After someone gets injured in an auto accident, one of the first people that often reaches out to them is an insurance company representative. The insurance adjuster will sound like your best friend – they will express sympathy for what you’re going through, ask how you are doing, and assure you that you will be taken care of. And while the adjuster may be a nice person who is concerned about your health, there are some things that they will not tell you.
First and foremost, your well-being may be a concern of theirs, but it is not their top concern. They work for the insurance company, and the insurance company’s top priority is their bottom line. This means that at the end of the day, they want to pay you as little as possible for your accident injury claim.
No matter how polite and courteous the insurance adjuster is, you need to always remember that their interests are not aligned with yours. You should also realize that they are professionals who are very good at what they do, and this puts injury claimants at a serious disadvantage.
Here are some other important things that insurance companies don’t want you to know:
- Even if the insurance company admits fault on behalf of their client, this does not mean you will receive a fair settlement offer.
The auto accident was clearly the other driver’s fault, and their insurance company has admitted it. What a relief, right? Not necessarily. Although they might have admitted that their client was at fault, they will still probably give you a lowball settlement offer.
When this happens, the insurance adjuster is counting on a couple of things. First, that you do not know what your case is worth, especially if you factor in intangible losses such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. Secondly, that you will not contact a lawyer to find out what your case might really be worth.
- You might be able to receive compensation even if you were partially at fault for the accident.
Maybe the circumstances of your accident are not as clear-cut, and you share some fault in what happened. Depending on the state the accident occurred in, you might still be able to recover compensation even if you are partially liable.
Florida uses a pure comparative negligence standard, which means that injured parties can recover damages regardless of how much they are at fault; however, the damage award is reduced in proportion with the percentage of fault they share.
Alabama, on the other hand, applies to contributory negligence standard. This means that if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident, they can be barred from recovering damages.
- You do not have to provide the insurance company with a recorded statement.
When the insurance company representative contacts you, they might ask you for a recorded statement about the accident. They will tell you that this is your opportunity to give your version of events, and they might imply that this is simply a formality that is needed to process the claim.
It is important to know that you are not required to give them a recorded statement, and it is not in your best interests to do so without speaking with an attorney first. The statements you make on the record will only be used against you later on – perhaps to show your admission of some fault for the accident (even though it may not have been your fault at all) or to say that your injuries are not as serious as you make them out to be (because you did not know the extent of your injuries at the time you provided the statement).
- You do not have to sign a blanket medical record release.
Another thing the insurance company might ask you to do is sign a medical release. They will tell you that this is necessary in order to get your medical bills paid. The problem is that they will usually want a very broad release that allows them to look through your entire medical history, and the only reason they would want this is to try to find something that they can use to claim that your injuries resulted (at least in part) from a pre-existing condition.
- You do not have to be in a big hurry to settle your claim.
The insurance company might try to instill a false sense of urgency that you need to get your claim settled ASAP. But the fact is, the only timeline you need to be concerned with is the state statute of limitations, which in Florida is three years. They are the ones who are usually in a hurry to settle, because they want you to accept their lowball offer before you change your mind and decide to get an attorney involved.
- Hiring a lawyer can make a big difference in the amount of compensation you will get.
Insurance adjusters will try to reassure you that they will handle your claim fairly, and they may even imply that the settlement you receive will be the same whether you hire an attorney or not. Of course, you would expect an article written by a law firm to dispute this assertion, but statistics also back show that injury claimants are better off on average with a lawyer.
According to a survey conducted by NOLO, the widely used online legal encyclopedia, those with legal representation collect on average nearly three times more than those who don’t have an attorney – even after deducting the attorney’s contingency fees.
Tactics used by Insurance Companies during an Injury Case
- Calling the injured party right away after a claim is filed
The main purpose of this call is to build rapport with you and earn your trust. A secondary purpose is to contact you at a time when you might let your guard down and admit to some fault for the incident. No matter how friendly adjusters are, you must remember, as mentioned earlier, that they work for the insurance company, and that is where their loyalties lie.
- Making a quick settlement offer for lower than the claim is worth
It is generally not a good idea to accept the first offer the insurance company gives you, because it is likely to be far less than your claim is worth. And again, if you do not know the extent of your injuries, then this is not the time to settle your case.
- Implying that you are better off not hiring an attorney
Oftentimes, insurance adjusters try to give claimants the impression that they do not need a lawyer to process the claim. They may say something like, “you can hire a lawyer if you want, but this will not change the amount your settlement is worth.” This statement is only partially true. Yes, there is a certain amount that your claim is worth, but you are far less likely to be offered full and fair compensation without an attorney.
Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable Pensacola, FL Auto Accident Lawyer
Dealing with insurance companies after a vehicle accident can be difficult, and there are numerous tactics and tricks that they might use to diminish the value of your claim or deny it altogether. In a situation like this, you need an experienced attorney in your corner who is looking out for your best interests.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Florida, Whibbs, Stone and Barnett is ready to take on the insurance companies on your behalf. To get started, call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment.