An accident may have disrupted your life, but insurance companies aren’t likely to sympathize. It’s in their best interest to try, at all costs, to get out of paying a personal injury claimant, even if the claim is fair and justified.
But why do insurance companies drag out claims?
Put simply, insurance companies want to generate more revenue by holding on to the money for as long as possible and earning more interest on it. Their profits suffer when they pay out big settlement amounts.
They also drag their feet in processing claims to frustrate a claimant into accepting a lowball settlement offer, which saves the insurer money and boosts its bottom line.
So when a friendly claims adjuster reaches out to you, don’t mistake them for a friend. They’re trained negotiators hired by your insurance company to close your case with a quick and inexpensive settlement.
The last thing they do is inform you of the real value of your personal injury case.
To help protect yourself and strengthen your claim, be aware of the commonly used and abused tactics that insurance companies employ to delay, reduce, or deny settlements:
1. Finding 'red flags' in your medical records to reduce the value of your claim
Your medical records reveal the nature and extent of your injuries and help calculate the damages you sustained. Essentially, they play a key role in any personal injury claim.
The value of your settlement is primarily influenced by the amount of your medical bills. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of the insurance company to find ‘red flags’ in your medical records and use them to haggle you.
The claims adjuster will closely scrutinize the details provided by the first doctor who saw you after the car accident. The adjuster gets suspicious if the records say nothing about an accident or mention a prior injury or pre-existing condition.
Adjusters also check for discrepancies between the injuries claimed and the amount of medical bills.
Aside from the amount of your bills, the source of the bills will matter to your insurance company. They’ll take a look at diagnostic tests, treatments, length of hospital stay, and other relevant information.
To ensure your medical records aren’t leveraged against you, there are several steps you can take, such as getting prompt medical attention and treatment right after the accident.
In following your doctor’s orders regarding treatment and care, painstakingly document every step of the process, including the pain you feel and the symptoms you experience.
Get your doctor’s comments and suggestions on paper, too. Be as detailed, factual, and descriptive as possible. There are fewer questions an adjuster can throw at you when you have thorough documentation.
2. The lowball offer, with little to no explanation for the low amount
The claims adjuster is paid to make sure you get paid as little as possible. Lowballing you with their first offer is expected.
There are several ways your injury attorney can respond: asking the adjuster if there’s room to move up and asking why the offer is so low before attempting to negotiate with the adjuster’s manager or supervisor.
Unfortunately, some insurance companies only pay when they’re facing a trial.
3. The 'best and only' offer
After receiving your demand letter, an adjuster calls your attorney to respond with their “best and only” offer.
Please don’t fall for it; adjusters know that virtually everything is negotiable.
An experienced injury lawyer tells the adjuster that the offer is appreciated if it’s equivalent to or higher than the demand figure.
4. Getting authority
‘Everything has to be authorized by higher-ups.’ Sound familiar?
Of course, every claims adjuster answers to a manager or a supervisor. And technically, the amount the adjuster offers is subject to final approval by a superior.
But some adjusters stall by repeatedly claiming the need to get additional injury authority when they already know how much they can concede in a claim.
5. Asking you to bid against yourself
Sneaky adjusters ask you to bid against yourself.
To get you to reveal your bottom line, they’ll ask what it will take to settle the claim. Reply firmly that you will not be bidding against yourself. Your injury attorney should never, ever reveal your bottom line.
Once a demand letter is submitted, don’t let your injury attorney reduce your demand figure without receiving an initial offer first.
6. 'My preliminary evaluation suggests…'
The adjuster has indicated an amount well within the hoped-for range. This isn’t a ‘real offer,’ just the settlement their ‘preliminary evaluation’ suggests.
If your attorney responds positively to this amount, the adjuster realizes that she can go lower, so they come back days later with a reduced offer. This will force your attorney to accept a lower offer.
The best way for your accident attorney to deal with this is to ask for a firm offer of settlement, a specific figure to take to you, the client.
7. Using your prior statement against you
During the claims process (or, if it comes to it, a trial), any statement you make can literally be used against you in settlement negotiations and litigation.
They examine your statement to look for inconsistencies and contradictory information, so keep in mind you’re not obliged to give a recorded statement in the first place.
Insurance companies are notorious for taking your statement before an injury lawyer represents you and paraphrasing it in a way that’s detrimental to your case.
With the claims adjuster scrutinizing everything you say and do, talking to them without an injury attorney present may jeopardize your claim.
8. Request for more documentation, which often has nothing to with the injury you suffered
A common claims adjuster delay tactic is to request more documentation, even after receiving the necessary medical bills, medical reports, and lost wage information from your lawyer. Their goal is to fish for information that can be used to discredit your claim.
Your attorney should demand an offer first, ask what the offer would be when the additional documents are submitted, or tell the claims adjuster you’re filing a lawsuit, so he can obtain more information during the discovery process instead.
9. Refusal to respond
There are instances when your assigned injury adjuster is swamped with work, so they can’t get to the phone.
But some of them remain intentionally unresponsive to make you feel more desperate for compensation or, ideally, give up.
Adjusters know that the longer they delay, the more pressure you’ll feel. And when you’re pressured, you’ll be more likely to settle out of desperation, even if their offer is unacceptably low.
10. Economic pressure
When you’re financially vulnerable, an adjuster puts economic pressure on you by refusing to offer advance payment for living expenses. This forces you to accept an early and low settlement.
In conclusion, injury claims adjusters have some tricks up their sleeves to keep costs down. Talking to them is tricky because they’re actively working against you.
However, a skilled accident lawyer can thwart the tactics used by insurance companies to delay or reduce the compensation you’re entitled to.
So, if you need a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, College Park, Jonesboro, East Point, Riverdale, Decatur, or any other city in Georgia to speed up the process and secure maximum compensation on your behalf, call us at (404) 526-8857, and we’ll review your case for free.