The top 5 things to not say to an insurance adjuster are
- admitting fault,
- saying that you are not hurt,
- describing your injuries,
- speculating about what happened, or
- saying anything on the record.
Doing any of these things after an auto accident can undermine a subsequent insurance claim. Admitting fault or downplaying your injuries will reduce subsequent settlement offers. If a later statement is inconsistent with something said to an adjuster, early on, it will be used against you.
The best thing to do is ask the insurance adjuster for his or her contact information. Tell them that you are represented by a personal injury lawyer, and to direct any phone calls to the lawyer. This will tell the adjuster and his or her insurance company that you know your rights, the value of your case, and that you mean business.
1. Admitting fault
One of the worst things that a car accident victim can say to an insurance claims adjuster is that they were at-fault for the accident. This includes admitting to partial fault. Admitting fault can sound like any of the following phrases:
- “I’m sorry,”
- “I didn’t see him there,” or
- “It was my fault.”
After a car accident, the person responsible for the crash will be held liable for it. They will have to compensate the victims that were hurt, but who were not responsible for the crash.
In most cases, the responsible party will have liability insurance to cover the costs of the accident. They pay this car insurance company regular premiums in order for the driver’s insurance company to step in and cover the costs of any car accident that they cause and that fall under the insurance policy.
These insurance companies, though, are for-profit corporations. Their goal is to maximize their income through premiums, and then minimize their payout in claims, settlements, or car accident cases.
When the company sends an insurance adjuster to investigate a crash, it is the adjuster’s job to find ways to reduce the company’s payout. The best way to do this is to show that the person making the claim was actually responsible for the crash. With responsibility comes liability. The auto insurance company can use the admission of guilt as evidence that it can reduce or deny the car accident claim.
Furthermore, drivers who were involved in a car accident often know very little of what happened. Often, they were “just driving along” and then collided.
Rather than admitting fault, outright, drivers should wait for the investigation to determine what happened. By getting the legal advice of a car accident lawyer from a local law office, they can ensure that this investigation is done properly.
2. Downplaying your personal injuries
It is also a bad idea for a victim to downplay his or her injuries to an adjuster. This can sound like:
- “I’m fine,”
- “I don’t think that I’ll need to see a doctor,” or
- “It hasn’t impacted my life that much.”
Victims of car accidents deserve compensation for their losses. In addition to things like property damage, it includes compensation for their:
- medical expenses,
- future medical treatment, and
- pain and suffering, which includes both physical pain and mental and emotional anguish.
Victims who downplay their injuries give insurance adjusters a reason to downplay their settlement offer. If the victim was hardly hurt in the crash, the compensation that they need and deserve is far lower than if they were seriously hurt.
Worse, if the victim’s injuries do end up being significant then his or her prior inconsistent statements will be used to cast suspicion on the new claims. Many car accident injuries cause latent conditions that can take months to materialize. Some of the most common include:
- head injuries,
- traumatic brain injuries (TBIs),
- chronic pain, or
- back injuries.
Soon after the crash, when they talk to an insurance adjuster, a victim may feel fine. If their condition deteriorates, the insurance company will argue that they are really still fine, and are just playing up their injuries.
Instead, victims should tell adjusters that they are waiting to better understand the extent of their injuries.
3. Describing any injuries that were suffered
Victims should avoid even discussing their injuries, at all, when talking to an insurance adjuster.
Adjusters are trying to gauge how much the medical bills will cost, and how little the company can offer to settle the claim. However, they are also trying to see if a victim is suffering from a preexisting condition. If the victim had a medical condition before the crash, the insurance company may use it to reduce the settlement offer. It will claim that it only has to cover injuries sustained in the accident, not preexisting conditions.
For example: Dave has a history of problems with the muscles in his back. He is involved in a serious car accident that breaks several vertebrae in his spinal cord. The insurance company claims that his preexisting back injuries exacerbated or partially caused Dave’s spinal cord problems. They reduce their settlement offer accordingly.
Similarly, victims should never give insurance adjusters a medical release to see the victim’s private medical records. Adjusters often make this request under the guise of verifying the victim’s injuries. However, they will also look at past medical records to search for a potential preexisting injury that can be used to reduce the settlement.
It is often wise to tell the adjuster that a description of the extent of your injuries will be provided in the demand letter that your personal injury attorney will send along.
4. Speculating about the car accident
Drivers who have been involved in a car crash should not speculate about the crash with an insurance adjuster. Speculative statements often turn out to be incorrect after an investigation. Insurance companies will use those inconsistent statements against the victim.
Speculative statements can sound like:
- “I think he was speeding,”
- “I may have been changing the radio,” or
- “He was trying to avoid a pothole.”
Drivers have to cooperate with insurance adjusters and their investigations. However, they do not have to answer questions that they do not know. It is fine to tell an insurance adjuster that you do not remember, especially if you are not absolutely sure that you remember a detail correctly.
5. Providing a recorded statement to the claims adjuster
Many insurance claims adjusters ask victims to make a recorded statement about the accident. Victims should never agree to provide one.
Once a recorded statement is provided, it cannot be taken back. It will dictate the rest of the claims process and any eventual personal injury case.
Even if the recorded statement is accurate, pieces of it can be taken out of context and used to imply that the victim was not seriously hurt or that he or she caused the crash. This would reduce the value of the claim. In most cases, the adjuster will focus on the victim’s injuries or ask detailed questions about the accident. They will often probe for speculative statements that can be shown to be inconsistent, later on. Any information about the victim’s injuries may change as their conditions develop.
Victims are not legally obligated to provide a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. They can politely refuse to provide one and then establish an attorney-client relationship with an experienced car accident attorney from a reputable law firm.