After a claim is set up with the insurance company, an insurance adjuster is assigned to handle the claim. An insurance adjuster is a person who works for the insurance company. Their primary job is to investigate the circumstances surrounding your claim, determine whether or not you should be paid for your damages and to negotiate a settlement with you. Always remember… it is the insurance adjuster’s job to save his/her employer (the insurance company) as much money as possible. Never be lulled into thinking that the adjuster is looking out for your best interests because they are not! They are paid a very good salary to help protect the insurance company, not you. In 2008, the annual wages for claims adjusters was between $42,400 and $70,860. In addition, some insurance companies evaluate their adjusters for pay raises on such factors as how many cases they can settle and at what price.
Sometimes insurance adjusters will offer legal advice, which is the unauthorized practice of law, which could subject them to serious legal issues. If you ever have any questions as to what your legal rights are, you should consult an attorney, not an adjuster. Sometimes adjusters will flat out tell you not to contact an attorney, and may even imply they will not pay you as much if you do. The truth of the matter is that in most cases, you will be offered more money when you hire an experienced attorney with a strong reputation for aggressive and committed handling of claims. It is the adjuster’s (and the insurance company’s) worst nightmare if you take that extra step to protect yourself with quality legal representation. Finally, you should not depend on the adjuster to tell you accurately and with full disclosure what are all of the benefits that you would be entitled to. For example, in North Carolina, you can have your medical expenses paid with health insurance or medpay benefits, and you can still claim the FULL amount of the bills to the liability insurance company when it is time to settle your case. You most likely will not be told that by the adjuster. In fact, you are more likely to be told that you can only submit the “balance” of your medical bills for payment.
Insurance adjusters can be master manipulators. They may use delay tactics to wear you down, knowing that you need the money. They may delay or discourage medical treatment that is needed with threats of you accruing medical bills that they will not pay later down the road.
We are by no means saying insurance adjusters are evil or unethical. Many are nice and empathetic to your situation. But they are being paid to do a good job for their employer and doing a good job means making a profit for the insurance company. Making a profit for the insurance company means getting you to settle your case for as little as possible.
If you feel you can handle your claim on your own, here are a few tips on dealing with insurance adjusters:
- Do not give a recorded statement. Read here for more information on Giving a Statement to the Adjuster.
- Do not sign a medical release or authorization allowing the insurance adjuster to request your medical records and bills. You should request your own medical records and bills so you can have the opportunity to review them first. Oftentimes, medical providers will send stuff to the insurance company that is irrelevant and sometimes could be harmful or embarrassing.
- Do not settle your case until you are either 100% recovered or a doctor tells you that your injury is permanent and gives you a permanent disability rating. If your injury is permanent, you will have an additional future damages claim which can cover quite a lot. It is highly recommended you speak to an attorney if you have a permanent injury from an automobile accident.
- Pay attention to the statute of limitations (the time period by which you have to settle your case or file a lawsuit). If you miss this deadline, you will be forever barred from getting any compensation on your claim. You should call an attorney to find out what is the exact statute of limitations that applies to your case.
- Ensure that you are claiming all of the items of damages that you are entitled to under the law. Review our section on How Insurance Works.
- If you have any doubts or questions, you must call an experienced attorney who can help make sure your rights are protected.