Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC
When you get into an accident, the extent of your reimbursement and compensation lies entirely in the hands of the insurance adjuster. As a Toledo insurance claims attorney can tell you, this is not necessarily a good thing. For those who aren’t aware of how things go in the insurance world, the amount of money received by the claimant will probably be a lot less than what they either expected or needed. The common misconception about insurance companies is that they just take all the money that you send in every month and save it for the day that you get into an accident. That is not the case. They almost immediately put that money to work. They invest, they buy bonds, and they pay dividends to their stockholders. They also give enormous bonuses to their CEO’s and board members. In fact, the amount of money that they are legally required to keep liquid to pay for the needs of their policyholders is quite miniscule in comparison to the amount of money that they actually have.
One of their most important methods of investing is firmly entrenched in the “You Have To Spend Money To Make Money” tradition. Insurance companies have an army of lobbyists and advocacy groups in Washington, D.C., as well as every single state capital in the nation. They encourage politicians to pass legislation that will make it easier for insurance companies to deny policyholder claims, while at the same time making it harder for individual policy holders to collect when they file for damages. They also operate a fairly slick marketing operation, with the main goal being to convince voters everywhere that most lawsuits are simply shams, with greedy trial lawyers filing ridiculous claims on behalf of clients that are exaggerating their injuries.
While the lobbyists are busy at work and the advocacy groups are busy crafting press releases, the first line of defense for the insurance companies are the adjusters. These are the salaried employees that answer the phone when you call to file your claim. The adjusters that work for the huge insurance conglomerates (GEICO, Progressive, Allstate) are essentially cubicle dwellers. Many of them use an adjusting estimation software that tells them exactly what to offer people who file a claim, and as a result, none of them need much training. The experienced adjusters who handle the larger claims that involve substantial medical expenses and property damage use software as well, but they have expertise in a very important area. They are masters at making victims feel like they were at fault, or making the injured feel like their injuries are either not serious or unrelated to the accident. They also make the idea of seeking advice from a third party as a pointless and expensive. The point of all this is to get those who file claims to accept the absolute lowest settlement possible.
You can be assured that you will find your adjuster to be very charming and personable. He or she will probably have a check prepared for you the moment that you walk into the office, or will offer to mail it to you immediately in the event that all transactions are handled over the phone. Throughout the conversation, before figures are even mentioned, the adjuster will probably say things like “We don’t want to make too big of a deal out of this,” or “We don’t want to go sue your friends and neighbors.” This might seem tempting, especially considering that they have a check for you right on the desk. After all, who does want to make a mountain out of a molehill? But you should always remember that that check is almost always much lower than what you should be getting.
Taking the initial settlement from an adjuster is a guarantee that you will be taking a financial hit. You should also consider that the only one making a big deal out of this is the insurance company. After all, you or the person responsible for the accident bought insurance coverage in the event of an accident. There was an accident. There are expenses to be paid, and the insurer is supposed to pay them. If they would simply live up to their responsibilities, there wouldn’t be an issue.
If your accident involves injuries, the adjuster will bring his charm to a new level. This is basically an extension of the “mountains and molehills” argument, except this time the trick is to get you to accept the idea that your injuries aren’t that bad. (This line of reasoning seems to actually work quite well on men.) They might also direct the conversation towards what sort of work you do (“Do you work construction?”) or whether or not you lead an active lifestyle (“Do you work out?”) The reason they do this is because that enables them to cast doubt on the cause of your injuries. Maybe the reason your back hurts is because of your job as a roofer. Maybe the reason you can barely walk is because you ended up straining yourself at your spinning class. Maybe the accident had nothing to do with your pain. There is a lot of flattery involved in the argument here. Don’t let personal vanity or pride cost you thousands of dollars in medical bills.
When the time comes for them to offer you the settlement, the adjuster will, always and without fail, offer some variation of the following speech: “If I were you, I’d accept this offer. It’s really the most you are going to get out of an incident of this type. And besides, if you go further with this, you’ll have to spend about ten years in court. And do you know how much lawyers cost these days? Even if you win, you’ll end up with nothing.” Again, this is an example of the adjuster supposedly looking out for your welfare. They WANT to give you money, they really do. They want you to accept this check immediately, because it is much less than they should be paying you, and also because as soon as you endorse that check, they have no further responsibility to you.
As far as the courts go, lawyers that handle cases like these don’t get paid by the hour. They generally accept a contingency fee, which is usually anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of the settlement or judgment if the case is successful. This makes it in the attorneys best interest to push for as much money as they can get for their clients, which is in fact the exact opposite tactic used by adjusters. The idea of spending years in court is also usually a scare tactic. Remember, the adjusters aren’t lawyers. They simply do what they are told, which is to offer the lowest amount possible as fast as possible. Quite often, simply mentioning that you are conferring with an attorney will make these adjusters change their tune, and the settlement offer will suddenly be much more reasonable. If you or a loved one has been in an accident, and you have received a settlement offer that is unfair or unreasonably low, contact our offices for a free legal consultation today.