I have been helping injured people settle insurance claims for twenty years. I have dealt with hundreds of insurance adjusters over the years. I have also spoken at length with hundreds of average folks who have shared their experiences dealing with an insurance company during the claims process. Shlesinger & deVilleneuve Attorneys had, for a few years, on staff a former insurance adjuster. Having no love for his previous employer, the former adjuster gave us great insight into the working’s of an insurance company. I will share with you some answers to the question in the title of this post. I do this, not so much as an effort to bad mouth insurance companies, but more so that you can see the “nastiness” for what it really is. This understanding will help you handle your current or next personal injury related insurance claim.
First of all, I want to clarify that an “Adjuster” is different than an “Agent.” Your insurance agent is the guy or gal that is typically very friendly and helpful. He is usually located not far from your home and has a nice little friendly office. The agent smiles and does his or her best to address your insurance needs and sell you insurance. He gladly takes your premium check and gives you refrigerator magnets and a coffee mug. It is rare that I hear a complaint about an insurance agent. On the other hand, an “adjuster” is a different employee of the insurance company. Sometimes people think that when they are in an accident or they have an insurance claim, that they will just take the matter to their friend, the agent down the street. Please understand that agents do not handle claims at all. If you bring paper work to your agent, he will, at most, send it to an adjuster. Insurance companies do not want their friendly agents handling claims.
Before I begin to talk about adjusters and their methods, I will say that not all adjusters are the same. Some are better than others. Not all insurance companies train their adjusters the same. About 30% of the time when I deal with an adjuster, I feel as if the adjuster is being professional and cordial. But, I am an attorney, and I think that generally my status causes them to treat me a little better than someone not experienced with the law. I have heard countless stories about how people are treated rudely by insurance adjusters. Occasionally, the stories are positive, but most of the time, I am appalled by the story of how terrible the adjuster was treating this good person who was injured by a bad driver.
When the claimant questions the amount, they are usually peppered with accusations to put the claimant in a defensive mode, or to make them feel guilty for making a claim, such as: “Don’t be so greedy,” “are you one of those people who abuse the system,” or “you want everyone’s insurance rates to go up.” Another tactic will be to make promises that they don’t keep, or simply ignore the phone calls of the claimant. Adjusters will lose paper work, or ignore clear evidence to support a claim. This can be very irritating.
When dealing with value of a totaled vehicle, I will hear adjusters say, “we don’t use Kelly Blue book values.” It is stated in a such a way to suggest that Kelly Blue Book is not a reasonable or acceptable method to help determine a cars value. Well, Kelly Blue Book is a very reputable and
professional company. Their values would likely be admissable in most courts as a valuable resource to determine a car’s value. I have successfully used Kelly Blue Book in court. Insurance companies would rather use their own evaluation methods because not so surprisingly, the values are almost always lower than Kelly Blue Book. It is manipulative to suggest to an inexperienced claimant that Kelly Blue Book is not a reasonable resource.
What can you do about these tactics? My recommendations are these:
1. Ignore any statements that are attempts to make you angry or are offensive, and simply continue negotiations calmly and confidently.
2. Be sure to let the adjuster always know that you will gladly hire an attorney to pursue litigation if your evidence is not being considered.
3. Hire an attorney who is experienced with dealing with all these tactics.
4. Do not be intimidated by the adjuster. Support your case with evidence, be persistent, confident, and always express a desire for a fair settlement, but if it doesn’t come, you will hire an attorney and go to court. Make sure the insurance company realizes that their tactics will not make you back down, or walk away. If you simply do not want to deal with the frustrations of the claims process, hire an experienced law firm that has a track record of going to court successfully.
Shlesinger and deVilleneuve attorneys fights insurance companies, and we enjoy doing so. We know the playing field is not even when you are dealing with a large experienced company that has hundreds of lawyers and millions of dollars. We can level the playing field. Let us fight for you.
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