When you’re injured in an accident, it’s stressful enough dealing with the mounting medical bills and the long healing process. Sometimes you have to miss out on days of work; other times, you might even be forced to quit your job. All the red tape and hoops you have to jump through when dealing with insurance claims just adds insult to injury. This is why it’s important to make sure you receive all the money you’re entitled to after years of responsibly paying your insurance premiums. Otherwise, what’s insurance for?
An insurance adjuster’s sole purpose is to investigate claims to determine whether you should be paid for your injuries and, if so, how much money you should receive. However, if they’re considered “good” at their job, they have to save the insurance company as much money as possible. This means using somewhat sneaky tactics to avoid paying out as much money as you deserve when you file a claim. Insurance companies make their money by receiving payments from their customers, so they have a strong incentive to make sure they try every possible tactic to either persuade you not to file a claim, or they come up with as many reasons as they can for why you don’t qualify for payment. This way insurance companies don’t lose money.
While there are many different maneuvers insurance companies use to deny your claim, when it comes to personal injury situations, some of the most common tactics are asking for a recorded statement, pushing for a quick settlement, asking for a signed medical release, causing confusion and refusing to renew.
Asking for a Recorded Statement
Most everyone is familiar with the Miranda Warning that says “anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law.” This holds true for recorded statements that can be used against you by the insurance company after you’re injured. Insurance adjusters want to find out what your story is and how they can twist your words to make you look bad, thus making you ineligible for your claim. No matter what you say, whether informally or formally, it will be used and dissected thoroughly to see if there’s anything they can use against your case. When it comes to car accidents, there is no law in any state that says you must provide a recorded statement to the insurance company of the driver who is potentially at fault. Although what statements you must provide to your own insurer varies from state to state, you never have to give the other party’s insurance provider information right up front. Giving a recorded statement never helps you, and you typically end up getting low-balled in your settlement offer or have your claim refused outright.
Pushing For a Quick Settlement
Dealing with insurance companies and legal battles can be an extremely stressful experience. No matter how badly you want to wash your hands of the entire thing and just get it over with, you should never fall into the trap of accepting a quick settlement from your insurance company.
Insurance companies use this tactic because it saves them a lot of time and money, and it also ensures you accept a much smaller amount before you fully know what your injuries are and how much your claim is really worth. Until you have investigated your situation extensively and fully recovered from your injuries, you won’t have an idea of how much the settlement should be. Their goal is to make you give them incomplete and inaccurate information on the phone – information they will use against you later. Insurance companies may call you extensively to bully you and be a nuisance so you want to throw in the towel. Make sure you limit the amount of time you speak with the insurance company on the phone and set strict guidelines up front as to when you will speak with them. When you do speak with them, be sure to give very limited information.
Asking for a Signed Medical Release
If you’re in an accident, an insurance adjuster may try to convince you that you absolutely have to sign medical release forms, giving them access to all of your medical records, both past and present. They may tell you they cannot process your claim without you signing the forms or it’s just a routine practice and nothing to worry about. If you do sign these forms, the insurance company will have access to all medical information—not just the information pertaining to your accident. They can use anything they find in your past medical history against you, even going so far as to saying the injuries you’re claiming from this accident are from a previous incident, thus denying your claim. When looking over the medical release forms, be sure to review them carefully and object to any provisions you don’t agree with. Mark up the document as thoroughly as you can and have the insurance company send you a revised version with your changes that you have to approve before implementation. Try to include only information pertaining to your current accident.
When it comes to the everyday individual, insurance jargon and contracts are tedious, time consuming and confusing. Insurance companies design it that way so they can get out of paying claims. There’s usually some obscure language including a clause to deny your claim—a clause you don’t understand you’re agreeing to until after it’s already happened. According to Justice.org’s publication Tricks of the Trade – How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse, “after Hurricane Katrina, insurance companies used obscure ‘anti-concurrent’ clauses to get out of paying claims.” When filing a claim, hire either a licensed professional or an attorney to go over the documents so you know your rights.
Refusing to Renew
Although you shouldn’t rush the process and settle right away, be sure not to waste too much time to file a claim if you decide to do so, especially if you’ve already contacted your insurance company with an inquiry. Many insurance companies will drop your coverage and refuse to renew a policy if they get a whiff that you may be considering filing a claim. If you make a phone call to the insurance company even inquiring about the possibility of filing a claim, and you decide not to, they have documented your phone call. Be 100 percent sure you are going to file a claim before contacting your insurance company about doing so.