If you’ve been in an auto accident, you’re likely wading through the waters of uncertainty, worry, and doubt.
And while it’s tempting to think of your car insurance as your lifeboat, the reality can be quite different. Before you talk to a claims adjuster, make you have a lawyer by your side. By doing so, you’ll save time, money, and a whole lot of heartache.
In this post, the experts at Erie Injury, Erie’s premier car accident lawyers, lay out everything you need to know about claims adjusters, why you should have a lawyer before you talk to one. Additionally, we’ve included a few tips to ensure the best possible outcome of your accident.
What is a Claims Adjuster?
Claims adjusters are employees of insurance companies tasked with investigating accidents, determining fault, and settling claims. Whether you got into a minor fender bender or someone totaled your car, a claims adjuster will likely become involved. However, it’s essential to realize that claims adjusters are usually trying to settle in favor of the insurance company for which they work.
Sometimes referred to as claims handlers, claims specialists, or claims analysts, these adjusters try to understand who and what was involved and who may be responsible for damages incurred. However, because claims adjusters work for insurance companies, they are typically trained to find ways of minimizing payouts.
After an accident, claims adjusters will assess vehicle damage, take photos of their findings, interview passengers and witnesses, and gather police records and hospital reports. To calculate a settlement amount, they’ll then consider any cost incurred from medical expenses, time off work, vehicle damage, and personal pain and suffering.
Of course, this process is laden with pitfalls. Be sure your case is settled fairly and that a claims adjuster cannot use the following tactics against you by hiring a lawyer before beginning these conversations. Here’s why:
They’ll Try to Find Holes in Your Story
After you file a claim with an insurance company, the claims adjuster assigned to the case will likely call you, and fast. But it’s not in your best interest to answer that call right away. Instead, call a lawyer first and have them contact the insurance company.
Car accidents are stressful, and the added pressure of answering an adjuster’s questions thoroughly and honestly can be a lot to handle. However, if your first point of contact is a lawyer, you’ll have time to better understand your own losses, ensure your physical health and safety, and think talk through the resulting damages.
They’ll Try to Record Your Statement
Though sticking to your story is an essential step in ensuring your claim is processed fairly, a recorded statement could rope you into damaging inconsistency down the road. If you make the mistake of speaking to an adjuster personally, they’ll ask if they can record your initial statement, and most people are inclined to agree. A lawyer, however, would handle that initial call and determine if it is appropriate and advantageous to have the claims adjuster record it. Either way, your lawyer may choose to deliver an agreed-upon statement that is not damaging to you and can be altered later if more details are recalled.
*Bonus Tip: Share Photos and Videos of the Accident
Your first step after an accident should be to ensure that you and the others involved are safe from further harm and are uninjured. If anyone has been hurt, seek medical attention immediately. Afterward, use your mobile phone to snap a few pictures of the incident. If you don’t have your phone with you, or if it was damaged in the accident, consider asking a witness to take photos for you.
Of course, photos of the vehicle and resulting damages can be essential, but don’t forget to document the entirety of the scene. Look for any indicators of normal traffic flow (stop signs, traffic lights, merge points, etc.) that may have been violated and caused the accident to happen. Be sure to check for any traffic cameras or, if in a parking lot, building cameras that the insurance companies might use to pull footage of the accident.
When you feel confident that everything has been photographed or videoed, send the footage to your lawyer. They’ll determine which images might benefit your case and which could be potentially damaging.
They’ll Downplay Your Injuries or Damages
Claims adjusters will often approach you in a friendly manner, making you feel a false sense of security. What can seem like a casual conversation with a helpful person might actually be a chance to get you to say your damages or injuries weren’t that serious. This kind of minor misstep can minimize payouts for damages or even result in a complete rejection of your claim.
Similarly, a claims adjuster will try to entice you to share irrelevant information about past injuries or damages to your vehicle. Doing so could give them an opening to disregard large portions of your case on the grounds of preexisting conditions or past auto accidents. However, if your lawyer has all relevant information and documentation, they’ll know what to share with the insurance company and what could damage your case.
They’ll Offer You an Unfair Settlement
As an adjuster prepares to settle your claim, they’ll make an offer based on the information gathered throughout the process. Your lawyer will have an idea of how much the accident has cost you and will be able to ensure the settlement offer covers your losses accordingly.
Keep in mind, you’re also eligible for personal loss and suffering compensation, and having an attorney help you negotiate that amount is crucial for a fair settlement. A lawyer will conduct an investigation separate from the claims adjuster's and work with (or against, if necessary) the insurance company to reach maximum compensation for you.
*Bonus Tip: Document Your Losses Diligently
If you have to pay for any injuries or damages out of pocket upfront, be sure to keep receipts and reports that specify the exact reasoning for the spending. For example, if you need your car to travel for work and need it repaired before the claim is settled, you could be eligible for compensation for those repairs. Additionally, if you have any emergency room admittance fees or other medical expenses, be sure to save those bills and submit them to your lawyer as part of your claim.
Should the accident result in any extended time off from work, document your absence and the pay you’ve missed as a result. Lost wages can all be claimed as a loss from the accident, and you could be eligible for full reimbursement. If you’re continuing to miss time from work, future wage loss can be a large portion of your settlement that an attorney can help demonstrate by hiring expert witnesses.
Let the Pros Handle Your Case
Auto accidents are stressful, and knowing exactly how to handle them the moment they happen can pile on even more worry. When an incident occurs, you want to call someone you can trust, and an professional such as those at Erie Injury can help make sure your damages are covered and that you aren’t incurring any additional expenses.
Contact our office today if you’ve been in an accident and need help navigating what happens next