For most people, the public face of their insurance company is the sales agent who sold them their home, life, auto, or health insurance policy. He was a salt-of-the-earth family man with a ready smile who struck you as genuinely interested in your life and family. After you signed the insurance policy application, he let you keep the pen.
After an auto accident in Dauphin County or any of the surrounding towns, you might meet the other type of insurance company representative: the insurance adjuster. They act on behalf of the other driver’s insurance company when the driver negligently injured you. You may find that the adjuster, too, is pleasant and charismatic. They are also matter-of-fact and businesslike. They assures you that it should be a snap to get your case taken care of, once they have answers to a few nagging questions.
Unfortunately, the way they wants to “take care of” your case isn’t going to mean a happy result for you.
Insurance adjusters aren’t exactly evil—but they DO have an agenda
If you have been victimized in a Pennsylvania car accident, you need to keep in mind the role of the insurance adjuster when they come knocking at your door. First of all, they are an employee of the insurance company. That means:
- Their primary allegiance is to her employer rather than to you
- Their income depends on the financial health of her company, so they are motivated to favor business profits ahead of your medical needs
- They have all the resources of the corporation at their disposal, including expert legal advice retained by her insurance company for just this sort of situation.
Insurance companies make money by collecting premiums, not from paying out money on claims. You can expect the insurance adjuster to offer you the smallest settlement they think you will accept for your claim. Indeed, the larger the potential value of your claim at first glance, the more likely the insurance company will assign your case to an adjuster with lengthy experience and a history of minimizing successful claims.
Insurance adjusters do not all have the same level of discretion in settling your case. If your claim is for minor injuries or property damage only, you may be assigned a fairly inexperienced adjuster who is bound by strict limits on the size of the settlement to offer you. Even adjusters with many years in the field may have to consult with a supervisor or the company’s home office to get approval for a settlement that is near the true value of your case.
Getting a reasonable offer from the insurance adjuster
Of course, a skilled adjuster has a full arsenal of techniques to reduce the value of your claim—and sometimes they will even get you to believe they're doing you a favor. Among the common strategies we have seen:
- Taking advantage of your injured condition. It’s not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to show up to talk to you while you’re still in the hospital. They will try to persuade you to agree early on to a low settlement, “Just so you’re not burdened with all these bills and paperwork when the doctors discharge you.” You are in a weakened state (and you may be addled by painkillers) so soon after the accident; this is not the time to make major financial decisions.
- Coaxing you to make damaging admissions—preferably in a recorded session. Never agree to have a recording made of your personal or phone interview with an insurance adjuster. They may get you to say something that can be taken out of context to reduce her company’s duty to pay you full value for your claim.
- Poring over your medical records. If your case isn’t settled out of court, the insurance company will eventually be given access to your medical records. The adjuster will look for previous injuries or medical conditions that allow the insurance company attorneys to pounce. “Your broken leg isn’t due to your Carlisle car crash last year,” they might say. “It’s really due to that poorly treated greenstick fracture you had when you were nine years old.” Your own attorney can rebut this argument if he knows about your medical history before the case goes to court.
- Warning you away from lawyers. Expect the adjuster to scare you away from hiring an attorney. “Why do you want to give away a huge chunk of your settlement?” they will ask. “Especially since, if we settle right now, you won’t have to go to court—and your lawyer will have done nothing for you. Just sign here.” Of course, what the adjuster knows—and you don’t—is that hiring a lawyer tells the insurance company you’re serious about your recovery.
A reliable injury lawyer can be the best way to back up your claim. Industry statistics show that injury victims who hire legal counsel get settlements two to three times larger than people who do not hire lawyers. An experienced auto accident attorney is your best way to balance out the attorneys working for the insurance company.
When you start looking for reliable legal representation, turn to the Harrisburg office of Schmidt Kramer for a free, confidential case review. Call us today at 717.888.8888 or 888.476.0807 toll-free for an opportunity to meet with an injury attorney with no obligation. We’ll tell you whether you have a strong case, and you get the chance to see if we’re a good match for you.
Just for calling, we’d also like to send you a FREE copy of our book, Who Pays The Bills When You Are Injured In An Automobile Accident?