- How to Deal with an Insurance Adjuster After an Accident
How to Deal with an Insurance Adjuster After an Accident
We can respond to that question with one word: Carefully. But if you’ll give us a couple of minutes, we’ll explain why in greater detail.
First, we want to emphasize that while insurance adjusters are usually nice people working to help customers solve problems, recover from injuries, and get their vehicles back on the road, always remember that adjusters work for the insurance company — not for you. Their salaries depend on the financial health of their employer and, as a result, they are not highly motivated to expend a lot of corporate funds on behalf of policyholders.
That’s not to say they are unscrupulous or malicious. Like anyone else, they want to keep their bosses happy, yet satisfy customers at the same time. Consequently, they walk a tightrope between distributing too much money in insurance claims… and prompting policyholders to take their business elsewhere by erring too much on the side of saving money.
So, how can you ensure your interests are being protected when dealing with an insurance adjuster?
Here’s some information on how they operate, along with a few tips that we hope can help you protect yourself and your loved ones along the way.
- Know how an adjuster works. After an accident, a competent adjuster will examine your vehicle for damage and provide an educated guess at the cost of repairs; this is the starting point for a body shop to begin the repair process. And from there things usually go smoothly. However, if the body shop uncovers damage hidden below the surface or needs to deal with increases in parts and labor costs, they will usually contact the adjuster on your behalf to get the claim “adjusted” to cover the added expenses. If the insurer has a trusted relationship with the body shop, that process will typically be almost automatic and help your repair go smoothly. Michigan law also permits you to choose your own body shop – you aren’t required to take the recommendation of an insurance company. However, on the plus side, insurers sometimes have special arrangements with repair facilities that will make it easier to obtain a temporary replacement vehicle or take your vehicle in for repairs. You’ll have to decide for yourself if those conveniences are worth taking advantage of in your particular case. For instance, if you’ve already had a good experience with a body shop that’s not affiliated with your insurance company, you may opt to have your car fixed there instead. It’s entirely up to you. Additionally, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office has published a helpful brochure outlining your rights when it comes to choosing body repair shops.
- Know what not to say to an insurance adjuster. An experienced adjuster has a depth of knowledge about the processes involved with repairing a damaged vehicle. In fact, they can usually come quite close to predicting the cost of such repairs. But their expertise with the human body and the injuries that often result from car accidents is far less precise. Human beings are not mass-produced items, and individuals have different responses to the immediate impacts and after-effects of a collision. Taking this into consideration, we advise avoiding mentioning anything to the adjuster (or anyone else for that matter) about your physical condition that you could regret later. Sometimes, injuries are not immediately apparent following an accident. The adrenaline rush we all experience in stressful circumstances tends to mask pain and can hide symptoms. If you tell someone at the accident scene that you feel “fine” but later begin to experience neck or back pain, or show symptoms of internal bleeding, your initial words could come back to haunt you. For those reasons, it’s best to refrain from saying much to anyone other than your doctor, other medical personnel, or your own attorney after an accident.
- Know when to say no. Let’s say an insurance adjuster – especially one employed by the at-fault driver’s insurance company – wants to speak with you privately or asks to record a conversation. Your knee-jerk response should be to immediately decline. Because, to paraphrase many a TV crime drama police officer reciting a suspect’s Miranda Rights, “Anything you say can (and likely will!) be used against you in a court of law.” While it may be challenging to remain silent when speaking to a seemingly friendly insurance adjuster, it’s best to remember that the people who care most about your well-being are the medical professionals treating your injuries, your loving family members, your personal injury attorney, and ultimately yourself. We also advise not mentioning anything about the medical condition of other passengers present in your car during the accident, which is just one of the many prudent suggestions about dealing with insurance adjusters listed in this short but helpful news article.
- Know how to prove your case. Experts at JD Power, the respected Troy-based, automotive analytics company, suggest that the best course of action to protect yourself from being taken advantage of is to collect evidence on your own behalf. This could include carefully keeping track of medical expenses (noting what you spend on over-the-counter medications, supplies, equipment, etc.), taking detailed notes on any medical symptoms you experience and procedures you underwent after an accident, and recording the cost of physical therapy, lost wages, or other financial repercussions you suffer. Those details can be useful in proving your case if you’re ever compelled to take legal action.
- Know how to effectively advocate for yourself. The folks at JD Power also echo something we’ve been repeating for years… get yourself a good personal injury attorney because the mere threat of legal action can make a significant difference to your financial outcome. An article they published on the topic states, “Even if you think it’s unnecessary, you should discuss your situation with an attorney before making or accepting any offers. Their involvement could make the process faster and even potentially net you a higher settlement.”
- Know how to negotiate with the adjuster. If you’ve ever had to deal with any company’s customer service department, you probably already know that front-line representatives are not always empowered to solve all the problems they encounter. Sometimes you just need to ask to speak to a supervisor to get appropriate action taken on your requests. The same thing can apply to insurance adjusters who, as we’ve already pointed out, are standing on that proverbial tightrope balanced between you and their employers. Merely asking to speak with a supervisor could nudge the adjuster into moving the needle toward your side of the case. Or, of course, actually speaking with the adjuster’s boss could also help if it comes to that. In all cases – whether dealing with the adjuster or someone else, it pays to remain calm, stay polite, and be prepared with solid evidence to prove your points. If push comes to shove and negotiations stall without resolution, you can also go one step farther and contact the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services to file a complaint. Or your trusted personal injury attorney can intervene on your behalf as well.
We wish to conclude by clarifying that dealing with insurance adjusters isn’t always challenging. Most of the time, things go smoothly, and you’ll encounter no issues at all. And hopefully having read this article will help make a positive difference for you. But we unique situations can always arise because every accident is different. And serious issues or injuries frequently demand having a strong advocate on your side — which is why it’s a good idea to keep our number handy: 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946). Or you can send us inquiries via text message at 833-898-MIKE (833-898-6453) or online, 24/7. We’re always happy to help you to stay well “adjusted” – especially when it comes to insurance-related matters!