Turn on the TV any hour of the day or night and you’re likely to see a commercial for an insurance company. Insurance companies spend billions in advertising to get your business. But put in a claim for accident or injury, and you can bet your insurance company will want to pay out the least money possible. Even worse, insurance companies trick you into minimizing your claim, so that any settlement you receive is small.
How can you know whether your insurance company is attempting to trick you? And if they are, how can you fight these unfair tactics?
You need a knowledgeable personal injury attorney on your side like J. Ransdell Keene. Your attorney will know about tricks insurance companies use and can protect your rights.
These eight ploys are among the most commonly used to trick and confuse policyholders:
- The claims adjuster wants to be your friend. Insurance claims adjusters – insurance agents who assess how much compensation should be paid out on your claim – read scripts and ask questions based on a training program. In fact, the claims adjuster may call you “just to check in”, asking kind questions about how you’re feeling. But beware – the adjuster is out to gain your trust because he knows that if he’s a “friend”, you may be more willing to accept a low settlement offer. Far better to let your personal injury attorney handle conversations with the claims adjuster.
- The claims adjuster wants to record your statement. If the claims adjuster pressures you to give a recorded statement, just say no. You are not obligated to do so, and this statement could be used against you later when settlement is negotiated, or your case goes to trial. Let your lawyer handle this.
- The claims adjuster begins calling you immediately after your injury. Claims adjusters know you are vulnerable during this time. You are not prepared to speak with the adjuster, are likely taking thought-altering pain medications, and probably haven’t yet consulted a personal injury attorney. Claims adjusters hope to catch you by surprise. Refusing to give a client statement will not affect your settlement options. Your attorney will take care of it by filing suit when necessary.
- The claims adjuster asks you to sign a paper known as “unlimited medical authorization”. This allows time and opportunity to search for your lifetime medical records, hoping to find injuries similar to those you are currently claiming (“preexisting injury”) as proof that the injury is old and, therefore, the claim should not be paid or that you should receive a lesser amount because of the preexisting injury. This is one of the oldest tricks in the defense playbook. Don’t do it! Let your attorney fight for you.
- The claims adjuster promises to pay your medical bills. This sounds good but try submitting your bills to the insurance company and the adjuster will either deny this promise or offer to partially pay your medical bills.
- The adjuster pressures you to sign a release of claims immediately so he can give you a check. Or, he pressures you to “take it or leave it”. Once you’ve signed the release and cashed the check, the opportunity to sue for additional damages is gone. If your medical bills increase over time, or you must take off work longer than expected, you won’t be able to get more money. It’s over, even if you settled for a paltry sum. The insurance company knows this, and hopes you’ll give in and let them off the hook. Don’t give in to pressure. Take your time and hire a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
- The claims adjuster blames you for causing the accident. This is a common ploy, designed to reduce your settlement. The adjuster may accuse you of negligence, blame some unknown driver’s actions, or insist the other party took drowsiness-inducing medication. Anything to get you to settle, or even to drop your claim entirely. Don’t fall for it.
- The claims adjuster “shorts” the amount you should receive. Insurance adjusters calculate damages using computer programs. For example, a bulging disc may be coded as a sprain or strain to lower the amount of the claim or reduce your lost wages. This is low-balling, plain and simple. You don’t know what a jury might award you for your injuries, so don’t let the adjuster scare you into settling quickly. Leave this to your lawyer.
The Most Common Insurance Company Trick
Aside from these tricks, perhaps the most common is trying to talk you out of hiring a personal injury attorney. The insurance company is aware that injury victims, when represented by lawyers, recover higher settlements … at least three times the amount of money recovered by injury victims who go it alone. Remember: your attorney has a team supporting your case and attorneys don’t scare easily, especially when they know the tricks being used against you.
If you’ve been injured in an accident and are attempting to deal with a claims adjuster from your insurance company or that of the other party involved in your case, hire a personal injury attorney like J. Ransdell Keene to answer your questions, explain the process and recover the highest amount of money you deserve under the law. And remember: you don’t have to pay your attorney out of your pocket – he’ll take your case on a “no recovery, no fees or expenses” basis. If you win, the attorney gets paid. If you lose, the attorney receives no payment.