If you were injured in an accident that was caused by the careless conduct of another person or business, you have the right to seek compensation. In most cases, the negligent individual’s insurance company will be responsible for paying injury compensation. In some cases, injury victims look to their own insurance to pay some or all of the compensation.
Whenever an insurance company is asked to pay compensation for an injury claim, the company will assign an insurance claims adjuster to manage the claim. The adjuster’s goal is to save the insurance company’s money by paying as little as possible. They use a variety of tactics to accomplish that goal.
When an accident victim takes on the might of an insurance company, the company has a distinct bargaining advantage. The best way to equalize bargaining power is to retain a lawyer to handle negotiations with the adjuster. Even a single conversation with an insurance adjuster without representation by a personal injury lawyer can lead to unfortunate consequences.
The Injury Victim’s First Contact with an Insurance Adjuster
Insurance policies require drivers who cause accidents to report the accident to their insurer. Drivers understand that their insurance might not cover the accident if they do not report it promptly, so insurance companies typically learn about accidents on the same day that they occur.
When an insurance company receives a report of an accident, it immediately assigns an insurance adjuster. The insurance adjuster’s first step is to contact the injury victim. The insurance adjuster wants to take a prompt statement that the company can later use as evidence if the insurance claim leads to a trial.
Insurance adjusters want to take that statement before the injury victim has a chance to speak to a lawyer. They know that an unprepared victim might make statements that will turn out to benefit the insurance company. For instance, an accident victim might say, “No, I don’t have any neck pain,” only to wake up with neck pain the next morning. The insurance company will use the statement as evidence that the injury victim is fabricating the pain.
An accident victim who is still rattled by the accident might say, “I’m not sure how the accident happened.” The insurance company will use that statement to deny that their insured driver caused the accident. Giving an immediate statement to the insurance company without having time to review all the facts and to see how injuries are developing can result in evidence that the insurance company will use to contest payment of the claim. To avoid that risk, a personal injury lawyer might advise the accident victim not to talk to the insurance adjuster.
Talking to the Insurance Adjuster for the Victim’s Own Insurance Company
In some cases, an accident victim might make a claim against his or her own insurance. That most often occurs when a traffic accident is caused by an uninsured driver, a hit-and-run driver, or an underinsured driver. In those cases, the victim’s own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage will pay some or all of the compensation claim.
The accident victim’s insurance policy probably requires the victim to cooperate with claims brought against the victim’s own insurance company. Cooperation usually means agreeing to give a truthful statement to the company’s insurance adjuster. Insurance companies, however, have a duty to be fair to the people they insure. They must give the insured the right to contact and be represented by a personal injury attorney before giving a statement.
The accident victim’s lawyer will want to review all the facts and to prepare the victim to give a statement to the insurance adjuster. The lawyer will also want to be present when the statement is taken. The first concern of a personal injury lawyer is to protect the victim’s right to recover full compensation.