Attorneys are all too familiar with insurance adjusters. However, before I became a lawyer I had little understanding of what an adjuster was, or how they got their name. Therefore, I wrote this article to help people who have been injured in a car accident in Columbia, Orangeburg, and other cities across South Carolina understand the role an adjuster plays in a case so that you can make informed decisions before talking with them or signing any forms.
What Does an Insurance Adjuster Do?
An insurance adjuster is the person who decides how much money to offer you. Because insurance companies maximize profit by paying out minimum amounts on claims, the adjuster’s job – from the start – is to make sure you get compensated as little as possible. If you have ever spoken to an adjuster, they may have used a kind tone. They might have said they were going to help you. They may have even told you not to get a lawyer because the attorney would only take your money. In my experience, all of those statements are not true. The insurance adjuster is not your advocate. Furthermore, the main reason they do not want you to hire a lawyer is because represented people generally receive considerably more money than unrepresented people. In fact, in a survey from Nolo.com, respondents who hired a lawyer walked away with an average of $77,600 in compensation, compared to an average of $17,600 for those who handled their own claim.
If you want a glimpse into the mind of an adjuster, consider the following story:
A bad wreck spun a car off the highway and down an embankment, where it crashed into a tree. The driver side door was crushed, and the injured driver went from earning a steady income and paying for his son’s college tuition to borrowing money from family in order to buy groceries.
When I told the insurance adjuster that the man’s well-documented back pain was so severe that he could no longer sit on his furniture, but instead had to use a folding chair to watch TV and eat meals, the adjuster’s response was, “What do you want me to do, buy the guy a new folding chair?”
These people rarely understand you. They often look at you as nothing more than a claim number, and I doubt they will ever appreciate the lost quality of life you experience because of a car accident. In sum, they are your adversary.
Dealing With Insurance Adjusters After a Car Accident in South Carolina: What To Say
An insurance adjuster may reach out to you soon after the accident has occurred. In most cases, the best way to handle insurance adjusters is to keep interactions brief, simple, and only give out limited information. You are not a trained negotiator like they are. Here are some tips you can follow when the at-fault party’s insurance company contacts you right after an accident.
- Keep conversations limited. Make it clear that you will not be giving out detailed information over the phone. Give them your contact information and basic information about the accident, such as when and where it occurred. Do not give them any details about how the accident happened or the extent of your injuries.
- Don’t give any recorded statements. You may not have even fully had time to process what has happened before adjusters are demanding a statement from you. Decline any requests to give a recorded account of the accident and do not agree to have your phone conversation recorded. Anything you say may be held against you later. This is especially important when you may not be in a clear state of mind.
- Don’t sign any medical release forms. Insurance adjusters may try to access your entire medical history in order to claim that you had “pre-existing conditions” that contributed to your injuries. This is just another way they will try to devalue your claim.
What Not To Say To a Car Insurance Adjuster After a Wreck In South Carolina
Your phone may start ringing only a few hours after your accident happened. Your head may still be spinning and you probably haven’t had time yet to recover from the trauma of the incident. During this time, you are particularly vulnerable to insurance adjusters’ tactics. Adjusters are trained to foster a friendly conversation that encourages you to make damaging statements about what happened or your injuries. It is important to be aware of what statements you should avoid making so you do not accidentally harm your case.
- Don’t make any statements about your health. Do not estimate the severity of your injuries or downplay your injuries by saying that you are “fine”. Symptoms may not begin until much later and you may receive a diagnosis weeks after the accident that is more serious than you initially believed.
- Don’t admit blame. Do not give the adjuster any reason to believe you were at fault for the accident. Avoid having an apologetic tone during your conversation because if an adjuster believes you are at fault, it can greatly limit your chances at receiving a full, fair recovery. In your conversations with an insurance adjuster, be calm and confident and allow them to investigate the collision.
- Don’t take the first settlement offer. No matter how caring they may sound, an insurance adjuster is not your friend. They will try to convince you that the first settlement offer will be the best you can get. Most initial offers will be significantly lower than your claim is worth. You should not accept any offers until you’ve received a medical diagnosis and know the full scope of your injuries. I always recommend injured victims consult an attorney who can assess the fairness of the offer before accepting any offers. If you were lowballed, an experienced attorney can gather evidence and help you seek a full, fair settlement.
In general, it’s best to keep interactions with car insurance adjusters brief and limited in details. The more you talk, the more likely it is you may accidentally say something that undermines your claim.
Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer in South Carolina Today
Insurance adjusters are well-trained, well-funded, and have a near endless supply of defense attorneys to choose from in their quest to beat you. While not every auto accident case needs a lawyer, if you have suffered real injuries due to another party’s negligence, I strongly encourage you to at least consult a car accident lawyer prior to signing any forms, giving any statements, or taking on this adversary alone. To find out how I can help, call today at 803-790-2800 (Columbia, SC) / 843-427-2800 (Myrtle Beach, SC), or start a live chat 24/7 with a real, live person to arrange a free and confidential consultation.
For more information please see the list of How to talk to insurance claims adjusters