What Not to Say to an Insurance Adjuster After an AccidentSettlements
Following a serious accident of any kind, you will likely have to talk to an insurance adjuster to receive compensation for the losses you may have faced because of the accident. If you had a car accident, you might need to talk to the insurance adjuster to get compensation for the damage to your vehicle.
When you have to pursue compensation for injuries, the discussion with the insurance adjuster may grow much more complicated, and you may find yourself having more interactions with the insurance adjuster.
Some things, of course, you know you should not say: “Oh, yeah, I absolutely caused that accident!” comes to mind. However, some things you should avoid discussing with or saying to the insurance adjuster might seem less obvious.
Sometimes, however, your insurance adjuster may take that statement at more than just face value. Indicating that you “feel fine” following an accident could sound like your injuries no longer limit you, or as though they do not cause you pain. What you intend as a relatively casual, small talk-based statement could become something entirely different as the insurance adjuster makes a note of it.
Avoid, if possible, making any statement about how you feel, especially a generic statement, since it could work against you and even sabotage your claim.
Any speculations about the extent of your injuries.
If you talk to an insurance adjuster before you see your doctor or even get a full evaluation of your injuries, you may find yourself making general statements about what injuries you think you may have suffered. Sometimes, however, what seemed like minor injuries may turn out to be much more serious than you thought.
As your doctors continue to work with you, they may uncover much more severe injuries. You might realize, for example, that you sustained a traumatic brain injury that could leave you struggling to get back to work for months, or severe internal injuries that will require multiple procedures to correct completely.
The more serious those injuries, the more medical assistance you may need over time and as your doctors continue to treat you, they may uncover an increasing number of injuries or medical challenges that will need their attention. As a result, you may discover that you need additional procedures, further increasing your medical costs.
If you guess at the extent of your injuries, it may severely undermine your ability to go back later and explain the full extent of the injuries you have suffered.
Information about your medical progress.
In general, you should not mention your medical progress or your current medical state to the insurance adjuster, if you can avoid it. In many cases, you may have future setbacks ahead of you that you could not have anticipated.
Those setbacks could lead to further medical treatments, and those further medical treatments could mean more expenses, which you will then need to include as part of your personal injury claim.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered a broken leg in the accident. Healing might progress well for a while. Eventually, however, you discover that you have suffered a further complication that will require additional surgery. If you previously talked to the adjuster about the seemingly smooth progress of your recovery, the insurance company may claim that you caused the decline in your condition due to your actions or a lack of adherence to your doctor’s requirements and recommendations.
Your personal plans.
Small talk can prove extremely deceptive when you speak with an insurance adjuster. You might think that questions about your weekend plans or how you have coped with the extent of your injuries simply serve to fill the time while the adjuster takes care of paperwork or pulls up important details about your recovery. Unfortunately, sharing your plans or past activities with the insurance adjuster could damage your claim.
Suppose, for example, that you spent the weekend hanging out with friends. You might have gone to a rental property where you could all spend time together despite your injuries, or you might even have made plans to go out that made some allowance for your continuing limitations. You may have suffered significant physical pain because of those activities, but deemed it worth it for your overall mental health.
The insurance adjuster might not see your plans the same way. In some cases, the insurance adjuster might use that information to indicate that you have not suffered injuries as serious as you initially claimed because you can still engage in many of the activities that you enjoy and that you cannot claim so much compensation for pain and suffering. The insurance adjuster might even claim that if you had suffered the injuries you claim from the accident, you could not engage in those activities.
On the other hand, the insurance adjuster might use those activities to show that you have not taken your doctor’s instructions seriously, especially if you need to rest to recover. As a result, the insurance adjuster might claim that you have limited your recovery, and therefore do not deserve the compensation you might otherwise have claimed for future medical bills.
Unnecessary details about the accident.
Before providing any details about your accident, especially a serious accident, talk to your lawyer. Let your lawyer decide what the adjuster needs to know and provide it.
Sometimes, unnecessary details can interfere with the adjuster’s ability to settle an insurance claim quickly. Worse, even minor details could change the balance of liability in your claim and make it more difficult for you to seek full compensation for all the injuries you sustained in the accident.
Suppose, for example, that another driver T-boned your car in an intersection. You might have noted that the other driver ran a red light and therefore did not have right of way; however, you might have failed to put on your turn signal, or you might not have turned on your headlights despite a wet, rainy day.
Talk to your lawyer about what details you might need to include as part of an accident report. Avoid discussing the accident with the insurance adjuster until you have had a chance to discuss your statement with your attorney.
Any recorded statement.
The insurance company may offer to record your statement after the accident. The adjuster may even claim that this works in your best interests: after all, memory can quickly fade following a serious accident, and traumatic incidents can result in severely distorted memories. However, you may not realize the full extent of that memory distortion immediately and recording your statement does not work in your best interests.
Let the insurance adjuster know that you do not intend to issue a recorded or written statement before speaking with an attorney. An attorney can help you navigate any statement you make to the insurance company more effectively and ensure that you maintain a consistent statement any time you talk about the accident.
“It’s not their fault.”
It can prove incredibly tempting to let the other party off the hook, even when talking to the insurance adjuster. You might know, particularly if you had the opportunity to talk to the liable party at the scene of the accident, that the accident resulted from some relatively neutral action: a mistake anyone could have made.
You might want to make the other party feel better, whether you need to make a statement about a car accident that occurred because the other driver looked back to deal with a child at a critical moment or a slip and fall that occurred because store staff failed to clean up appropriately after a spill.
In many cases, you might want to alleviate the guilt that goes along with an accident. Most likely, the party liable for your accident did not cause it deliberately, and you may not want the other party to feel the guilt that might accompany an accident that no one could have predicted.
However, when dealing with insurance adjusters, you should not worry about the other party’s feelings or even whether the accident occurred deliberately. Instead, you need to focus on securing the compensation you need to pay the often expensive bills that may follow a major injury.
You may find yourself tempted to apologize for any contribution you feel you might have made to the accident. In many cases, your involvement might prove relatively minimal or you might simply feel the urge to apologize out of basic politeness.
That apology could, however, serve as an admission of guilt or partial guilt, which could reduce the compensation you can recover for your injuries. Instead of apologizing yourself, accept any apology issued to you gracefully.
“Yes, that settlement offer sounds great!”
When you suffer serious injuries in an accident, you may find yourself dealing with many financial challenges very quickly. You may have damaged a car in an accident, or you may have significant medical bills that you need to take care of, ideally as soon as possible. Unfortunately, not all of those bills will appear at once, which means that you may not even know what your actual financial losses from the accident will look like for some time.
The insurance company may attempt to use that against you. Many insurance companies will start by issuing a low settlement offer: an offer that reflects a percentage of the damages you may have sustained, or an estimate of the losses you may have faced. That initial settlement offer might not provide the funds you need to replace your losses after the accident.
In reality, you may deserve considerably more compensation than the insurance company offers you as part of an initial settlement. Many people, however, have no idea how much compensation they might deserve following any serious accident.
Medical bills may mount much faster than initially anticipated. Other financial losses, including lost income, may pose their own difficulties. As your financial difficulties continue to mount, that initial settlement may seem increasingly low and eventually, you may realize that it included only a fraction of your real losses.
Instead, ask for time to think over any settlement offer, and talk to your attorney about your actual losses to get a better overall calculation of what you need to ask for as part of your personal injury claim.
Talk to a Lawyer First
Many people try to jump straight from “accident” to “insurance company” because they assume that the insurance company will offer them a fair estimate of the compensation they deserve. In reality, however, dealing with an insurance claims adjuster may prove more complicated than you could have expected.
Instead of going straight to the insurance company after an accident, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more about your rights, including how much compensation you really deserve. A lawyer can also handle anything you need to share with the insurance company and manage conversations with the insurance adjuster so that you do not inadvertently limit the compensation you can recover.
By talking to a lawyer first, you are far more likely to maximize the compensation you recover for your injuries.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.