Car accidents come with multiple frustrations. One annoyance has to do with auto insurance adjusters. A representative is in charge of your case and may deny your claim. If they do not issue a rejection, they determine an estimated value. The estimations do not satisfy everyone.
The amount of money an adjuster proposes depends on a variety of factors. For instance, they observe the damage to your vehicle. They look at the severity and if any issues were present before the crash. Some people wonder if an adjuster can tell if the damage is old or not. If you are currently struggling to receive the compensation you deserve for your damages speaking with an auto accident lawyer can help assess the validity of your claim.
What Areas of the Car Receive the Most Damage?
Over 12 million vehicles get into crashes every year. Most of them are passenger cars. The severity ranges from minor to severe, and most vehicles sustain some form of damage.
Regular areas of impact are:
- Fender. The fender is the wheel well frame and protects pedestrians from thrown debris. The car part absorbs a portion of the damage during an accident. You likely have to fix a broken fender after a side-impact collision.
- Bumpers. The front and rear bumpers usually need repairs after a head-on or rear-end collision. Inattentive driving can cause scratches, cracks, and dents. A bumper could fall off or become destroyed after a serious accident.
- Doors. Side-impact collisions lead to dented or broken driver and passenger doors in most cases. The car part absorbs most of the force of a crash to protect the people inside. Drivers should ensure a mechanic fixes the affected doors.
- Hood. When people imagine a car wreck, they might picture a damaged hood. Another vehicle or even fallen debris can scratch or dent the area of a car. In some cases, the hood does not close properly and requires immediate repairs.
Common Types of Hidden Car Damage
Not all car damage is visible. Your car might look safe to drive after an accident, but a hidden issue can increase the risk of further harm.
Common examples of hidden car damage include:
- Alignment issues. Different types of crashes can lead to misalignment in your wheels. You might notice the steering wheel is crooked when you drive. Your tires experience uneven wear. The brakes and suppression experience stress if the driver does not fix the problem.
- Damaged car frame. The frame acts as a vehicle’s structural support. A frame component can become compromised after an accident since cars typically have plastic bumpers. A door might not shut correctly, or the radiator no longer has the necessary support.
- Electrical system issues. Even a low-speed accident can result in electrical system damage. A loose wire could affect your tail lights or headlights. Additionally, a compromised component could cause the car battery to malfunction.
Regardless of how the vehicle appears, you should visit an auto repair shop following a collision. If another driver caused the damage, you could file a claim for reimbursement.
How an Adjuster Investigates Claims
Many people spend anywhere between $50 and $2,500 for car repairs. However, you might need to spend more to fix or replace your car. Money can become tight when you acquire other expenses.
You could have the opportunity to file a claim with the insurance company, especially if another party is at fault. Around 215 million drivers buy coverage. You may need to speak to an insurance representative to resolve the matter.
Once you report the incident, an adjuster schedules a time to look at your car's damage. Insurers prefer to investigate to protect themselves from fraudulent claims. You go to the assessment since the person works in the insurer's interest. They likely will try to limit how much the company should pay you.
The adjuster looks at every inch of the car to view any damage. They review several photos of the accident. Then, the insurance representative uses a computer system to calculate the cost of repairs for accident-related damage.
If you sustained bodily harm, the adjuster may ask you about your injuries and request medical records. The representative obtains a copy of the police report. Some adjusters want to review a person’s cell phone records or see their social media pages. They may speak with witnesses as well.
You generally have no legal obligation to provide the insurance company with all the information they request. The exception is if the claim progresses to a lawsuit. However, you should cooperate the best you can for a fair estimate. The adjuster should take a couple of days to give you an initial offer.
Are Vehicle Damage Estimates Accurate?
Even though adjusters look over every aspect of a damaged vehicle, they are still human. In some cases, their assessments are not accurate. Even if the representative used a computer program, a factor like increased local costs could impact an estimate’s preciseness.
The estimate becomes less accurate if the insurance company primarily relies on photos. The results impact how much money you get from the insurer. Some people go to one or two auto repair shops for additional estimates.
A mechanic might tell you the damage value is worth more than the adjuster. Before you accept a check, make sure it covers all your expenses.
Ways Adjusters Lie About Claims
Your Policy Does Not Cover the Costs
Many insurance adjusters may come across as friendly and helpful. However, some of them lie to people to reduce their claims. One common lie includes a misinterpretation of your policy to deceive you.
The adjuster informs you your policy does not cover the damage. They might cite specifics of the accident the policy excludes. Additionally, they do not tell you the full limits of your coverage. You would need to read the full terms of your policy to prevent a denied claim.
The language of a policy can seem confusing. An attorney can read over the terms to see what your insurance covers.
Claim Your Injuries Are Minor
An insurance company may claim your injuries are not as severe as you say. Acute injuries mean more money from the insurer, so they might state anything to pay less. The adjuster is not your physician. Go to a trusted doctor to get their opinion. Keep copies of your medical records after a visit.
If the insurance company disturbs your treatment plan, contact a lawyer. Attorneys shield their clients from insurers during a vulnerable time.
Tell You When You Must Settle
Some adjusters tell injured people they need to settle by a specific date. Usually, the deadline is before a person has a chance to discover the true extent of their losses. The goal is a quick settlement since you cannot sue for the same accident in the future once you sign the papers.
The date the insurance company generally gives is unreasonable. While you do have a time limit under the statute of limitations, you do not need to agree to anything right away.
Say You Do Not Need a Lawyer
Insurers know attorneys work in their client’s interests and are not afraid of an adjuster. Representation from a firm means a claim reaches its maximum value. To avoid a higher payment, the company might tell you a lawyer is unnecessary for your situation.
However, what the adjuster says is untrue. An attorney investigates your claim to discover if one or more parties owe you compensation. They offer an accurate calculation of awarded damages. Do not believe what the insurance company says and hire a lawyer.
What Not to Say to the Insurance Company
Do Not Downplay Your Injuries
If the other party’s insurance company calls you, minimize communication until you get a lawyer. However, you should be cautious about what you tell the person on the phone if you decide to speak to them. For example, do not downplay the seriousness of your injuries when the adjuster asks about them.
Some people say they feel fine or mention the accident did not affect their life significantly. The adjuster could interpret your words to mean your losses are not worth much. As a result, they lower their settlement offer.
A reduced compensation becomes an issue if unseen damages become apparent in the future. The money you receive likely may not cover all your repair costs and medical bills.
Avoid Admissions of Fault on Your End
If you recount the collision, avoid any admissions of fault or partial fault. Some phrases may come across as if you hold some responsibility. A victim might say they did not see the other driver, and the adjuster uses the statement against them.
In addition to lower compensation, an injured person might experience increased premiums. Insurance companies tend to raise rates if a driver is negligent in an accident.
Even if you believe you are at fault, wait for the investigation to conclude. A lawyer can help you figure out what to say if you need to talk to an adjuster.
Stay Away From Speculative Phrases
People tend to speculate about car collisions when they talk about the event to insurers. They might say they think the other driver sped or ran a stop sign. Speculative statements can hurt your case. An investigation may prove some of them are incorrect.
Inconsistencies become a tool for insurance companies to deny or reduce your claim. Keep your statements as definitive as possible. However, you can mention you do not know the answer to a question.
Tips for Negotiations With Adjusters
Collect Accident-Related Documents
Lawyers handle negotiations with the other party on behalf of clients. They know what to do to get the financial recovery you need. If you want to prepare for settlement negotiations, collect and organize all relevant documents. The paperwork acts as evidence of a case's value.
Documents include healthcare bills, car repair estimates, witness testimonies, and photographs. More evidence means a better chance of a favorable result. Keep the paperwork in a safe location until negotiations begin.
Pick a Minimum Compensation Amount
When you and your lawyer create a demand letter, have a compensation amount in mind. The desired dollar amount generally emerges after the attorney calculates the cost of damages. You and the adjuster can discuss a value within the range of the expected figure.
The number acts as a bottom line, but you do not have to stick to it. Facts may arise and cause you to adjust the value. You may have to lower to raise your demand based on what the insurer says. Of course, your attorney is there to ensure the negotiations end in your favor.
Refuse the Adjuster’s First Offer
At the beginning of negotiations, the adjuster may suggest a low offer. They might use the tactic to see if you understand your claim's worth. The initial proposal can feel frustrating for people who want to resolve the matter quickly. However, never accept any offer without first speaking with an attorney.
You should ask the adjuster the reasons why they sent a low offer. Make notes of what they say, and your attorney can help you draft a response. If they have a valid cause, you can send a counteroffer. The next time you speak to the representative, you and a lawyer can work towards a fair settlement.