Car accidents are stressful enough without the added headache of navigating complex insurance claims. But when you insert tricky insurance companies in the equation, things get even murkier. In this article, we’re going to explore some of their go-to tactics so that you can be aware of what they’re trying to throw at you.
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1. Quick, Lowball Offers
Car insurance companies love to come in quickly and make a lowball settlement offer. The insurance adjuster will usually reach out as soon as possible after the accident – at a time when you’re physically in pain and stressed about the financial complexities of the claim – and will offer what might sound like a decent amount of money, but is actually just a fraction of what they’re willing to fork over.
It’s important to remember that insurance companies are for-profit entities. They make most of their money by taking the premium payments that their customers send them every month and investing them into interest-bearing investments and lending out money. In other words, the more cash they have on hand, the more money they make. Any payouts they’re forced to hand over to people means less revenue. Therefore, they’re incentivized to pay as little as possible.
By presenting you with a quick, low offer, they’re banking on the fact that you don’t understand the process of the value of your case. They want you to say yes so that you can put the process behind you.
Recognizing this tactic involves understanding the true worth of your claim, which includes current and future medical bills, loss of earnings, damage to your vehicle, and compensation for pain and suffering. If an offer seems too quick and doesn’t cover these elements adequately, it’s likely a lowball offer.
It’s possible that an initial offer is worth just 20 to 60 percent of the actual value of the claim. This could potentially mean tens of thousands of dollars left on the table. So if you’re being offered $20,000, it’s possible that your case is actually worth $50,000 to $100,000 (or more).
2. Downplaying Injuries
Another tactic often employed by car insurance companies is downplaying injuries sustained during the accident. The insurance adjuster might suggest that your injuries are minor, pre-existing, or unrelated to the accident. They might also argue that certain treatments or procedures are unnecessary or overly expensive.
This strategy can significantly lower your settlement amount. By minimizing the severity of your injuries or questioning their validity, the insurance company aims to reduce the amount they need to pay out for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and compensation for pain and suffering.
3. Complex Paperwork and Confusion
Insurance companies often present claimants with extensive and complicated paperwork. This tactic can be employed to confuse claimants, cause delays, or potentially lead to errors that could be used to minimize the payout or even deny the claim.
Some common areas of confusion may include technical terms, specific policy limitations, requirements for documentation, or deadlines for filing certain forms or appeals. Any misunderstanding or oversight in these areas could significantly impact your claim.
Navigating this complex paperwork requires diligence and patience. Read all documents thoroughly and make sure you understand every aspect before signing anything. Do not hesitate to ask the insurance adjuster to clarify anything you find confusing.
Why Hiring an Attorney is the Best Thing You Can Do
Negotiating with car insurance companies isn’t easy – especially if it’s your first time doing so. Even if you’re an excellent negotiator in other areas of your life, car insurance payouts are a totally different ballgame. You need specialized experience.
Hiring an attorney is the way to go. Not only does this give you some negotiating expertise, but it also sends a message to the insurance company and adjusters that you aren’t willing to be taken advantage of. And as you’ll learn, the experience of your attorney matters.
For example, Hancock Injury Attorneys does a good job of explaining this to their clients. Here’s what they say: “The insurance companies also keep track of the relative experience of car accident injury lawyers. They know our long track record of success, our track record of defending insurance companies, our track record of never backing down, never accepting unreasonable settlement offers and our track record of trying cases. As a result we believe we get better and faster results for our clients.”
You have the right to represent yourself, but why would you? There’s a lot more to lose than there is to gain. Find an attorney in your area who is experienced and specialized. They’ll serve you well.
A good attorney will run calculations to determine the value of your claim. This includes a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
“Economic damages (also known as ‘special’ damages) are intended to make you whole for losses like medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and the cost of medical equipment,” Nolo explains. “If you’ve been injured through someone else’s fault, you should be repaid for these out-of-pocket costs.”
You’ll need documentation to prove these amounts. If you have a job that’s impacted by the injury, your employer will need to write a letter documenting your loss of income.
“Noneconomic (also known as ‘general’) damages compensate you for ‘intangible’ injuries such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability and disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life,” Nolo continues.
Noneconomic damages are a lot more challenging to quantify than economic ones. This is usually where the biggest discrepancies are found. After all, how do you put a dollar amount on pain and suffering?
You don’t necessarily need to know how to calculate them – your attorney will do all of this – but most attorneys and insurance adjusters use something called a multiplier to reach a ballpark figure. This helps them determine what you’re owed.
Don’t Fall Victim Twice
You’ve already been victimized once. Don’t let yourself fall victim twice by letting the insurance company short-change you on your settlement. Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas for protecting your best interests.