Dealing With the At-Fault Insurance Company’s Tactics After You’re Injured in a Car Accident
You’ve probably heard a lot from the insurance companies over the years. They want you to think you’re in good hands, that they’re on your side, and that they’ll treat you like a good neighbor. They’re all smiles while premiums are coming in.
When an accident happens, some car insurance companies may change their tune dramatically.
Whether it’s an adjuster or an agent, the person who contacts you after an accident is likely to sound very friendly and sympathetic. Remember, though, that they’re working for the insurance company – not you. Many insurers offer service through call centers and apps, as well. They’ll tell you this makes things “easier” for you. What it actually does is make things easier and cheaper for them. It can make it harder to get answers when you need them most.
Common Tactics Some Insurance Companies May Use to Pay You Less Than You May Deserve
Not every insurance company tactic works against you, but a lot of them may feel that way. Here are some common tactics we’ve seen some insurance companies use in our years of handling car accident injury cases.
The Quick Cash
You get a settlement offer amazingly soon after your car accident. It may seem like too little, but it’s cash right now! Or, it may seem like “enough” without considering the wider implications of your injury. Regardless, if you accept this offer and cash that check, you’re probably not going to get another penny out of them.
Why It’s a Problem – Most people do not think in the broader terms of what they’re actually losing due to an injury, nor do they have a good idea of the future health implications and costs that may come along with their injuries. Will this offer cover lost wages? Is it enough to cover all your out-of-pocket medical costs – or even your deductible? What if your injury gets worse or there is a complication? Or what if you don’t feel bad the day of the accident but begin to suffer symptoms of your injury a week later – after you cash that check? When we assign a value to your case, we ask those questions and draw on years of experience. That’s why you should always consult with an experienced car accident attorney before you accept any offer from the insurance company.
The Slow Play
You’ve been hurt in a car accident. You can’t really work, either. Medical bills are piling onto the normal bills and it’s getting difficult to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the insurance company isn’t saying much, if anything. There are delays in your claim. The insurance company may even sound deeply apologetic. What they could be doing is waiting for your situation to get bad enough that you get desperate. That’s when they’ll swing in with a low offer to settle, hoping you’re in too much of a bind to refuse it.
Why It’s a Problem – We’ve seen all kinds of insurance company delay tactics work. While you may only need a reasonable settlement, they may stall as long as they can. Not only does this really feel bad from the viewpoint of an injured person, it can have long term negative effects on your life and livelihood. If you’re late paying bills, it can affect your credit score, making borrowing more expensive down the road. At the same time, you may have to borrow to pay medical bills. It’s a vicious cycle.
You contact the insurance company and make a claim, and they counter with a ridiculously low sum – and then refuse to budge. They’ll find any reason to deny the claim or reduce the amount they’ll pay you. They decide on a number that seems arbitrary based on the facts of your case, and they stick to it. And the number is usually low. Remember: insurance companies deny claims because that’s profit for them.
Why It’s a Problem – You may have a good case to get ample compensation to cover your harms and losses. None of it is likely to matter if the insurance company decides to take this approach. Nothing you say or do may be enough to move them, and if they do move, chances are that it could be a very minimal change.
Whether they do it immediately or it takes forever (or somewhere in between), the insurance company may come back with an offer that seems generous. It’s not a lowball, but it’s not quite what you think you need. What they’re going for, here, is “close enough.” With this tactic, the insurance company makes an offer that seems appropriate. In truth, it may come up well short of what you need to be made whole.
Why It’s a Problem – You’re still likely to come out in the red. The insurance company has probably placed a value on your case. If they can tempt you into accepting a percentage less than you may deserve, the percentage they save may be pure profit. Once you cash the check, they may be off the hook – even if you encounter additional expenses relating to your injury after the fact.
The Blame Game
Sometimes, the insurance company will blame you for the accident. The more blame they can assign you, the less compensation they can “justify” offering you. This is a dangerous game of cat and mouse for an injured person, and where “recorded statements” often do irreparable harm to your case. If they can get you to admit some fault, or say you feel “alright,” or any combination of things – even offhand or out of context – they may use that against you. By getting you to accept any blame, they can get away with offering you a fraction of what you might deserve or, depending on where you live, nothing at all.
Why It’s a Problem – Victim-blaming is never a good thing. If an insurance company does this, they’re playing for keeps. That is, they’re aiming to keep their money and leave you holding the bag for an injury that wasn’t your fault. This is why we urge people to consult with an experienced car accident attorney before they speak to the insurance company or their representatives. We can prepare you for their tactics, and in most cases, we’ll do the talking so you aren’t at risk of saying something that could unintentionally hurt your claim.
What If I Disagree With the Insurance Company’s Offer?
When the insurance company makes a settlement offer and you don’t accept it, you’re in what’s called a dispute. That’s just another word for negotiation, at least in the beginning. You will need to present evidence to justify your claim, and they will present evidence to justify the offer they’re making. If you’re thinking about “meeting in the middle,” you’re falling into a trap.
As someone who was injured by another driver’s negligence, your harms and losses should ideally be wholly covered by that at-fault driver’s insurance – though it doesn’t always turn out this way. The insurance company may offer you 25% of what’s fair. Settling for 50% of what’s fair is, well, not fair!
What Do I Do When Negotiation Breaks Down?
Once both parties refuse to negotiate or agree, the dispute will have to escalate. This is where many “claims” turn into “lawsuits.” Generally speaking, negotiations begin again once an injured person hires an attorney. The problem is that many injured people do irreparable damage to their case while they’re trying to negotiate with the specially-trained negotiators of the insurance company.
The earlier you involve an attorney, the more you’ll understand the value of your claim and the processes required. We will evaluate your case for free. Just call 1-866-900-7078.
What About My Car Repairs?
Insurance companies have structures in place to help them reduce costs, including repairs to your vehicle. Depending on your insurance company, they may send an adjuster to look at the vehicle or use pictures you submit through an app. Most will also suggest or recommend that you take your vehicle to one of their “certified,” “preferred,” “partner,” or “in-network” repair shops or mechanics.
These are what we refer to as direct repair programs (DRPs).
The Direct Repair Program Tactic and What to Expect
This seems like a good idea at first. If you still think so, remember: the insurance company makes money by paying less, whether that is to an injured person or to a repair shop. An insurance company may not partner with a DRP for the quality of their work. Sometimes, they use these body shops because they may use shortcuts that save money.
As a result, they could be putting you in harm’s way. There are a few ways this could happen.
- DRPs sometimes use generic or substandard parts instead of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts recommended by the automaker.
- We have seen instances where DRP shops have repaired a part even though the part should have been replaced to preserve the integrity of the vehicle.
- Insurance companies pay a discounted rate in exchange for sending business to the auto repair shop – which can mean the shop is “in a hurry” to get your vehicle finished. That can lead to corner-cutting and shoddy workmanship.
Unfortunately, these common tactics can lead to unsafe vehicles returning to the road. It happens because the insurance company does not want to “total” a vehicle. In the Carolinas, that threshold is 75% of the vehicle’s value.
Can the Insurance Company Tell Me Where I Have to Take My Car For Repairs?
No. They are free to recommend and refer you to a shop, but you are not required to use that shop – or any repair program on their list. Note that just because the insurer recommended a shop doesn’t necessarily mean the shop won’t provide quality repairs. It does, however, mean you should shop around, do your research, and decide whether or not they’re the right shop for you.
What If I Suspect My Vehicle Was Improperly Repaired?
Here are some red flags that may indicate your car was not or is not being repaired properly:
- You are getting “the runaround” by your insurance company and/or the DRP shop
- The repair seems to drag on and on
- Your vehicle does not seem to be running or handling properly after repairs – trust your gut
- There are inconsistent gaps where parts should come together
If you’re experiencing any of those issues, it’s probably time to call an attorney. DRP shops that are found to have been negligent, or engaged in deceptive or unfair business practices. An attorney can provide guidance and outline the steps you can take to try to get things done right.
Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
Let us handle the insurance company, their calls, their forms, and the methods they often use to reduce their payouts. We have years of experience dealing with them, and we have former insurance adjusters who know the insurance game inside and out. Get a free case evaluation right now by calling 1-866-900-7078, or contact us online. You can even chat with us if you like. You don’t need to deal with the pressure and stress of dealing with an insurance company. You can hire professionals to do it for you. We’ll fight for your rights, and tell them you mean business!