It seems each time I meet with a new potential personal injury client they express extreme frustration and anger with the insurance companies involved in their case. Most of this anger is directed towards the other driver’s insurance company. I usually refer to the other driver that caused the motor vehicle crash as the “bad driver.”
Much of the frustration and anxiety comes from the misinformation from the insurance adjusters and the insurance industry. Insurance companies have worked hard to soften their images and gain the public’s trust with cute ad campaigns and by sponsoring events. Then when it comes time for the insurance company to do the right thing and honor the terms of the policy, they quickly switch to militant penny pinchers and will use a number of well-calculated strategies necessary to save the insurance company money. Below are some tips to assist people in dealing with the “bad driver’s” insurance company that may help alleviate frustration, anger, and anxiety from dealing with the insurance industry.
1) The Bad Driver’s Insurance Company is Usually Not Represented by a Lawyer Until a Lawsuit is Filed: It is rare that an injured person would be contacted by the bad driver’s insurance company’s’ lawyer. Most likely the person calling on behalf of the bad driver’s insurance company is an insurance adjuster. These adjusters sometimes like to think they are lawyers or even doctors and often try and act like lawyers. In reality, many adjusters have little formal relevant education and rely on internal policies and spoonfed information generated by computers to assist them with their job of paying the bare minimum on every claim. They will refer to injuries as if they are highly knowledgeable about specific injuries. However, most adjusters do not have any formal medical education and are parroting what was learned in insurance industry seminars. This is important to remember, so you are not intimidated by them.
2) There is NO requirement that an injured person speaks to the bad driver’s insurance company adjuster or lawyer. For more information on insurance company phone calls read my blog article.
3) You Do NOT Need to Fill Out Forms or Provide Your Social Security Number to the Bad Driver’s Insurer: The bad driver’s insurer’s goal is to get away with paying the minimum amount of money to compensate you for your injuries. That is how they stay in business. To do this they are going to look for all sorts of dirt and information that they can use to diminish the value of your claim. For example, they are going to request that you sign a “medical release” to allow them to get your medical records. They may claim they need these records to evaluate the claim. This is true, but you can get them fromi the medical provider, review them for relevant records, and then provide them directly to the bad driver’s adjuster.
By signing the “medical release” you give the adjuster the authority to get all of your medical records and sometimes your mental health counseling records. Adjusters will use these records to attempt to find other plausible explanations for your injuries or symptoms. For example, if you went to the chiropractor 2 years before the crash, the bad driver’s insurance adjuster may obtain those records to claim that the current crash is not the cause of your injured back because the records from two years ago say you had a “sore back.” They may also obtain records to make you feel uncomfortable with being involved in the claim. For example, if your medical records describe an incident from a night you wish you forgot, then that inference that other people might learn about that night may be enough for you to accept less to settle your claim. They may want a release to obtain your employment information and claim they need it to evaluate a “wage loss claim.” However, that release will allow them to have access to your entire file and the sensitive information contained therein. The Bad Driver’s Insurance company will also claim that they need your social security number to process the claim or they will get in trouble with Medicare. The medicare issue is only partially true. The SSN is key for the bad driver’s insurer to run you through their computer databases to determine if you have prior insurance claims or crashes. This is more information they can use to devalue your claim. If you may be medicare eligible then you will likely need to either fill out a medicare form regarding your identity or provide the ssn when the case resolves. I usually tell the bad driver’s insurer that they can have my client’s information when I get the settlement check. If you have questions about this call a personal injury lawyer at 503.224.1658.
4) YOU Control Your Case Against the Bad Driver, NOT the Bad Driver’s Insurer: I regularly hear people complain that the bad driver’s insurance company is going to “close their case” if they do not communicate with the adjuster or accept an offer to settle the case against the bad driver. People get concerned that if the bad driver’s insurance company closes their file then they will not be able to be compensated for their injuries. This could not be further from the truth. Insurance adjusters speak as if many internal insurance policies are the law and will affect the claim against the bad driver. For example, they may claim you have to return their call. However, as previously mentioned that is not the law. They may also claim that if you don’t accept an offer they are going to close their file. That may be true, but you have the option of filing a lawsuit as long as it is within the statute of limitations. That will force them to reopen the file (or whatever they call that in insurance land.) The bottom line is that you control the amount of the offer you will accept, when you communicate with the bad driver’s insurance company, and if you are going to sue the bad driver if the bad driver’s insurance company won’t make a fair offer.
5) They Are Going to Play Good Cop Bad Cop and Re-Assign Adjusters: Many people get extremely frustrated because their claim with the bad driver gets bounced around from adjuster to adjuster. Usually, the bad driver’s adjusters will be nice at first and kill you with kindness. They will try and gain your trust in an effort to convince you that you should settle for pennies on the dollar. If that does not happen, they may start to ignore your calls and their tone will usually become more adversarial. Then the adjuster may try and bully you into settling. If that does not occur, the insurance company may transfer the case to a new adjuster who will try and start over with the same routine above. The new adjuster may even tell you the former adjuster was “new” or was terrible at their job. This again is an attempt to gain your trust with the new adjuster. The new adjuster may offer a little more money in an effort to resolve the claim. If the claim doesn’t resolve then they will continue the cycle and get grumpier and grumpier until they transfer the file. This is a good tactic the bad driver’s insurers use to grind you down. They want to wear you down and have you tired of telling the same thing over and over. They want to frustrate you and find that weak moment when you finally say, “OK, I’ll settle?”
PRO-TIP: HAVING A LAWYER CAN REDUCE YOUR STRESS IN DEALING WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES: As a personal injury lawyer I look at it as my job to alleviate my client’s stress related to their bodily injury claim. In doing so, I communicate with the bad driver’s insurance company and there is no need for the client to fill out their silly forms or be bounced around on the phone for hours. If you have more questions about your car crash case call Ross Law at 503.224.1658. Jeremiah Ross is a Personal Injury Lawyer that represents clients throughout Oregon, including the Portland Metro Region, Eugene, Pendleton, Hermiston, Astoria, Cannon Beach, Scappoose, Medford and places in between.
Please remember to call a lawyer and not rely solely on this article. Please also remember that rules in states may be different than Oregon. Also, please remember that this article is based on the experience of a personal injury lawyer, and not an insurance company insider or employee. This post could be considered ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.