Car accidents can happen in an instant. One second you are on your way to work, or lunch, or a day of errands, and then suddenly, you are sitting roadside trying to figure out precisely what happened. When a car accident occurs, it is natural to feel the impulse to call your insurance company—or file a claim with third party-insurance—immediately because you want your car fixed quickly, your claims processed, and most of all, you want to move on with your life.
Because insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible, insurance adjusters often rely on devious tricks to reduce pay-outs to accident victims. In the insurance realm, there are three parties involved. The first party is the policyholder. The second party is the insurance company. The third party is the person—and occasionally an object, such as a damaged guardrail—involved in the accident. Some insurance companies offer additional coverage benefits for the third party, but not without first playing every trick in the book to avoid paying what victims deserve.
Car accidents, insurance claims, and possible lawsuits are complex circumstances that the layman may not be able to navigate on their own. Never fear, by reviewing these ten common tricks insurance companies use to minimize their pay-out liability, you will be forearmed to take them on.
1. They do not follow-up.
When car accident victims initially file their claim, many people expect to receive a follow-up call from an insurance adjuster. Because insurance companies place hundreds of cases on the backs of their adjusters, it is inherently difficult for them to render service quickly.
If you are in a car accident, make sure you are the one to follow up after your initial claim. Do not wait for your insurance adjuster to call you back, especially in cases of personal injury claims. Most victims place too much trust in their insurance companies to care enough to call them back.
2. They do not return your calls.
Working hand-in-hand with the first trick, many insurance adjusters will work to delay your claim by not calling you back. By dragging out and delaying the claim process, insurance companies try to run out the clock on the state’s statute of limitations. Car accident victims in Florida have up to four years from the date of their accident to file a claim against a private citizen or company and up to three years from the date of their accident to file a claim against the state.
If your insurance company has successfully avoided you long enough to run out the statute of limitations, they are likely to be successful in evading liabilities as well. Be forewarned that many personal injury attorneys will not take on cases close to the statute of limitations.
3. They will request additional information.
Many accident and personal injury attorneys request that their potential clients contact them before they contact their insurance company. One of the many reasons attorneys suggest this order of operations is because insurance companies try to delay progress by asking for more information.
By continuing to ask for more information and documentation, insurance adjusters can delay claims even further. Usually, insurance adjusters will request additional medical records or a copy of the police report. Because of this tactic, accident victims must take ample detailed photos at the scene of their accident and consult with their lawyer before providing more information to insurance adjusters.
4. They will ask for a statement.
Similar to the insurance company trick of requesting more information, many insurance adjusters will request that accident victims provide a statement before they can process their claim. Without a good car accident lawyer, many accident victims will quickly jump at the opportunity to deliver their story of the events to the insurance adjuster in a show of good faith.
A good lawyer will recommend that accident victims refrain from making a statement because one is not necessary to move forward with the claim. This tactic is employed so that insurance adjusters can find holes in the victim’s story that limits their liability to pay out claims fairly.
Common questions insurance adjusters may ask include, “What did you do to avoid the accident?” “What did you see before the accident?” “What do you remember happening before and after your accident?” and similar questions. Do not feel obligated to answer them. Simply defer to your attorney or decline to answer.
5. They will take advantage of your trust by suggesting you do not need an attorney.
In the event of an accident, it is natural to feel shaken and confused. Amid their panic and scurry to repair the situation, many accident victims will place too much trust in their insurance providers and assume they are acting in good faith.
Many insurance providers will suggest that their clients do not need to call a lawyer by intentionally using phrases that imply that the process will be easy. Examples of these statements include “we recognize our insured party was at fault” and “we accept responsibility.”
This tactic works hand-in-hand with the aforementioned tactics of taking statements, avoiding phone calls, and asking for more information. Everything the insurance adjuster asks is part of a ploy to minimize the amount their company is required to pay. The most important takeaway from this common trick is to call an accident lawyer as quickly as possible to avoid saying the wrong thing.
6. They will ask for unlimited access to all your medical records.
Under the advice of a lawyer, it is reasonable to divulge access to medical records from injuries sustained in the accident in question. Unfortunately, some insurance adjusters will overextend their reasonable access to information and request that accident victims release unlimited access to all medical records, even those irrelevant to the accident. This common insurance company trick will require you to sign away unlimited access to your records. Once that access is granted, the adjusters can see everything back to your date of birth, pre-existing conditions, and a host of other information they can use to discount your claims.
There is no good reason for insurance companies to require this much access to an accident victims’ medical records, and it will not move the process along any quicker.
7. They will try to dispute your medical expenses.
Perhaps the dirtiest trick insurance companies use in accidents is that some insurance adjusters may try to dispute “unnecessary” or “extreme” treatment of injuries incurred in the accident. Even if your doctor approved or administered the treatment, insurance adjusters would find every excuse to discount the need for the treatment.
The adjusters will review procedures, including plastic surgery to minimize the appearance of facial disfigurement, gaps in treatment, and many other expensive procedures insurance companies deem “excessive.” Sometimes, insurance companies will even try to trick complainants into thinking that the treatment required was not related to the accident at all, and thus, they should not have to pay for it.
8. They will offer settlements based on your copays and not the total treatment expense.
Piggy-backing on the dirty trick of discounting medical expenses based on the perceived relevance of the treatment, insurance companies will often try to settle claims prematurely. They will do this by trying to limit their liability to the accident victim and offering reimbursement for the out-of-pocket expenses for the treatment.
By offering to cover only the copayments of medical treatment, accident victims are liable to repay their health insurance companies for any funds paid out by the third-party insurance company. According to the law in many states, accident victims are entitled to request settlement based on the total expense of treatment. Knowledge of this point alone could save you thousands of dollars.
9. They will lowball the settlement amount.
By the time accident victims get around to considering a settlement amount, they have usually tried to handle too much of the process on their own. After falling into the above traps, disclosing too much information, giving conflicting statements, and permitting unfettered access to their medical records, insurance adjusters have all the information they need to manipulate the claim. Hence, they pay as little as possible.
By delaying the process as long as they have, many accident victims only want to get on with their lives, move on from the litigation process, and accept whatever offer is presented. A good lawyer will work to ensure fair compensation for accident victims and limit the victim’s frustration and impatience with the process.
10. They will hire outside investigators.
In the case of sizable claims, many insurance companies will pull out all the stops to try to catch accident victims in a lie. Many outside investigators will stake out complainants’ homes, take video footage, unethically reach out to medical personnel, and seek out every opportunity to disprove personal injury claims.
The goal here is to make a case that the accident victim is lying, exaggerating, or otherwise not entitled to fair compensation for injuries incurred in an avoidable accident. Because of this dirty trick, accident victims should obtain representation as quickly as possible, release all statements through their attorney, and be careful to be as truthful as possible without divulging too much.
If you were an accident in Palm Beach County, contact our team today. Demand More® for your injuries by calling Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers at (561) 513-4957.
Disclaimer: You should not take any information in this blog as legal advice in any situation. If you need expertise for a specific issue of yours, contact a qualified Personal Injury attorney.