In 2015, there were 313,316 crashes involving motor vehicles in Illinois. People die or suffer severe injuries in car accidents, every day in Illinois and across the country. Some accidents are more serious than others. In those less serious accidents, over the years of our practice here at Dwyer & Coogam, we have found that injured victims tend to try to navigate the waters of representing themselves. In our opinion this is not the wisest course to take. Dealing with a case yourself and in particular an insurance company adjuster is one of the most complicated and precarious parts of a car accident claim. In this article we thought it would be helpful to outline some of the most important things you should be aware of if you find yourself dealing with the insurance company adjuster after a car accident:
1. Insurance adjusters are trained negotiators and never your friend!
The gravity or potential gravity of your personal injury claim will impact how friendly the adjuster will be to you. If they think the claim will end up costing the Insurance Company a lot of money, the adjuster is most likely going to try to establish rapport with you and will seem helpful and fair. This is always a front. The smaller your claim appears to be to them, the more likely they are to be rude and abrupt. Do not be sucked in by this falseness. They are not and never will be your friend.
One of the reasons, in significant damages claims that the adjuster may be friendly and even appear helpful is because they are attempting to discourage you from hiring an experienced car wreck attorney to handle your case. Some adjusters have been known to say such things as “we accept responsibility“, or “you don’t really need to hire an attorney, they’ll just take part of your money”. There is a reason why the insurance company discourages you from getting representation and its not to benefit you!
Frequently, it is only after the adjuster actually discusses monetary compensation that the personal injury victim understands that they need an attorney. Unfortunately, that usually happens many months after the accident and the damage may have already been done to the case. The best advice we can give in that regard is if you have sustained injuries in a car accident, please consult with us as soon as possible.
2. Anything you say – can – and will be used against you!
Insurance adjusters will ALWAYS want to take recorded statements from a personal injury victim as soon as possible after a car crash. My best advice is to NEVER do this. Insurance adjusters have been trained in how to take statements from personal injury victims. Do not let them put words in your mouth. A question such as “when did you first see the other vehicle” is a loaded question, because it assumes that you did see the other vehicle prior to impact, when in fact you may not have.
Occasionally, an aggressive adjuster may push you to agree to facts that you don’t know are accurate. You might get annoyed, and say, ‘I guess so,’ to get the guy to leave you alone. That “I guess so” is now recorded forever and will be very difficult to get past in the future.
Another area of conversation that will inevitably come up is the extent of your injuries. Your injuries should not be discussed with an insurance adjuster ever. Be especially mindful that giving statements while taking medicine is also a very bad idea.
Many times conversations about injuries are taking place when an injured party has not even seen a doctor and you yourself may not even have a accurate picture of your injuries. Saying something to an insurance adjuster along the lines of “oh it is only a strain”, are again words that will haunt you if that “strain” turns out to be something more sinister requiring advanced treatment, maybe even surgery.
3. Watch out for negative comments by the insurance adjuster:
If you engage in conversations with an adjuster and as they begin to develop a rapport with you, they will often seek to imply that your case is worth little, or that your injuries are minimal and really no big deal. They also may try to imply that there will be problems with the medical damages you intend to present or imply that you are somewhat partly to blame for the accident. Subtle negative statements about a claim can be used by the insurance adjuster to reduce your expectations of the true value of your case. Therefore when it comes to a time when they offer you a settlement, they have already convinced you that the case really is a small one and really their offer is a gift. Do not fall for this! Talk with an experienced attorney, proficient in these types of cases who can truly value the worth of your claim based on the real issues in the case, not the issues the insurance adjuster wishes you to believe are there.
4. Do not volunteer information to the adjuster – but tell your attorney everything
Causal talk with any insurance adjuster should be avoided. This includes talk about you, your injuries, your background, your hobbies, your family life, prior claims or prior injuries. The most innocent of comments can open up issues that can come back to bite you if you are not careful.
If on the other hand, you hire an attorney to handle your case, tell them everything, even those things you may feel embarrassed about or are not the most proud off. Do not make the mistake of thinking, that keeping something from your lawyer will help you. Today, especially in the era of the internet and social media, insurance companies have an increased ability to find out so much information about a claimant and if your lawyer doesn’t already know everything they need to about you, it can be detrimental the outcome of your case
5. Avoid the settlement trap:
Many insurance adjusters will offer you a quick settlement early in the case. Because by now you have built up a relationship with the adjuster, you may feel like they are being cooperative, fair and taking responsibility for the accident. That is of course not their goal. The biggest issue with early settlement offers is that often times they come when a real diagnosis or assessment of a victim’s injuries has either not been given or is not yet known. Soft tissue injuries and whiplash injuries in particular, can take time to manifest themselves and while a person may feel healthy and fine a day or two post-accident, the weeks and months ahead can bring unexpected complications. Most victims who don’t have the benefit of an attorney, fall victim to the attraction of a quick and easy settlement. Do not fall for this tactic! It is always a terrible idea to settle a case before you know the extent of your injuries. Once a case is settled and release paper work is signed, there is no way to revisit or re-open the matter if your injury suddenly starts to manifests itself or worsens. As the old proverb goes – there is little use in closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
6. Delays can hurt your case!
Delay in seeking medical treatment can be very damaging to a personal injury claim. The longer you wait for medical treatment and having large gaps in medical treatment can have a detrimental effect on your case. To avoid this seek medical attention immediately after a car accident and follow all and any medical advice’s you get.
Many times after a car accident, injured victims are feeling overwhelmed by what has just happened and do not know where to turn. While they may go to an emergency room immediately after the crash, thereafter they do not have the sufficient tools or knowledge to know where and how their injury can be best treated. Experienced attorneys like the attorenys at Coogan Gallagher can guide you towards seeking the medical treatment that is best for your particular injury. You will never get that sort of advice from an insurance adjuster.
7.If you refuse to settle right away, insurance companies may begin to ignore you:
The statute of limitations to file an injury lawsuit after a car accident in Illinois is two years. Insurance companies, after realizing you won’t accept their first offer, may start to ignore you or intentionally delay your claim – claiming that they have lost paperwork you have already submitted, asking for the same documents over and over again, transferring you to a different adjuster or simply not returning your phone calls. The goal of this tactic is that you will either be so frustrated by the process, you will just give up or you will miss the deadline to file suit. If you miss the deadline to file a personal injury law suit there is no attorney in the land that can help you fix that. Do not take that chance and let time tick away. Protect yourself by seeking early representation.
8. The more serious your injury the more likely you need a lawyer:
Personal injury claims include more than just negotiating a number for compensation with an insurance company. An experienced personal injury lawyer can be a great asset to you in even getting the right medical treatment for your particular injury. The more serious your injuries, the larger your medical bills will be and while initially an insurance company may seem willing to pay those medical expenses, as the bills rack up, their willingness to pay diminishes. If you are not able to work and live your normal daily life because of your injuries that is something that needs to be factored into a settlement. Insurance adjusters will never tell you that these are elements of damages you are entitled too and will try to convince you that if they pay some of your bills and give you a few dollars for the inconvenience, that you are getting a great deal.
Also be aware that if you have health insurance, your health insurance company may also be paying some of the medical bills associated with the claim. If they do so, they may be entitled to seek reimbursement for those payments from your settlement. An insurance adjuster will not advise you of this possibility and will not concern themselves with any other liens that may be attached to your case. You need the benefit of a skilled personal injury attorney to deal with these complicated issues to ensure that you get the true value of your injury claim.
9. Take advantage of free consultations:
Here at Coogan Gallagher we offer free consultations to personal injury victims. Whether you hire an attorney or are considering handling a car accident claim yourself, taking advantage of a free consultation is always a good idea and there really is no downside to speaking to an attorney. Do not be convinced by the insurance adjuster that you don’t need an attorney because they are here to look out for you. Not true. Never true!
Also be aware that in personal injury actions most reputable personal injury lawyers charge what is termed a “contingency fee” which means that if you decide to move forward with representation there are no upfront fees or costs and you will only be charged an attorney fee if the attorney is successful in getting you compensation.
In Conclusion, remember that there is NO Legal requirement for you to ever talk to the insurance company adjuster. You can simply ignore their calls or direct them to your attorney. If you choose to talk with them hopefully this article will be off some assistance to you in how to effectively deal with them. But never forget – they are always your foe and never your friend!