When an insurance adjuster calls an accident victim, he will usually sound understanding, sympathetic, and friendly. While his compassion may be genuine, the point of his call is to save his employers money. Insurance adjusters will try any number of tricks to reduce or even eliminate any compensation the company owes the accident victim. That compensation is vital for victims and their families, as it can provide the medical care and wage replacement they need to recover as fully as possible. It’s important to know the tricks insurance companies often use and how to avoid them.
Six Common Tricks Used by Insurance Companies
Insurance companies use a variety of tricks and schemes to reduce compensation or try not to pay it at all. As you move forward with your claim, insurance companies will likely:
- Offer a quick, too-low settlement. Often, insurance companies will offer victims a settlement right away. Typically, this offer is much lower than what victims need and deserve. It’s understandable that victims accept these offers, as they often do not know how much compensation they deserve and are eager to put the accident behind them. This is problematic, however, because victims may be left with too little compensation to cover all their medical bills and lost wages as time goes on. Never accept a settlement offer without talking to an experienced injury attorney first.
- Blame injuries on a pre-existing condition. Injury compensation is available only for injuries related to the crash, and insurance companies will not hesitate to blame a victim’s injuries on other sources. This can include pre-existing conditions and old injuries.
- Blame the victim or another party for the crash. Liability in Virginia is extremely strict under the state’s contributory negligence rule. This means, if a victim shares any amount of responsibility, no matter how small, he cannot recover injury compensation. Shifting any blame onto the victim can eliminate an insurance company’s duty to provide compensation. Similarly, blaming a third party for the accident will reduce the at-fault driver’s liability.
- Demand a victim’s full medical records. While it is necessary to provide medical records to prove injuries occurred, insurance companies are not entitled to a victim’s full records. They only need to see what is relevant to the claim. They want to gain access to more records in an attempt to find other information that can be used against the victim to reduce compensation.
- Ask misleading questions. Adjusters will often ask misleading or ambiguous questions in hopes that the crash victim will answer with more information than is necessary. They may ask questions that are not related to the case or insinuate that victims have a duty to provide information that they do not. Only provide the most basic answers to adjusters, and seek the advice of an attorney if you’re unsure of what information you must share.
- Imply victims don’t need an attorney. It is true that the law does not require the help of an attorney with a car crash claim. However, an injury attorney has experience with these situations. He understands a victim’s rights, knows what amount of compensation is appropriate, and is prepared to negotiate with the insurance company when it is offering a settlement that is too low. He can ensure that a victim’s rights are protected and secure a fair settlement.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a car accident, be careful when it comes to interacting with insurance company adjusters. Consult an experienced attorney who can provide the information you need and act as your advocate. Get in touch with the car accident lawyers at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC in our Fairfax office or through the contact form on this page to learn more about what we do and how we may be able to help.