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Car Accident? The Biggest Mishap Might Occur on the Phone

— June 3, 2020

Bringing a lawyer into the equation changes the balance of power – to your advantage. Previously, the insurance company was in control, tossing you lowball offers and glad-handing you with assurances that they have your best interests at heart. 

Your car gets T-boned by an SUV that ran a stop sign. The car crash was the other driver’s fault. He admitted it. The police reported that it was the other driver’s fault. Even the other driver’s insurance company agrees with you and the police.

No worries then, right? You assume the other guy’s insurance company will take care of everything – your car, your hospital bill, your orthopedic surgeon’s bill, your lost wages, etc. 

You might want to think again. If you thought the accident was terrifying, just wait until you start negotiating a settlement with the insurance company! Insurance adjusters and their attorneys have an assortment of tricks and deceptive techniques that can rattle your confidence and persuade you to agree to things that are definitely not in your best interest. Certainly, they want to settle, but they want to settle on their terms, not yours.

The remedy to this is to hire a car accident attorney, but most accident victims will think that it won’t be necessary, at least at first. A few run-ins with any of the following insurance company tricks might send them to the Google search bar in order to find a good accident claim attorney.

Even if the negotiations seem to be going well, the phone calls are pleasant, and that woman from the insurance company just seems sooooo nice, you should know that the pleasantries sometimes come to a screeching halt when it comes time for the insurance company to write that check. 

There’s never a wrong time to hire an attorney, so why not hire one up front? You’re not suing the other driver, who has bills and obligations just as you do, so don’t let that deter you. You’re suing (or hopefully merely negotiating with) his insurance company.

Without an attorney, you’d be dealing with these lovely tricks and deceptions all by yourself:

You Want All of Your Bills Paid? Thats Just Not Possible

Insurance adjusters, whether they work for your insurance company or the other driver’s, aren’t interested in paying what’s fair or what’s appropriate. They’re interested in paying as little as it takes to settle the matter. It won’t bother them if they pay nothing at all.

They can say things like, “This is the recognized standard for this type of injury. We can’t go above that.” In some states they can say, “We can pay for your car, but you’re on your own as far as the medical bills,” and they’d be right to an extent. But, what they don’t want you to know is that severe injuries and losses over a certain dollar amount allow you to reject the standard offer and file suit.

You Have Until the End of the Month to Accept This Offer

There is no such thing as a deadline on an insurance settlement offer. The insurance adjuster may imply that a settlement offer comes off the table after a certain date and you end up with nothing if you don’t accept it, but that’s a bluff. The only deadline you should concern yourself with is the state deadline for filing a lawsuit. In most states, that’s two years from the time of the accident.

We Have Everything We Need from the Accident Report

The insurance company may have everything it needs from the police accident report, but you don’t. You need to take photos, get witness names and write down a detailed account of the accident while it’s still fresh in your mind. It benefits the insurance company if you don’t do those things.

Oh Wait; There is Something . . .

Insurance adjusters will sometimes say that they have talked to everyone else involved, they’ve seen the accident report, and they just need a statement from you to get “your side of the story.” You are not obligated to give them any statement whatsoever. They use the phrase “your side of the story” to imply that there’s another side of the story – some disagreement or confusion as to what happened.

Thats Not What You Said the Other Day

Image of a Doctor Looking at an X-Ray
Doctor Looking at an X-Ray; image courtesy of via Unsplash,

There should be a Miranda warning given before any insurance adjuster asks questions of victims. That’s because anything you say to them can be used against you in negotiations or in open court.

Say you’re laid up with a broken leg and the insurance adjuster asks, “So, how are you doing?” and you, wanting to be nice say, “Oh, I’m fine.” Later, when the issue of your injury comes up and you mention how much it hurts, the insurance adjuster can say, “Wait. The other day you said you were fine.”

That’s an exaggeration, but it shows how the insurance adjuster can use a rhetorical question and response to contradict future statements. This is designed to cross you up at a more critical phase of the process. Remember, silence is golden, even in what seems like an innocent conversation.

Well Take Care of You – No Need to Call a Lawyer

Bringing a lawyer into the equation changes the balance of power – to your advantage. Previously, the insurance company was in control, tossing you lowball offers and glad-handing you with assurances that they have your best interests at heart. 

Then with the realization that you’ve hired a lawyer, magic happens. The condescending dialogue stops. The intimidation tactics stop. The early lowball offer gets revised to something closer to what you need for recovery. At the very least, the insurance company may “take things under advisement and get back to you.”

Either way, you’ve gotten their attention. Insurance companies know what they’re doing. They know when they have an advantage and they know when they don’t. They’ve been down this road before, and they’re not likely to go to trial if they know you have a strong case and that you and your attorney have appropriate documentation and evidence. Their only alternative to avoiding a courtroom embarrassment is to make you an acceptable offer.

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