If you've ever been hurt in a car accident, you know that one of the very first phone calls you will get is from the insurance company of the other driver. They will sound like nice, caring people who only want to make sure that you and your doctors are fairly paid for your injuries. Do not be fooled. Yes, they might want to send you a check, but not so fast. If you clearly were not at fault for the accident, they may entice you with fast money now in order to prevent having to pay you what you really deserve later on. More likely than not though, they will make you jump through hoops before they offer you a dime in the hopes that you will screw up and say something that could make it seem like their driver is blameless. Can you trust them? If you get the feeling that despite the polite facade, the other insurance company is out to get you, you are not paranoid and are correct to be cautious.
Yes, the other driver’s insurance company really is out to get you. Not in the scary movie sense, but in terms of how they try to manipulate you into thinking, acting, and saying things that you might not have meant to say. Any conversation that you have with the other driver’s insurance company is not like the normal conversations that we are all used to. When you are on the phone with one of their adjusters, you are speaking to a highly trained individual whose job it is to control the conversation for the benefit of their employer, the insurance company. The very same insurance company who controls the purse strings on your injury claim. The sooner you understand that you and the insurance company have opposite interests, the better off you will be. They are not going to tell you this. In fact, everything from the tone of their voice to the carefully scripted words that they use has been designed to gain your trust. This attempt to manipulate begins even before your accident, through their marketing! Who wants to be thought of as everyone’s “good neighbor”? Who will tell you that you are “in good hands” with them or that they are "on your side"? Trust us, they say. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty!
Insurance companies exist to make a profit
Insurance companies are a business. Nothing wrong with that but you must remember who they work for. All insurance companies have an obligation to their shareholders to turn a healthy profit. The more dollars that they get to keep, the more profitable the company. The less dollars that they have to give away on claims, the more money they get to keep. It is that simple. The employees of the company aren’t going to be able to keep their jobs for very long if they keep ‘giving away’ more money than they have to. Even looking at it in terms of ‘giving away’ money is the wrong approach. When you are requesting compensation for what happened to you in an accident, caused by their insured driver, you are asking for them to fairly and rightly pay out on a claim. Don’t let anyone tell you that the insurance companies are doing favors when they pay out on claims. Their employees will use language like “let me see what I can do to get you taken care of” and will be very sympathetic. Remember, ulterior motives are at work.
Here is what the insurance companies want from you:
- To Trust them. This will make it much easier to get you to do what they want.
- Access to your Medical Records And not just the ones from the accident, so that they can dig for reasons to discredit you or pay you less than you deserve.
- Your Signature on forms that most people don’t understand. (Talk to a Lawyer!)
- To Settle your Claim NOW, before you have a lawyer looking out for you. This way, they think they can get off cheap. It’s up to you to prove them wrong. Don’t be a chump.
- Magic! To hear certain magic words from you that they can use against you later. They are trained in how to elicit from you exactly what they want to hear. This is why they are always eager to take a “recorded statement”. They control the conversations, not you.
- To Get Rid of You and your physical complaints as quickly and cheaply as possible. Better yet….
- To Blame You and Give you Nothing. More gold stars for them!
This will all lead to good company profits, job security, increased salaries & perks…. You get the idea. I cannot stress enough what a bad idea it is to talk to them if you have a serious injury. At least not until you have informed yourself as to what you may be up against.
But how can I expect them to Compensate me if I don’t talk to them?
Dealing with an insurance company can be like dating. You need to be completely honest and keep your integrity intact, but you don’t lay it all out there at the outset, or you might regret it later. But unlike dating, you are not on equal footing. You have just been through something unpleasant at best, catastrophically painful at worst. The Insurance Adjuster is having just another day in the office doing what they were trained to do. That is why you need to be careful to avoid falling into traps. Of course the honest facts of the accident and the details of your injury, and your medical history, will need to be presented. But it needs to be presented properly. If we go back to the dating analogy, at some point you may want your date to visit your home - on your terms. You certainly don’t want them barging in when the sink is full of dishes and the dog just peed on your floor. In terms of presenting your side of the story and your injuries, a skilled lawyer will know when is the right time to present it and will even out the playing field by making sure that you don’t answer questions that they have no right asking you or which are deliberately designed to be confusing. Think I am exaggerating? I am not, the questions that they ask are part of a script, designed to favor the insurance company and their bottom line.
Why is it Bad that the Insurance Company Wants to Settle Quickly on my Car Accident?
Don’t I want a quick settlement too? Yes and No. Of course you are ready for the entire claim to be over, but not on their terms. If you have a case that is solid in terms of liability (whose fault it was- theirs or mostly theirs) and in terms of your damages (example, medical bills that were reasonable to incur and are clearly linked to the accident); then you want to make sure that you are settling for an appropriate amount of money. There is no magic formula as to what this number is, but part of a lawyer’s job is to help you evaluate whether or not the amount being offered is fair to you. What might seem okay to you could be far less than what you actually would be legally entitled to, but you don't know what you don't know. Remember that insurance companies need to settle for as cheaply as possible. Company profits are at stake and even someone’s job may be on the line.
They want to settle fast before:
- You talk to a lawyer or worse yet for them, actually hire one;
- You realize that you might need more medical treatment in the future (because that’s it- once you settle you can’t get another penny from them, ever- for this accident, even if you end up needing surgery or more medical treatment later);
- You talk to too many people, as any one of them could talk you out of accepting their oftentimes insulting first offer;
- You lose more time from work;
- You have time to think it through and consult with trusted people;
- They are also banking on you not having money to pay the medical bills that will start to come in and hoping that out of desperation, you will take what is being offered just to get it over with.
Of course, you don’t want to drag things out any longer than necessary but you do NOT want to rush. If you are offered a fair settlement, by all means it should be considered- but the insurance adjusters are like that stereotypical car salesmen who wants to sell for a jacked up sticker price, then lowers the price 'just for you', then when you turn to leave he runs out of the room, comes back with a lower price scribbled on a piece of paper. You say no. He smiles and says he will try to get you a better deal but has to talk to the manager. And it goes on and on like this for a few hours, all the while that shiny beautiful car is sitting right there in the showroom with your name on it. Just like the car salesman does not give you his real/ best price at the beginning, neither does the insurance adjuster, especially if you don't have a lawyer. How far can you push? It depends a lot on the surrounding circumstances. This is another critical point in where it helps tremendously to have a lawyer do this for you- they can push a lot harder and this is exactly why the insurance adjuster does not want you to have a lawyer. They want for you to sign quickly on the dotted line before it’s too late. Then, they know they’ve got you!
How Can I Avoid Being a Victim of a Bad Settlement?
First of all, you need to be able to identify what is fair and what isn't. Remember, you don’t have to play by their rules. If you are offered a low-ball amount or are told that the accident was your fault (and you beg to differ), stand up to them and let the insurance company know that your lawyer will be in touch. They may try to bully you and ask why you need a lawyer. You are not part of a criminal investigation here, and the adjuster is not the police, so this is not the type of scenario where you should be made to feel “guilty” or like you have something to hide just because you want to handle things through your lawyer. You are simply asserting your right to look after yourself - a smart decision.
Depending on all circumstances, you might not actually need a lawyer - especially if your injuries weren’t too serious or the issues not too complex. But it is still better to at least speak to an injury lawyer to find out what your options are. That way, you can make an informed decision. While it is true that the insurance company will still be involved, you don’t have to worry about being bullied or making a decision without being sufficiently informed - by someone who is on your side. If you have been hurt in the Chicago area and are feeling intimidated by the process and especially the insurance company, talk to us. We are here to help. Call 630 250-8813 or fill out our webform to get in touch.