As a Florida personal injury attorney, I have grown accustomed to various tricks insurance carriers utilize. When you are involved in an accident and report your claim to the insurance carrier, the company will send a licensed adjuster to evaluate the value of your claim. While these adjusters may appear friendly and professional, it is important to remember the adjuster is on the side of the insurance company. You should know the dirty tricks insurance adjusters use to take advantage of you.
Insurance companies employ adjusters. As such, their one and only job is to settle your claim as quickly and cheaply as possible so that they can save money for their employer. In order to accomplish their goal of a quick and inexpensive resolution to your case, adjusters often employ a wide array of misleading tactics to trick you into taking a lower settlement amount than you deserve.
What is an Insurance Claims Adjuster?
After an injury accident, many accident victims pursue compensation by filing a personal injury claim with the at-fault party's insurance company. Their insurance company will, in turn, get to work to try to keep their profits up by employing tactics to limit your settlement. One of the ways they can attempt to do that is by hiring an insurance adjuster to look into ways to poke holes into your claim for compensation.
An insurance adjuster, otherwise known as a claims adjuster, is hired by the insurance company to look into the claim and determine whether they need to pay for damages. The insurance company can keep them on the payroll in-house or hire them from an outside agency. Once hired, they will assess the damages, look into the details of the accident, speak with you and witnesses to the accident, and peruse accident records to determine how much the insurance company is on the hook for.
Dealing With Insurance Adjusters
You may think the insurance adjuster is an objective party just looking into the details to get a fair accounting of what the insurance company owes. That could not be further from the truth. The insurance adjuster has only the best interests of their client in mind and will perform their duties with a certain degree of bias. Some insurance adjusters may even go as far as to employ bad faith tricks to lower the potential payout the insurance company has to deliver.
They can accomplish this by looking for any way to delegitimize your claim. Some of the ways they can limit your potential settlement include proving you share liability, getting you to admit fault in the accident, or delaying the process to frustrate you enough that you make a mistake. An insurance adjuster can focus on getting you to make a mistake or find one you made emotionally after the accident to hurt your ability to receive fair compensation for your personal injury damages.
How Your Insurance Adjuster Will Limit Your Claim
In some cases, you may need to file a claim with your own insurance company. For example, you may file a claim with your insurance company following a car accident. Your personal injury protection insurance may not cover the damages done to you and your vehicle from the auto accident, so you will need to file a claim with your insurance company to pursue compensation.
You may believe your own insurance company will have your best interest in mind, but they are more focused on their bottom line than your financial recovery. Don't be fooled by your own insurance company's claims adjuster. They will also employ dirty tricks to lower your potential settlement. Remember, (when dealing with an insurance adjuster) this individual works for the insurance company; not you. An important tip is to avoid giving a recorded statement to an insurance company without your lawyer present.
The following are some insurance adjuster tricks used to limit accident victim's settlements:
An Insurance Adjuster May Avoid Communication to Cause Frustration
Getting in touch with an insurance company after a personal injury accident can be difficult. Understandably, you want to get through the claims process as quickly as possible to receive your compensation and move on with your life. As you begin your insurance claim process, you will have a lot of questions that an insurance claims adjuster may be able to answer, including:
- Who can I speak to regarding my insurance claim?
- Will my vehicle be repaired?
- Can I get a rental car?
- Should I seek medical treatment?
- How much can I get for my damages in a personal injury case or residential property damage claim?
While an insurance claims adjuster may be able to answer some of these questions, you may experience a difficult time getting in contact with them. A typical claims adjuster handles approximately 150 cases at a time. With such a heavy workload, it can be difficult to get someone on the phone that can help you. Sometimes, the break-in communication with your adjuster can be more strategic than just a workload issue.
Insurance claim adjusters will sometimes fail to answer or return your phone calls in hopes that you will get frustrated enough to simply give up. They deal with the claim process akin to a war of attrition. Once the injured party reaches a breaking point, the adjuster knows that it will be easier to sell them on a lowball settlement offer, so they can just put the whole event behind them and move on.
Insurance Adjusters Will Use Lack of Communication to Their Advantage
There have even been cases where the injured party received little to no communication from the adjuster and received a check one day in the mail. The injured party, believing the small check is the only money they can recover from the claim, cashes the check and settles the claim. The injured party is stuck with only a minimal amount of money to put towards vehicle repair, rental car expenses, lost wages, and ever-growing medical bills.
Adjusters are also always aware of the statute of limitations on your claim. After an accident, there is a limit to how long you have to file a lawsuit to recover your loss. According to Florida Statute 95.11, most personal injury accidents have a statute of limitations of four years, beginning on the day of the accident.
If your claim has been ongoing for some time, claims adjusters may refuse to contact you in hopes that the statute of limitations will run out. In this case, you may be unable to recover through either the claims process or through a lawsuit. The adjuster is simply worrying about the insurance company's bottom line.
Bad Faith Insurance Claims Handling
Florida Statute 624.155 is the legislative key to understanding Florida's bad faith insurance law. The statute provides that "Any person may bring a civil action against an insurer when such person is damaged....", by acts of the insurer which include "not attempting in good faith to settle claims when, under all the circumstances, it could and should have done so, had it acted fairly and honestly toward its insured and with due regard for her or his interests." An insurance carrier has an implied duty of good faith and fair dealings. When the value of a claim clearly exceeds the available insurance coverage, the Claims Adjuster must retire the likely potential financial exposure of the policyholder and tender the policy limits. Other examples of insurance carrier bad faith conduct include:
- failing to conduct a reasonable or timely investigation into a claim
- denying a claim without conducting a reasonable investigation (see above)
- failure to communicate in a timely manner with the claimant
- refusing to pay a valid claim
- unreasonable demands for irrelevant documents in an effort to delay
- altering material terms or items of the policy once a claim has been filed
- a refusal to provide an insurance defense lawyer if your or your business are sued
- deceptive tactics such as failing to notify the claimant or policyholder of a deadline
Bad Faith Insurance Tactics in Property Damage Claims
We believe bad faith conduct is even more common in the context of homeowners insurance claims as compared to personal injury claims. For example, a policyholder will provide notice of a damaged or broken pipe which has caused interior water damage to the home. In response, we have seen insurance carriers drag their feet investigating such claims. In turn, the homeowner may incur additional damage. The unreasonable delay constitutes bad faith.
In other cases, the policyholder has received a thoroughly detailed estimate from a Public Insurance Adjuster and submitted such to their insurance carrier. In response, we have seen insurance companies ignore the estimate from a respected Public Adjuster, without providing a valid reason or explanation. Even more insulting is receiving a denial wherein the insurance company failed to conduct an investigation into the matter. The best homeowners insurance carriers will immediately conduct their own due diligence investigation. Further, they will examine reports submitted by Public Adjusters on home insurance claims and retain their own experts in an effort to properly investigate said claim.
Insurance Adjusters Want You to Admit Accident Fault Regardless of Truth
The adjuster works for the insurance company that you are filing the claim with. More often than not, this will be the insurance company of the individual who caused your accident or the “at-fault party.” Rarely - if ever - will you hear the adjuster handling your case admit that their insured is liable for the collision.
Admitting liability on the part of their insured would likely result in the insurance company paying out a lot more money on your claim than they desired to. Not only will the claims adjuster refuse to admit that their insured was the true cause of the accident, but they may also take it a step further by asking you a series of loaded questions to get you to admit fault. Watch out for conversations like this:
- “I understand that the other car ran the red light and hit you, but what more could you have done to avoid the accident?”
- “I understand that it rained on the day of the accident. How much of an effect do you think the slick roads had on your ability to avoid the accident?”
- "You are new to the area. Did your lack of familiarity with the area change how you drove that day?"
These types of questions may seem innocent enough. In reality, you may inadvertently admit that you may have been a contributing cause to the accident. Such admissions can seriously reduce the amount of money you can recover for your losses and injuries.
An Insurance Adjuster Can Use Your Medical Records Against You
Another way that adjusters may attempt to avoid liability for their insured is by using your own medical records against you. It is vitally important to watch what you say to adjusters - especially in any written communications. Pay close attention to their questions, and remember that they are not coming from a place of concern for your well-being. Rather, they are protecting the insurance company that pays their salary.
To obtain your medical records, the adjuster will have to obtain a signed authorization from you. When preparing to sign this authorization, be sure to read it very carefully. You may find that the adjuster is requesting records completely unrelated to your accident, going back years and years before the injury even occurred. This is another attempt to point the finger at someone other than their insured.
If the adjuster is able to obtain your complete medical history, they may be able to find some decades-old wound and try to label that as the real cause of your current injury. The adjuster may also attempt to obtain your agreement to attend an independent medical exam, which is a physical examination of your injuries by a medical professional.
The problem here is that the doctor conducting the examination is never a trusted physician of your choice. Instead, they are chosen and paid for by the insurance company to try to stack the deck against you and in favor of the insurance companies who sign their paychecks.
Insurance Adjusters Will Try to Record You
One dirty trick that insurance adjusters might try to pull on you is asking for a recorded statement. This may seem innocuous at first since you have been telling the truth. The thing is that with recorded statements, there can be a lot of ways for insurance adjusters to sneak in questions with answers that can be taken out of context and hurt your claim.
A simple “I'm fine” in response to a “How are you feeling today?” can make your injuries appear to be much less serious and extensive than they might be. It is much more difficult to avoid mistakes in verbal communication than in written communication. The flow of a conversation does not allow you to think through your answer thoroughly. Even a slight mistake in the way you phrase an answer can be used against you to hurt your settlement.
Thankfully, you do not always have to agree to this. You are not always required to consent to an insurance adjuster recording your statements. If they ask, you can simply decline to allow them to, preventing them from using non-specific or awkward speech against you. If they insist that you are required to then you should consult with a car accident injury lawyer so they can advise you on what to say.
Insurance Adjusters Can Delay the Payment of Your Claim
When you are recuperating from injuries you sustained from an accident, you likely will have accrued an extensive list of expenses that have put pressure on your finances. Medical care alone can break the bank of someone involved in an accident, and compensation through insurance may seem the only light at the end of the tunnel. You will also have other damages, such as lost work, lost earning potential, and property damage.
Insurance adjusters know that you have been financially burdened by an accident and may try to take advantage of your precarious financial position by delaying the payment of your claim. In this situation, they typically will have the advantage that they can sweat you out while dangling a meager settlement that is usually a fraction of what is reasonable. The money may seem good at the moment, but don't tap out because sometimes you can recover double what you may have settled for under pressure.
You Could Be Under Surveillance by an Insurance Adjuster
Believe it or not, the view from the front of your house is actually fair game for surveillance. If an insurance adjuster gets video footage of you leaning down to pick up a box or hauling trash while you have a broken leg, it could potentially hurt your claim because it could be framed in a way to make you not look as injured.
A newer dirty trick is for insurance adjusters to use social media to see if they can catch you doing anything that can hurt your claim. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter could all be searched by an insurance adjuster for evidence if you don't take care and use more secure privacy settings.
If an adjuster finds an Instagram picture of you on a sailing trip a couple of days after a car accident, then rest assured you can expect some complications with your claim. Take it easy, focus on your recovery, and be aware that an insurance adjuster may be watching you.
Insurance Adjusters Will Try to Say You Don't Need an Attorney
Of all the unscrupulous tactics employed by insurance companies and adjusters alike, this one is the worst and most egregious. Discouraging an injured party from seeking the advice of an attorney is a huge red flag. Remarks like this usually mean there is something they are trying to hide. Adjusters know that involving an attorney in the claim will likely result in a much higher payout to the injured party.
As a result, the claims adjuster will have failed in limiting the payout on said claim. An adjuster may also tell you a falsehood that the lawyer will take all of your money, and you will get more without the involvement of an attorney. Unrepresented parties generally walk away with far less than they would get even after paying attorney's fees. This would especially be true on behalf of a business during the Covid-19 pandemic regarding business insurance.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer or Residential Property Damage Lawyer Help You Deal With an Insurance Adjuster?
The best thing that you can do to deal with insurance adjusters looking to reduce the value of your claim and improve the likelihood of your case's success is to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer about your case. The help they can provide you can ensure that your right to seek compensation is respected by insurance adjusters and send a message that your claim is to be taken seriously.
Many insurance adjusters may try to claim that speaking to an attorney is not necessary for your claim and that doing so is overkill. Remember that insurance adjusters are not your friend. They work for an insurance company that is only interested in limiting the money they have to pay out to claimants like you.
At least speaking to a lawyer about your case via a free consultation only costs a bit of your time and can provide you with a wealth of information that can only benefit your pursuit of compensation after a serious injury. Hiring a personal injury attorney is the right move, they can help you assess damages, collect evidence to prove liability, negotiate with the insurance company, and represent you in court.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Personal Injury Claim
Insurance adjusters will go out of their way to complicate the claims process and make it more difficult for you to receive fair compensation. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you combat any tactics used by an insurance adjuster to hold up your potential settlement and work to put money in your pocket to restore your life back to normal.
At Dolman Law Group, our personal injury attorneys have years of experience in dealing with insurance carriers and the claims adjusters they employ. We know their tricks and how to best avoid them. Most importantly, we know your rights as an injured party and believe that you should too. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident and are now faced with the daunting task of dealing with insurance adjusters claiming to be “on your side,” we can help.