When you’re involved in a car wreck, are injured, or make a claim for property damage, the insurance company you make a claim against will put you in the capable hands of an insurance adjuster.
Not necessarily “good hands.” But very capable hands. Capable of doing everything the insurance company has trained them to do in their efforts to pay out as little money to you as possible.
Generally within a few days you will get a call from a friendly-sounding voice wanting to “just get a bit of information…” “hear your side of the story.”
They need to make sure your story sounds plausible. And for good reason.
Insurance Fraud Costs You in Higher Premiums
Part of an insurance adjuster’s job is to try to root out fraud. According to the FBI, insurance fraud (excluding health insurance) costs more than $40 billion a year. Why does that concern you? Insurance companies aren’t going to take the hit. You do. By paying premium hikes of between $400 and $700 annually.
So when someone says they hit a deer, you want to make sure the insurance adjuster questions that claimant in an effort to find evidence a deer was indeed the cause of that car’s broken headlight and crunched fender and side panel. And not that the driver rammed into the side of his garage at 2 a.m. coming home from a party. The difference could mean whether your insurance rates may possibly go up. If you hit a deer, your damages are covered under a comprehensive claim, which generally won’t cause your rates to go up. If you swiped the side of your garage, damages are covered under a collision claim – and that may cause your rates to go up.
Why Is the Insurance Adjuster Calling You?
You can have more than one adjuster to deal with. Many insurance companies have specialty adjusters. Some adjusters only investigate. Some deal with injury. Others specialize in negotiating and speaking with attorneys. You may also deal with property damage adjusters who only handle vehicle damages. These types of adjusters may be further specialized. One could be the estimating adjuster and another might be the one who pays you for damages.
But all adjusters have one thing in common.
Adjusters work for the insurance company, and their job is to try to pay out as little as they can to keep their employer happy.
Listening Between the Lines
In the interest of full disclosure I rarely, if ever, advise my clients to speak with an insurance adjuster for a recorded statement. I have found that, for the most part, these recorded statements have not been in the best interest of my clients – but have more to do with obtaining information that the insurance company could potentially use later to try to minimize payment or deny a claim altogether. All cases and facts are different, so it is important you talk with an experienced personal injury attorney before giving information to the insurance company.
But if you do happen to speak with an adjuster, you can be assured they are trained in active listening. It is important that what you say to them is true, factual, succinct, and not editorialized as in “He came out of nowhere.”
1. Where is Nowhere?
We have former insurance adjusters on our staff who worked for insurance companies for many years before they came to us. They tell us the inside joke among adjusters is they want to know where Nowhere is. Claiming someone “came out of nowhere” may lead an adjuster to wonder if you were paying attention.
2. “He had to have been speeding.”
Another editorialized comment our former adjusters often heard “almost on a daily basis” was, “They had to have been speeding.” Usually this is in reference to pulling out from a stop sign or a green light. Those active listening skills kick in causing the adjuster to question, if the other guy was speeding and they got so close to you, then why did you pull out? That screams you were not paying attention. The adjuster is taking detailed “notes to self” while you are offering damaging information without realizing it. Later, when negotiation time comes, these off-hand comments could come back to haunt you.
3. “The next thing you know they hit me.”
North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, so if someone is able to show you are even 1% at fault, you may not get compensation. Let’s say the police report showed a clear cut liability issue with the other driver. Don’t inadvertently say something that might give the adjuster an opportunity to twist your words. "Well, I saw him in the intersection and the next thing you know he hit me." You may have had the right of way, but if you saw the other car, you should have had time to stop or react. The police report may say you’re not at fault, but you just gave yourself contributory negligence by admitting to the adjuster that you were partially at fault. The adjuster can then deny liability and not pay your claim based on your statement.
4. “My light turned green so I just pulled off.”
Did you look left? Did you look right? That adjuster can very well deny your case because, without realizing it, you admitted you did not look before entering into the intersection. You may have had the last clear chance to avoid the collision.
5. “I was coming from a friend's house."
Seriously? There are a whole lot of “friends” in North Carolina who seem to enjoy having company until 4 a.m., judging from the number of times adjusters have heard that one. If you were not coming from a friend’s house, don’t say you were.
First of all, when you speak with an adjuster or any insurance representative you want to be credible and honest in all your answers. Not only is it the right thing to do, but your credibility can be a powerful weapon in your defense – especially if you have to go to court.
Adjusters have ways of getting at the truth when they think you are not being truthful. They may follow up with more questions: “How long were at your friend’s house? What were you doing? Had you been drinking? How many drinks did you have?” These are just for starters.
We Can Help You Give Your Statement to the Adjuster
As I said, I almost always advise my clients against giving a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster because I have found it can do more harm to the client.
Yet some come to us after they have already given a statement. There are so many ways we’ve seen innocent North Carolina car wreck victims hurt their case by talking to an insurance adjuster without realizing how some of their statements may be misinterpreted.
We can help you prepare to speak truthfully about your car accident, but in ways that may not necessarily harm your case. If we feel a recorded statement is in your best interest, we can be on the call with you to try to make sure the adjuster does not take advantage or twist your words. If a written statement about the events of your car wreck is the best option, we can coordinate with you to try to come up with something that would help protect your rights.
Get a FREE Case Evaluation From N.C. Car Wreck Attorneys
If you or someone you care about was injured in a car wreck and an adjuster wants to “just get a bit more information,” contact an experienced North Carolina car wreck lawyer before giving any statement. You don’t want to say anything that may inadvertently damage your case before getting a professional evaluation.
Contact us now for a free case evaluation to see if we can help or call us at 1-866-900-7078.
Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal
injury lawyer to represent them received 3.5X more compensation for their loss
than they would have on their own*.
* Insurance Research Council 1999