What to Know Before Speaking
With an Insurance Adjuster
The person on the other end of the line is known as a claims adjuster. Note the use of the word “adjuster.” Even if you’ve run up $10,000 in medical expenses and lost wages while recovering, the adjuster’s role is to minimize that amount to the greatest extent possible – if not to even reject your claim.
The route to getting to the parent company’s “adjusted” figure is by enticing you to say – or eventually sign – something that gives them a reason to pin some or all of the fault on you. This sounds insidious, but claims adjusters are trained to go about it in a way that doesn’t raise suspicion. They may even act like they’re a long-lost buddy taking up your cause.
The point is, if you’ve never dealt with a claims adjuster before, you should get professional advice before doing so or even let a car accident attorney handle it for you.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in or around Kansas City, Missouri, or Kansas, contact the father-daughter attorney team at Denning Law Firm, LLC. We have handled countless personal injury claims and will work with you to obtain the just compensation you deserve.
The Claims Adjuster’s Role and Tactics
Claims adjusters are professionals hired and trained by insurance companies to protect the bottom line by limiting the company’s liability when claims are made. That is why when they contact you, they’ll probe for any indication of fault on your part. They may even inquire about your medical history to see whether your injury stems from a pre-existing condition.
Their most effective legal tool lies in their ability to apply the standard of pure comparative negligence, or fault, to the accident that resulted in your injuries. As the Missouri Department of Insurance explains:
“In 1983, Missouri adopted the rules of pure comparative fault. Pure comparative fault allows your damages to be reduced by the percentage you are at fault in a loss. Insurers are allowed to investigate an accident and make a decision as to the percentage of fault of all parties involved. They will make voluntary offers based on this opinion.”
As an example, say you are rear-ended and suffer head and neck injuries, but one of your brake lights was malfunctioning at the time of the accident. The insurance adjuster could claim that your broken brake light makes you 20 percent (or more or less) at fault for the accident. Then, they can reduce your $10,000 claim by 20 percent so only $8,000 is recoverable.
Neighboring Kansas also uses a comparative negligence rule that is a bit different but still divides fault between both drivers. In Kansas, if your percentage of the fault rises above 50 percent, you cannot collect, whereas, in Missouri, you can. Kansas is also a “no-fault” state, so filing a claim begins with your own insurance company.
What to Say and What Not to Say
If you do speak with an insurance adjuster, you should remain calm and polite, but wary. The insurance adjuster is going to try to get you to make a statement about the accident. You don’t have to give a statement, only confirm the date, time, and place of the accident. You can say the rest is still under investigation.
If they ask you for a statement and you do as suggested above, they will likely begin probing for details by asking you specific questions. Again, you are not obliged to answer anything beyond the bare details. Don’t volunteer anything on your own, and don’t ever say something that can be construed as an admission of fault.
In addition, they may ask you for permission to record the conversation. You do not have to agree. They want the recording so they can use what you say against you in future conversations or help establish your portion of fault in the accident.
They’re also going to try to get you to say something to minimize the extent of your injuries. They may even start the conversation by asking you, “How are you doing today?” If you answer “fine” or “good,” they can use that as an indication that your injuries aren’t as bad as you claim.
Watch out for contradictory questions. They’re going to try to confuse you and, in that way, get you to say something that can be construed as an admission of fault, at least partially, on your part.
At some point, they may also send you a request to obtain your medical history. Often, these requests are overly broad and designed so they can probe your past to see if any pre-existing conditions led to your injuries, thereby reducing or even eliminating their liability. Do not sign this request, but get it reviewed by an attorney.
Remember that injuries have a way of resurfacing down the road or even worsening as time goes by, so be wary of any settlement offers they make. They’re trying to get the matter closed quickly and cheaply so they can move on to the next case.
A first offer is probably going to be as low as they can go. Take any offer you receive to your attorney for review. Never settle quickly. If your injuries worsen or return after you settle, you can’t go back and seek more compensation.
How Legal Counsel Can Help
Dealing with insurance adjusters is challenging, to say the least. Even something you say that sounds innocent enough might be turned on its head as an admission of fault on your part. It’s better to let an experienced attorney handle your claim for you.
At Denning Law Firm, LLC, we stand ready to negotiate with the insurance company for you and press for the just compensation you deserve. Our firm is proud to serve clients across Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas, as well as the surrounding areas of Overland Park, Johnson County, and Jackson County.