What Should I Do if an Insurance Adjuster Calls Me After My North Carolina Accident?
If you’ve recently suffered a car accident in North Carolina, you can expect calls from an insurance adjuster to try to settle your claim. However, you may wonder, “How should I speak to an insurance adjuster after my North Carolina car accident?” Here, we discuss some helpful tips you should know in dealing with insurance adjusters.
Understand That Insurance Adjusters Are Not Your Friends
First, it’s critical to understand that insurance adjusters are not there to help you. Our founding attorney, Carl Nagle, is a former claims adjuster. During his years working for Progressive Insurance Company, he was trained to minimize payments on all accident claims. Simply put, claims adjusters are paid to oppose your claims, and they are always working to diminish your accident claim and find ways to pay out as little as possible. The more they can minimize your injuries or establish your fault for the accident, the more likely they are to limit your compensation.
If you are presenting claims against your own insurance policy, you have a contractual duty to cooperate with your insurance carrier. They can insist on you providing recorded statements and also demand that you sign a Medical Authorization, granting them full access to your medical records. This is only true if you are the “named insured” on the policy, which typically only applies when you are driving your own car. Even when you file claims against your own insurance coverage, please understand that the claims adjuster will seek to minimize your accident claims. While their hands are tied on property damage claims (meaning they typically pay fairly for car repairs/replacement), they always look for reasons to either reduce or deny your personal injury claims.
If you are presenting claims against a policy that is not your own, you have no legal duty to cooperate with claims adjusters. If you hire an attorney, the adjuster is no longer allowed to contact you by mail, phone, or in person. If you don’t hire an attorney, the adjuster will set the rules for claims handling. In all cases, you should focus on your actual injuries and make sure your adjuster understands the full impact of all injuries on your health and quality of life.
Be careful of insurance adjusters who try to downplay your claim’s value after a North Carolina vehicle accident. When they say, “We accept full responsibility,” it doesn’t mean they will help you get the compensation you deserve. It’s a common tactic to get you to trust them and let down your guard. They hope to tell you what your case is worth before you learn the true value of your injury claims.
Don’t Share Too Much Information
After a car accident, an insurance adjuster may ask you about the events leading up to, during, and following the incident. Early discussions should be limited to property damage only. Insurance companies are required to pay for vehicle damage, but they usually try to minimize compensation for injuries and medical expenses.
If you are not dealing with your own insurance company, you should avoid providing a written or recorded statement, or signing medical authorizations for insurance adjusters. They only request medical authorizations so they can look into your medical past and pre-existing conditions to find reasons to deny payment of valid injury claims. You are not obligated to help them. And if liability is in question, never admit to fault. Talk to an accident attorney first.
Adjusters Work First To Deny Injury Claims
North Carolina has the harshest negligence law in the country. In our state, if a crash victim is slightly responsible for causing her own accident or injuries, she has no legal right to payment for property damage or personal injury claims. If you are just 1% responsible for causing the collision, you have no right to compensation! While there are small exceptions to this rule, the fact remains that a driver who contributes to causing a crash cannot collect for vehicle damage or for injury claims.
Insurance adjusters always look first to see if they can place blame on an accident victim. Before you begin cooperating with claims adjusters, you should look carefully at your Police Report and at all other collision evidence and make sure that there is no risk that you can be blamed for the subject collision. Also, during recorded statements, be aware that adjusters will sneak in questions that seek to gain an admission of speeding, inattention, or a confession that more could be done by the victim to avoid the collision. Never admit to driver error or other wrongdoing as these statements can later be used against you in court!
Avoid Fast, “Fair” Settlement Traps
Many accident victims ask, “How should I speak to an insurance adjuster after my North Carolina car accident?” Insurance adjusters often promise to get you a fair settlement, but their definition of “fair” might differ from yours.
An insurance adjuster might try to pressure you into accepting a settlement as soon as possible. However, settling early is almost always a bad decision. Insurance companies offer early settlements only in significant collision cases. They know that injuries could last for months or years, and if they can “buy a Release” early, they close your case forever and avoid having to pay for future medical needs or the full value of your claim for pain and suffering.
Early settlements also typically contain hidden rip-offs. For example, some insurance carriers offer money to injury victims within a week or two after the collision, before injuries can be properly diagnosed or treated. They offer a “Scheduled Release”, stating that they are paying the victim cash now for pain and suffering, and then they agree to pay future medical bills and/or future lost wages. Unfortunately, the hidden language in the “Scheduled Release” typically robs the crash victim of fair compensation. For example, most early settlements limit the insurance company’s liability for medical costs to a short time period, often just six months. Legally, the at-fault driver owes crash-related medical bills for the balance of their life. Thus, letting the insurance carrier off the hook after six months is terribly unfair.
Early “Scheduled Release” settlements also limit the dollar amount the insurance company pays for medical bills to a low amount ($5,000.00 – $10,000.00) AND they say they are responsible for “reasonable and customary” medical bills. When you present your bills for payment, they then cut the bills and pay only part of the balance. They assert that they only owe reasonable and customary charges and they then claim that this is the amount that a health insurance carrier would pay after adjustments.
Talk To an Experienced Accident Attorney
The first thing you should do after a car accident is to contact a North Carolina motor vehicle accident attorney. Personal injury lawyers who handle roadway accident claims offer free consultations. Thus, even if you choose to handle your case without a lawyer, you should invest the time to speak with an attorney about your true legal rights and options. Experienced personal injury lawyers understand the insurance claim process, insurance defense tactics, and the court system and they can help you understand how to build a strong and valuable personal injury case. Injury lawyers also handle all of the legwork necessary to properly file your claims, present all medical evidence, and secure the highest possible injury claim settlement.
Insurance adjusters are cunning and will try to downplay your claim, encouraging you to settle for less than you deserve. With an attorney on your side, you’ll know how to proceed confidently. A good lawyer can help you prepare a written statement and have a game plan for what to say (and what not to say) to an insurance adjuster.
Work With a Trusted North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney
At Nagle & Associates, P.A., our experienced personal injury attorneys only handle roadway collision cases. While most personal injury law firms handle workers’ compensation, disability, slip and fall, dog bites, and other injury cases, our law firm focuses solely on car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents. We have the knowledge and resources to answer all your questions.
Carl Nagle uses the knowledge and skills he obtained while working in the auto insurance industry to help automobile accident victims get the highest possible settlement amount. For more than 20 years, he’s been serving personal injury victims throughout North Carolina. Carl and his team have recovered more than $500 million in compensation for victims throughout the state.