment? You want to wait to discuss settlement offers until you’ve gotten a clear understanding from your doctors about your injuries and treatment plan, and talked to a personal injury lawyer who is familiar with cases like yours. This lawyer can usually give you an idea of what you might be facing for the long term, and can help you assess if that initial settlement offer is fair.
- Ask for a letter confirming your conversation and to confirm the fact that you reported the claim. Make sure you have the claim number and record of the name of the adjuster(s).
- “Just the facts, ma’am.” You need only give the adjuster basic information about you – your name, age, address and phone number. They might ask you about your employment, salary, or question you about the accident, but you don’t need to provide those answers for them. Even if it sounds like they are understanding and sympathetic, any information you give might affect the outcome of your claim, or your lawsuit if you decide that it makes sense to file one.
- Don’t give a statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster about the facts of the accidents, even if the adjuster asks you repeatedly, or tries to engage you in a conversation about it. You can give the basic facts - where, when, the type of accident, and the vehicles involved. But if they press you further, you can say that your investigation of the accident is continuing and that you’re willing to discuss more particular details about the crash when the time is right.
Sometimes the safest course of action is to take advantage of many personal injury lawyers' offers for a free case consultation. It doesn't hurt to talk to someone experienced in cases like yours, and who has a deeper knowledge of what's at stake. At Bill Coats Law, we offer free case consultations and if we can't help you, we'll talk to you about what your options are. For more information click the links below:
Nolo.com "Insurance Adjusters: First Negotiations"
Bill Coats Law - Attorney Bill Coats has twenty years' experience working with accident victims