If you were recently in a car accident, then you have also likely been contacted by an auto insurance company recently. When they reach out to claimants, they always start by showing a friendly face. As nice as they might be, remember that they are a company that needs to make a yearly profit like any other business. Your best interests are not their priority, and you should not be surprised when an auto insurance company tries to use some clever tactics throughout your claim to save their bottom line at your expense.
1. Lowball Settlement Offers
Easily the most common car insurance company tactic is flinging lowball settlement offers at claimants in hopes that one will be caught. A lowball settlement is an offer that has been intentionally calculated lower than what the claimant likely needs or deserves after a crash.
For example, you are hit by a drunk driver and suffer injuries requiring $50,000 in medical treatments. The responding insurance company knows the evidence is stacked against them, so they quickly offer a settlement of just $20,000 to you. $20,000 seems like a lot of money, so it is tempting, but it is much less than what you are owed.
The reason insurance companies love to use lowball settlement offers is that they are irreversible once accepted. If you sign a settlement offer, no matter its amount, then your claim ends, and it is practically impossible to revisit. Before you accept any offer, let your attorney review it and tell you what to do. Insurance companies might try to rush you into signing by saying the offer is only good for a few days, but this is often untrue. Actual offers usually stand until the claimant has responded.
2. Demanding a Recorded Statement
Did you know that you do not owe a recorded statement to anyone else’s insurance company after a car accident? It is true, but, if you listen to auto insurance representatives, then you might not have known it.
A common tactic used by insurers is to call a claimant shortly after an accident and tell them that they must provide a recorded statement then and there. They probably will not be very aggressive with their words since that can scare someone into hanging up. Instead, they will use flowery and professional language to try to get you to say something on record.
Why do insurers want your words on record, though? They are trying to find something to misconstrue into an admission of guilt to increase your liability and lower your settlement offer. The safe choice is to instruct all insurance companies to talk to your attorney for all future communications, not yourself.
3. Playing the Delaying Game
At every step along the path of a car accident claim, there are deadlines and statutes of limitation that insurance companies must follow. For example, in California, auto insurance companies must acknowledge a claim within 15 days of its original filing, accept or deny the claim within 40 days of receiving proof of liability, and pay a settlement within 30 days of reaching one.
Some insurance companies like to try to discourage claimants by using every single minute of each deadline before acting. Even if they have available resources to manage your claim quickly, they might drag their feet and leave the case sitting on their desks untouched. Why? They want you to feel unsure about your claim’s validity and either drop it altogether or accept a lowball settlement offer.
Do not let the delay game get to you. Side with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can monitor your claim as it progresses, reassure you, and pursue the insurance company if required deadlines are missed.