After you’ve been in a car accident, you will talk with your insurance agency about what happened. The person who handles your claim is called an adjuster. They work for the insurance company. Their job is to investigate and evaluate any and all costs related to your accident to determine how much the total loss is worth. How do they do this, and what’s involved?
Negligence and Damages
When another party is at fault for a car accident, they are said to be negligent and thus can be found responsible for damages to your vehicle and/or your person. Sometimes, fault or negligence can be unclear, or can be shared by all involved parties but to differing degrees. Insurance adjusters examine everything related to your case in order to put together an amount that will reflect proper compensation for all damages to you because of the accident.
Assuming the other party is insured, your adjuster will work with their insurance adjuster on the case, ultimately coming to an amount that they both believe is appropriate for the damage incurred. In the event the other party is not insured, your “uninsured motorist” auto insurance coverage is designed to provide that compensation, and it’s solely up to the discretion of your adjuster.
How Do Insurance Adjusters Work?
Adjusters are a type of investigator. Working on behalf of the insurance company, they will review police reports, examine your vehicle and take pictures of the car and possibly the accident scene. They’ll review car repair estimates, interview witnesses—if any exist—and review medical records and other reports relevant to your claim. All of these details go into the amount they will decide is due to you in damages—compensation for your vehicle damage, as well as physical and mental pain and suffering caused by the accident.
While they represent your interests in the claim, always remember that they work for the insurance company and want to keep that company’s reimbursement costs as low as possible while still being fair. This means they are very motivated to get the other party’s insurance company to pay out the claim in totality, called a settlement amount, or to minimize claims as much as possible if they have to pay.
Settlement for the Accident
You can and should add up all of your expenses and costs related to the accident and come to a dollar figure that is acceptable in your mind, along with the information the adjuster is compiling. When they come to you with a settlement offer, it may or may not be close to the number you imagined.
You might be very dissatisfied with what the insurance adjuster is offering in settlement. This is quite common with car accidents, as people are understandably angry about the problems the accident has caused in their lives and feel the adjuster hasn’t taken everything into consideration. This is particularly true about “soft” costs, the impact of which is more difficult to measure monetarily, such as emotional distress, anxiety, or loss of marital relations due to injuries sustained in the accident.
Many people do not know you have the ability to try to negotiate a better settlement with the adjuster. It’s not for the faint of heart, and you have to be both flexible and fair, understanding that even the best attempt may not budge them from the amount they have offered.
Ask your adjuster to explain the reasons behind the amount they are offering, and take notes during that meeting or call. You can then attempt to argue or refute these in a letter, explaining why you believe the settlement amount should be higher. For example, if anxiety is making it difficult for you to return to driving comfortably—and you miss appointments or work because of your anxiety—that is a longer-term, ongoing cost that should be calculated into your settlement amount.
Take Your Time—But Not Too Long
While many people want a claim to move fast and be over quickly, you shouldn’t necessarily settle for the first amount they offer.
An experienced car accident attorney understands how negotiations work with adjusters and how and why to justify a larger settlement amount based on the circumstances of your case. If the adjuster is pressuring you to accept the offer quickly, you may wish to talk to an attorney to get their take and find out what settlement amount they would pursue if they were to take over your case and represent your interests. Car accident lawyers are strong, experienced negotiators who work with insurance companies every day.
Similarly, if a case drags on too long, it could be that the insurance company is attempting to exceed the statute of limitations for seeking compensation for damages related to a car accident. These vary by state, so speaking with a car accident lawyer who is familiar with Illinois law is very important so that you don’t completely lose out on your chance to obtain a fair settlement.
If you have been in a car accident in Illinois, call Jeff Green. He is an experienced attorney with a record of success. He will handle your case and deal directly with the adjuster on your behalf.