An insurance claims adjuster will employ various negotiating tactics to get you to settle your claim for as little as possible.
The 4 Statements from the Adjuster
Let’s look at four statements the claims adjuster might make in conversations with you to learn what the adjuster really means and how you should respond.
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1. “I’d like to take your statement.”
What he really means is I want you to commit to one version of what happened right now so that I can use it against you and try to change that story.
Adjusters are paid to investigate claims and gather facts. The linchpin of their investigation is your statement, and believe me when I tell you the adjusters will try to get you on the phone or in person as soon as they can.
Symptoms often get worse in the 24 to 48 hours after an accident. So, they want to catch you while you’re still in shock and before the symptoms really set in. The adjuster will use your statement to commit you to a version of what happened. They’ll also question your credibility if you correct an innocent mistake or add an overlooked detail.
Later, they’ll look for interpretations that reduce the value of your claim and disprove injuries you suffered, which worsened after the statement was given.
2. “Please sign the medical authorization form.”
Adjusters frequently ask claimants to sign a medical authorization. This gives the adjuster permission to obtain copies of your medical records.
The problem is that most of these insurance authorizations are broadly drafted. That allows adjusters to go into your complete medical and psychological history; not just obtain records related to the treatment for the accident itself.
This allows the insurance company to pry into preexisting conditions and medical or psychological issues; anything they can do to lessen your claim. Most claimants do not have a lawyer at the beginning of the case, and they will sign these medical releases because they think if they cooperate with the adjuster, they’ll increase their chances of getting a prompt and fair settlement.
Usually, signing will come back to bite.
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3. “Why do you need an attorney – I’ll work with you.”
What they really mean is, please don’t call an attorney. When an attorney gets involved, it becomes much harder for me to push you into a fast, cheap settlement.
When the adjuster deals with an unrepresented claimant, the adjuster has the upper hand because he knows how the system works and he’s been trained in negotiations. However, once a personal injury attorney gets involved, the adjuster loses his or her advantage.
To discourage you from contacting an attorney, the adjuster might say that your claim won’t be any more valuable just because you get an attorney.
This is false. The price tag of a claim almost always goes up when an attorney gets involved.
That’s not true. The adjuster is actually seeking the opposite. They want to pay you as little as you will accept, or the adjuster will say, if you get a lawyer, we’ll have to hire one as well to take your deposition. And that’s true. But if the case proceeds as far as a deposition, that’s nothing to fear.
You’re merely giving your statement in person with your attorney there by your side. Or they will say if you hire a lawyer, it’ll slow down the claims process. Also true. But it’s also likely to result in a much better outcome.
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4. “If you don’t accept this amount now, we will withdraw all offers.”
What he really means is, please take this low offer now so I can close your file and get it off my desk. This is often a bluff. If your case is worth, say, $20,000 today, it’ll likely be worth $20,000 tomorrow and next week, and next month.
If it’s not a bluff and the claims adjuster withdraws the offer, consider the withdrawal an invitation to file a lawsuit.
So to recap,
- Don’t give a statement to the insurance adjuster.
- Require limiting language on any medical authorization form you sign.
- Understand that the adjuster really does not want you to retain an attorney.
- Do not fear the adjuster’s threat to withdraw all offers. Instead, compare the adjuster’s last offer to the value of your claim and then decide whether to accept it.