Questions an Insurance Adjuster Asks After an Accident
Our founding attorney, Carl Nagle, was an adjuster for years down in Atlanta for Progressive Insurance Company. After law school, he worked for an insurance defense firm and defended insurance companies and at-fault drivers in court. In that capacity, the law firm worked closely with claims adjusters and actually trained adjusters on how to prepare the claim file to increase the chance of defeating victims’ claims at trial.
Before you begin cooperating with insurance adjusters, it is critical to understand that the insurance adjuster is an employee of the insurance company and that they are paid to oppose all claims. Adjusters are trained to be friendly and to earn your trust, and they cherry-pick all conversations and record only things that can be used to reduce the value of your injury claims. Remember, your claims adjuster is a cost control expert, and they are working only to avoid or minimize your injury claim payments.
Are you looking to recover compensation for an auto accident? You’ll have to talk to an insurance adjuster first — whether you’re tapping into your own coverage or filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer.
Adjusters work for insurance companies. Their job is to investigate what happened and look for any reason they can find to blame you for causing your own accident or injuries. If they can place just slight blame on you, under NC law they owe nothing for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain & suffering. If they can’t blame you, they will then look for evidence to suggest that your pain and injuries were present before the collision, that your injuries are being faked or exaggerated, or that you sought more medical care than you needed.
To maximize your compensation, you must know how to answer common insurance adjuster questions designed to trick you. If you say the wrong thing, you risk leaving a lot of money on the table and possibly having your claim denied.
How Did the Accident Happen?
If the crash facts are confusing, you may want to seek a free consultation with a North Carolina car accident lawyer to learn how to safely describe the collision facts. Personal injury lawyers offer free consultations, and a reputable car accident lawyer should not pressure you into hiring them. Through a free consultation, the lawyer should listen to your story and explain how to safely describe the collision facts in a way that protects your legal rights and supports your right to maximum compensation.
Many people choose not to talk with a lawyer first. If this is your preference, when you are asked how the car accident happened, you should describe what happened as you experienced it directly and without going into too much detail. Don’t speculate — if you aren’t sure about something, it’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”
Crucially, never admit fault or say anything the adjuster might construe as an admission of fault. North Carolina has a pure contributory negligence system, which means you can’t recover compensation if you’re even a small bit at fault for the accident. Even seemingly innocuous phrases such as, “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t see the other car” could jeopardize your claim.
Were You Hurt? How Are You Feeling?
Insurance adjuster questions largely revolve around your injuries. The adjuster will be looking for anything they can use to undervalue or deny your claim, so it’s critical not to downplay your injuries when discussing them.
The best approach when speaking with the other driver’s insurance adjuster is to avoid discussing your injuries during the early stages of your medical recovery. Again, adjusters are only looking for reasons to reduce their settlement offers. If you offer an incomplete list of injuries, they will later assert that injuries that were not listed early in the claim will not be considered or paid for. If you downplay your injuries, they use their file notes to argue that your medical claims are being exaggerated when you present your demand for a personal injury settlement.
If you hire an attorney, North Carolina insurance regulations forbid adjusters to contact you directly. They must speak first with your lawyer, and they speak with you only if your lawyer is present or grants permission for the conversation. In most cases, it is best to hire a lawyer immediately after the collision. The lawyer then controls all insurance adjuster communications and ensures that no statements are made which can be used to devalue your case.
If you don’t have a lawyer and you are speaking with your own insurance company, they have a right under the insurance policy contract to insist on your cooperation. An example would be an Uninsured Motorist (UM) claim. If the at-fault driver has no car insurance in North Carolina, your UM insurance applies to cover your injury claims. Even though it is your own policy, the UM claims adjuster still works to minimize your injury claims. Also, if you don’t yet have a lawyer, they can insist on recorded statements and ask you about your injuries.
If you do speak with an insurance adjuster about your injuries, be sure to list all your known injuries and describe their severity and the pain you are in. If you minimize your injuries in the beginning, the insurance company may question you later if the symptoms become more serious and your medical bills skyrocket, as is often the case with auto accidents.
That said, you don’t want to exaggerate your injuries either, as this could hurt your credibility. A good way to avoid minimizing or exaggerating your injuries is to decline to speak to the adjuster to begin with. Simply refer all questions to your lawyer.
Can I See Your Medical Records?
The adjuster may ask to inspect your medical records directly. Never give a blanket records release, as the adjuster can then go through your entire medical history, looking for information to undermine your claim — from your health insurance coverage to any preexisting conditions.
If you have a preexisting condition or prior injury, the adjuster may use this against you by arguing that it has caused or contributed to your more recent injuries.
If you handle your injury claim without a lawyer, the claims adjuster will require you to sign a Medical Authorization, and they likely will insist that it be a blanket release that grants them access to pre-accident medical records. If you sign this, they will absolutely seek your pre-accident medical records. Again, the adjuster’s job is to minimize your claims and they certainly will invest the time to secure past medical records to see if you ever complained of similar symptoms before the collision. If so, they will deny all post-collision claims by asserting that your injuries are a “pre-existing condition”. Also, even if you sign a Medical Authorization, the adjuster will still require you to gather your medical records from all of your healthcare providers and present those records to the adjuster.
If you retain a car accident lawyer, the attorney will gather all medical records for you and they will handle the task of reviewing all records, summarizing and highlighting all helpful medical evidence, and presenting the best medical case to the adjuster. Whether you hire a lawyer or handle your claims alone, you should wait and present your medical records only after all medical care is concluded. While some car accidents result in permanent injury and unending medical care, these cases are rare. If you expect to recover from your injuries and complete your treatment within a year or two, you should not provide records along the way. Wait and present the entire case at once. It’s the most compelling way to include everything and to maximize your personal injury claim settlement.
Would You Give a Recorded Statement?
Adjusters typically ask for a recorded statement only when they believe they can place some blame on you, or in cases where they doubt the veracity of your injury claims. If your adjuster is asking for a recorded statement, this is a red flag and this is a wide time to get a free legal consultation with a car accident lawyer. Our firm is glad to speak with you for free, and to explain how to safely speak with adjusters and provide recorded testimony. Even where facts seem clear, remember that the claims adjuster only has to place 1% of fault with you! If you are just slightly at fault, they owe nothing for your car damage or injury claims. It costs nothing to talk with a lawyer, and the attorney should not pressure you to hire him/her during a legal consultation. Don’t be bashful about seeking help if you need it! A few minutes of your time may make all the difference in the outcome of your car accident injury case.
When your adjuster asks for a recorded statement, the best rule of thumb is to avoid providing a recorded statement about what happened in the crash. Anything you say will stay on the record, and it takes just one mistake to jeopardize your accident claim.
Instead of giving a recorded statement, submit one in writing. This way, you’ll have significantly more control over what goes on record, and you could run the statement by your attorney to ensure it doesn’t contain anything that might come back to haunt you.
If you are presenting claims under your own insurance policy, the claims adjuster can insist on a recorded statement. However, in our experience, they often will accept a written statement instead if you diplomatically request this. If they do insist on the recorded statement, you should be brief with your answers, listen carefully to the questions and reply only to what is asked, avoid admitting any fault or wrongdoing, and regarding injuries, report the pain and symptoms you are dealing with and simply say that you are not a doctor and you don’t know how to explain your medical diagnosis. By being broad but still cooperative, you leave room for the medical records to be the proper focus of your personal injury claim.
Seeking Compensation After an Auto Accident? Call Nagle & Associates
At Nagle & Associates, P.A., we have more than 20 years of experience representing victims of motor vehicle accidents. Car Nagle, our founding attorney, is a former insurance company lawyer and claims adjuster. We know the tricks insurance companies use to undermine valid claims, and we also know how to push for the maximum settlement. Our team can examine your case and prepare you for the tricky insurance adjuster questions. Call Nagle & Associates, P.A. at (866) 631-2228 today for a free consultation.