The Good Guy Approach
Most of the time a claimant’s initial interview with the at-fault insurance company will be a pleasant experience. They want to assure you that they will handle your case quickly and fairly. They want you to feel comfortable talking to them and develop a level of trust. The adjusters are trained to help you feel at ease because they know that this increases the odds of being able to settle with you soon and probably for a lower amount. They may tell you that they will not only pay all of the bills that you currently have but they will offer an additional payment for any additional expenses that might come up. For example they may offer $1,000 extra which might seem like a lot to someone that really needs extra money. The incentive will be that if they sign the release forms quickly and return them to the adjuster, the check will be issued and on its way.
Though this may seem like a great idea, it could actually hurt you in the end if you continue to receive medical bills or continue to need medical care. Once the release of liability forms are signed your case is closed. Be certain that your financial expenses and future medical complications have been taken into consideration before you agree to a settlement.
Taking a Recorded Statement
The at-fault insurance company will want to get a statement from you about what happened. They will likely record this statement to possibly use as evidence later if needed. For this reason you need to prepare to make that statement. If they contact you right away requesting the statement, you have the right to tell them that you are not ready to make that statement. Give yourself time to collect your thoughts and maybe even jot down the order of events that occurred at the accident. Stick to the facts and refrain from making emotional statements such as “This is such a bad time in my life for this to happen”, etc. Statements such as these may lead the adjuster to believe that you are desperate and will settle with a low offer to have it over quickly. Be prepared with names of witnesses and their information. You may also ask for a copy of the recording for your own records. Some insurance companies will provide this but if they do not, you can still record it on your own.
Pointing the Finger at another Driver
It is not uncommon for someone to apologize and admit fault at the scene of an accident and then later change their story when they report the accident to their own insurance company. This is one reason why it is so important to get witnesses names and numbers at the scene and have the police fill out a report. If neither of those are available, the insurance company may try to blame the accident on the other driver. If more than two vehicles are involved and all insurance companies involved could possibly try blaming someone else besides their own insureds. When this happens all drivers involved are likely to be named in a lawsuit. When a judge and a jury are involved, the truth tends to come out. This will force the insurance companies to accept a percentage of the liability for the accident and pay out accordingly for the expenses.
Pointing the Finger at another Cause
If given the opportunity to blame a claimant’s injury on something other than the accident, the insurance company will do so. For instance if the reported injury is a whiplash, the adjuster will be checking into the medical history of the accident victim to see if they had prior neck problems. If they do have a history of neck problems, then the adjuster can insinuate that the neck was already hurt.
The at-fault company may also claim that the force of the impact was not great enough to cause the injuries claimed. This is a weak argument because studies have shown that serious injuries can occur in even minor accidents.
Social media might also provide evidence that an adjuster might be looking for to prove that the claimant is not as hurt as they claim to be. If they can find pictures and posts showing sports or family hikes and vacations where the injured person is shown actively participating, they may try to show that the person was not hurt as badly as they are claiming. They may even try to prove that injury actually occurred in some other way besides the accident. This may occur even though the adjusters are fully aware that people are anxious to get about living their lives as normal as quickly as possible. Just to be on the safe side, be cautious about posts and pictures on social media.
Arguing that Didn’t See the Doctor Enough
This sounds a bit silly at first. The at-fault adjuster may say that you haven’t seen the doctor enough to justify the type of injury you are claiming. You may be the type of person that doesn’t like to go to the doctor and prefers to tough it out. This attitude may hurt you if it seems that your injury could not have been as serious as you claim. On the other hand, if you see the doctor too much, it may appear that you are trying to claim more than you should. Bottom line is, seek the care that you need to adequately heal but do not take advantage of the situation. Be smart and honest as you obtain medical care for your injuries from an accident.
The purpose of this article is to inform the reader of possible strategies that an at-fault insurance company may use in order to keep their costs down or to completely deny your personal injury case. If you have been injured or had property damaged in an auto accident you have rights under the law to be compensated fairly and made whole. If needed, a personal injury attorney can help you make sure that those rights are upheld.
About the Author, Andrew Spainhower
Andrew graduated from The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. A.S.U. is the 5th ranked law school in the western United States. While in law school, Andrew was a Dean’s Recruitment Award recipient, a Charles E. Jones Scholar recipient, and he earned the Pedrick Scholar Award for excellence in academic achievement. He also won the “CALI Excellence for the Future Award” for achieving the highest grade in a practical application clinic entitled, “The Litigation Experience.” This was the crowning achievement of Andrew’s legal education as litigation and courtroom techniques had been his focus throughout his law school experience. Andrew also served as the judicial intern for the Honorable Judge Bruce R. Cohen of the Maricopa County Superior Court. Andrew’s legal practice focuses primarily on personal injury, workers compensation, and civil litigation.