There are a few of the tactics that the insurance industry will use to accomplish its goal of getting people to accept smaller settlements. You need to be aware that you are dealing with professional negotiators who strive to fulfill the insurance company’s primary objective: to settle claims for much less than they are worth. Lower settlements mean bigger company profits. Adjusters receive bonuses for closing car accident claims for less than they are worth.
If you want to avoid being the victim of insurance bad faith you need to know some of the tactics the adjuster will use to wear down injured claimants so they will accept much less money than what the claim is worth:
- Using delay tactics. The adjuster is a master of using delay tactics to wear people down. They know that many people (80-90%, according to some insurance company estimates) will grow tired of the delay tactics and simply throw their hands and say, “Enough!” These people will accept low-ball offers just to be done with the entire unpleasant process.
- Requesting unnecessary information. It is true that the insurance company will need records, receipts, bills, reports, and other documentation to support the claim, but sometimes the requests for documentation are unnecessary – for example, asking for medical records from ten years before the accident or asking for tax returns from the same period. Such information typically is unnecessary and is being requested only to delay resolution of the claim. Insurance adjusters know that repeated requests for unnecessary documentation can easily frustrate people and wear them down so that they are more likely to accept low settlement offers.
- Disputing the medical treatment. Despite the absence of any medical training, the adjuster may question the need for certain treatments or procedures, or worse – second-guess your own doctor. Many times it does not matter to the adjuster that your treatment has been recommended by a reputable, licensed physician.
- Disputing the medical charges. Sometimes the adjuster will only agree to “accept” 70, 80, or 90% of your past medical charges. Again, such an assertion is made without any medical background to support such a position. By nickel-and-diming the consumer, the well-trained adjuster knows that most people will be worn down and will not hire a lawyer to challenge the refusal to pay a small portion of the medical bills.
- Telling you not to hire an attorney. Other times, the insurance company will tell you that hiring an attorney is unnecessary. Sometimes the adjuster will try to prevent you from retaining an attorney by falsely stating that any settlement money you receive will go entirely to the attorney. Still other times, the adjuster may threaten to “deny” the claim if you hire a lawyer. If a claims representative tries to steer you away from retaining an attorney, this should be your first clue that using an attorney may actually produce a much higher recovery for you – even after deducting the attorney’s fee.
- Misrepresenting insurance policy benefits. Sometimes the adjuster will misrepresent the amount of insurance coverage that is available to you. Worse, the adjuster won’t tell you that the insurance coverage or certain types of benefits exist. This tactic may be used to entire you into accepting a smaller settlement than what would otherwise be warranted.
- Acting like your friend. There are times when the claims adjuster will “befriend” you and make it appear that he is watching out for your interests when in fact that is not the case. Sometimes he adjuster will give you advice about the type or frequency of your medical treatment, and then decide later on not to pay for the treatment because it is “excessive.”
- Making false promises. There are times when the adjuster will make promises to you that she knows cannot be met. The adjuster’s primary loyalty is to their employer (the insurance company) and to the insured (the negligent party).
Any adjuster who makes promises “for your benefit” inherently creates a conflict of interest. Oftentimes the adjuster already knows that a conflict is created by promising to protect your interests, but she knows this is one way to get you to lower your guard and get you to agree to terms that your attorney would never allow.