9/27/2011 7:00 PM ET|
Secrets of car insurance adjusters
Beware psychologically loaded questions
A written record helps when it's time to give your statement. Don't ever do this without talking to your own insurance agent first. If you've hired a lawyer, request that all statements go through your legal representative.
When you do make a statement, watch out for loaded questions. A member of Asif Latif's family was treated rudely by a claims adjuster who "tried to get her to admit the accident was her fault." This inspired him to start the After Car Accidents website to offer tips on how to work with insurance companies.
According to Latif, an adjuster might ask things like:
- How could you have avoided the auto crash?
- How much do you think you are responsible?
- Do you think the weather (snow, rain, wind or fog) affected you?
- Did you have any previous injuries like back or neck pain before the car wreck?
- Can we get access to your medical records and the name and address of the doctor who is treating you? (Don't do this, as it potentially gives access to your entire medical history.)
According to Gusner, an adjuster might offer to come to your home. There he or she will hit you with psychologically sneaky questions. A young mother might be asked, "You can still take care of your kids, right?"
"No mom wants to say, 'No, I'm not taking care of my kids,'" Gusner says. "The claims adjuster might be friendly and nice, and you might want to think of him as a friend. But he might get paid a bonus to settle as quickly as possible."
Don't let yourself be hurried
The faster you settle, the less likely your rights will be fully protected. Suppose a claims adjuster shows up at the scene, runs some numbers and offers you a check for $1,000 to fix your car, plus an additional $500 for the "inconvenience"?
Don't take it, advises J.D. Howard of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network. You might have a soft-tissue injury that you can't feel right away but that three days later will hurt like a tax audit.
"Which is why the insurance claims adjuster wants to get to you as soon as possible," says Howard, himself an adjuster for 26 years.
It is possible to get those release forms set aside. But it's not a sure thing, and it costs time, aggravation and attorney's fees.
Philip Reed, a senior consumer editor at Edmunds.com, interviewed a former adjuster who recalled one accident victim who took the first offer, saying he trusted that the company would be honest.
The adjuster admitted to "almost" feeling bad about that. "I wanted to say, 'Wait! Wait! Don't you want to negotiate?' But being a good claims adjuster, I would never do that."
Refuse to be rushed. Would you take the first offer if you were buying a car instead of trying to get it fixed?
Do your homework
Depending on your situation, it can be hard not to feel rushed. Commuters need to get to work. One-car families find themselves stranded without a way to shop for necessities. People caring for elderly parents need to get Mom or Dad to a doctor.
Insurance policies generally allow for a rental car while yours is being fixed. Keep the receipts and insist on reimbursement. (More on that below.)
If you don't already have an auto shop you trust, find one pronto. (Read "Can you trust your mechanic?" on MSN Autos.) That's because a claims adjuster will almost certainly steer you toward a "preferred" repair place.
Don't go there. According to Reed, insurance companies "know they can control costs much better at certain shops" by specifying the most basic of repairs.
"You can fix a car so that it looks beautiful and works pretty well, but there might be serious problems underneath," he says.
Even if you choose the shop, be ready to hold the claims adjuster to certain standards. In March 2010, Ritter Hoy of Columbus, Ohio, was T-boned while driving her Infiniti. She declined to use the at-fault driver's "preferred" shop. Yet when she tried to sell the Infiniti about seven months later, it was found to have extensive frame damage.
Hoy called her body shop and was told the vehicle had been fixed "to the specifications of the insurance company." Ultimately, the vehicle sold for $2,500 less than its Blue Book value.
Be prepared to push back
While you're waiting to hear the repair estimate, start looking for "comps," or autos of comparable make and model. If your car is too badly damaged, it might be declared a total loss. You need to know a realistic replacement cost so you can judge whether the adjuster's offer is fair.
Last February my daughter and son-in-law were broadsided while driving the 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier I had given them when I went car-free. The repair estimate was $2,200 -- just about what the car was worth.
But it was their only form of transportation, and both have chronic illnesses that make it tough to wait for a bus on a 110-degree Phoenix day. After some back-and-forth, Abby and Tim were given $3,400, which they put toward a late-model used car. (Find the best used-car deals on MSN Autos.)
However, they neglected to ask for rental-car reimbursement. The accident plus weeks of negotiations had left them stressed and exhausted -- and forgetful. The claims adjuster didn't remind them they were entitled to repayment. His job was to save his company money.
Remember: Insurance companies are businesses. They stay in business by taking in more than they pay out. It's in their best interest to get you to accept a bare minimum, so be prepared to push back.
You might not be as lucky as I was back in the 1980s. The other guy's adjuster arranged for repairs and medical bills to be covered. He offered a cash settlement without being asked. My agent told me that's because the other driver did not contest my version of the accident.
Not because I was telling the truth, but because he wasn't: The woman in the car with him was not his wife.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
I agree with some of what was stated. I have been in the insurance industry for over 25 years and not all adjusters all like what was described.
One has to remember that there is a difference between an "adjuster" and an "appraiser".
An appraiser only looks at the damage on the vehicle and usually is only dealing with the damage to the vehicle. An adjuster could handle the damage to the vehicle, along with any property damage(such as to a fence or building), bodily injury, etc. The 4 insurance companies that I worked for were all for customer satisfaction. Whether it be an insured or a claimant. Some appraisers and adjusters are better then others and may have the the correct mindset to do what should be done. One has to remember that the job of a shop is to repair the vehicle to preaccident condition. The insurance company is responsible for the payment of such. One has to be able to take the vehicle to a competent shop. So called "steering" is against the law in a lot of states. The owner gets to pick the shop. Check with your local insurance commissioner. If the vehicle is considered a total loss, check local listings for a comp vehicle so that when one talks with the total loss settlement adjuster, one has some info to back up what one wants for the vehicle. Newspapers, Auto trader, etc are good resources. The accident does not have to be a stressful situation if one does some homework.
Read your Insurance policy. The majority of Insurance companies are not looking out for the policy holders best interest on the collision side of a claim. Insurance companies are a business and like the article states they didn't become 15-20 billion dollar companies by paying out on claims.
Don't trust your claim rep when they guide you towards a "select service" "direct repair" facility. They are contracted repair/body shops and are fixing your vehicle per the Insurance companies guidelines, not the dealers and not in the policy holders best interest. Terms in your policy such as LKQ "like kind quality" and aftermarket parts are a means to repair your vehicle as cheap as possible. How many agents have pointed that out to you when signing your Insurance policy? Probably none! It's your car, you pay the policy and it's your choice where you want your vehicle fixed.....period.
Appraisers try to cut every corner they can on a collision repair/claim. If there is an LKQ or aftermarket part available they will use it over the OEM "original equipment manufactured" If there is paint damage they will try to cut a corner with painting a partial amount of the damaged part. Every corner cut is money saved for the Insurance companies, it's a business and they want to save money, not pay out money.
Here are a couple of examples:
Allstate can use "LKQ" used parts in your suspension. Yes, your car can have 10,000 miles but that suspension being put in has 40,000 miles or who really knows?
State Farm will put "LKQ" used parts on a collision claim if the car has 5 miles on it. Yes, your brand new car will be fixed with junk yard parts.
Geico will use aftermarket "knock off" parts on a collision claim. Your car went into the repair shop with OEM parts, but came out with parts from Taiwan.
I was an adjuster, supervisor and manager for 17 years. I never saw an adjuster try to screw an insured or claimant, and bonuses were never paid for "settling quickly". Think about it...an adjuster can be deposed at any time. Why would an insurance company ever risk an adjuster having to answer this question under oath..."Mr. Adjuster, is it true your company pays bonuses for fast settlements?" If the answer were ever "yes", that insurance company is going to get nailed in court big time.
I would echo a previous comment regarding the costs of insurance. Studies have repeatedly shown that 70% of claims are fraudulent to some degree. This can be outright staging an accident or just magnifying symptoms to increase a settlement. Also take into consideration the ambulance chasing lawyers, you know those guys who advertise on TV? They will take meritless cases to get nuisance settlements (cases where it is cheaper for the insurance company to pay some money than to defend the case in court) to make a quick buck.
ALL of this goes into your premiums. So yes, insurance companies are for profit, and yes, insurance companies want to settle for the lowest reasonable figure, but this author is off her rocker by suggesting the insurance industry is out to screw people.
Needtohavefun...you are an idiot. Adjusters get promoted for doing their work diligently and efficiently just like everywhere else. Adjusters have very limited settlement authority. All settlements over that authority have to be approved by supervisors, managers or even the corporate home office so "paying the most" or "saving the most" are not factors in promotions.
Why don't you post about something you do know about next time?
Needtohavfun... unlike you, I let the experts do what they are supposed to do and I don't let my big mouth show my ignorance. In your previous post you reference an "adjuster" telling you not to make repairs in accordance with safety guidelines. This would have been an appraiser, not an adjuster.
Being so knowledgeable, I would have assumed you knew the difference.
The point of this article was to tell consumers to beware, I think that is sound advice for anyone in any situtation that has financial or safety consequences. that means dealing with an adjuster as well as chosing a shop
Rear ended on the freeway by an inattentive driver in heavy traffic. Car totaled. Other driver admitted fault. First AND ONLY offer for my claim was $1500 (they did give me a check for fair market value of car). Over the phone even. I told insurance individual that my lost wages from the accident were MORE THEN THEIR OFFER let alone my claim for pain and suffering (was still in recovery when they called, which by the way they were trying to tell me they were "closing" my case because I had not contacted them????) and that I refused to settle for less then my lost wages at that time.
She refused to negotiate so I told her I would have to consult my attorney and that was the end of the conversation.
2 YEARS LATER I finally settle for 18K and I have to give the (less then helpful) attorney a third of my settlement.
So YES, insurance companies ARE A SCAM that will try to screw you every way they can.
If I'm ever in another accident I will go to the hospital from the scene and document everything and DO NOT EVER give them access to your medical records not pertaining specifically to the accident. (They tried to say my back injuries were related to my chiropractic visits from 4 YEARS BEFORE THE ACCIDENT).
What poor advise. Whoever wrote this article is wrong. Insurance companies make money when there are no accidents. They loose money during large losses. Always tell the police what occured, walk them through the loss, draw a diagram if needed. If you listen to this idiots advice your claim will just sit. Work with the adjusters and amazingly your car will be repaired or totaled in a timely manner. If the offer for a total loss is not agreeable it is the guidelines from the state controling them, Insurance pays what the state allows based on documentation. Most issues regarding a total are incorrect options or dreams of grandure.
The process is simple most of the time, you can always make it as hard as you want. Oh yeah, those prefered shops are prefered for a reason, they are good at what they do. By law it is the customers choice where they want the car repaired at, you own the car... Keep it simple and all is well..
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