As the victim of a car accident, you experienced a sudden loss of control at the hands of someone else. It is a violation of your right to the pursuit of happiness. As a person injured in an accident, there is one person you are certain to encounter who has a great deal of influence over how or whether you will be compensated for the loss you suffer from the accident. That person is the insurance adjuster: sometimes called a claim representative or claims adjuster. I performed the job of adjuster for twelve years, handling thousands of cases, before I attended law school.
You know intuitively that the accident was not your fault. Therefore, you may think that telling your story can only help move the process forward. However, the adjuster has a job to do for the insurance company. Not properly advocating for yourself or hiring a lawyer to advocate for you leaves control with the adjuster and can cost you a lot of money.
Since accidents can cause a great deal of damage to a person’s health and property, a great deal of money can be spent in treating injuries and repairing or replacing property. Not many drivers have the cash to spare in order to pay for the damage that they could cause with their automobile.
Even those with the cash to compensate a car accident victim find it wise to consistently spend a known small amount of money instead of risking, for even one event, a large amount. That is the nature of a liability insurance policy. The policyholder has given money to the insurance carrier in return for a promise by the insurance company to pay for damage, under certain circumstances, for which the policyholder becomes liable.
Liability policies are included within an Automobile Policy, Renter’s Policy, Homeowner’s Policy, and Umbrella Policy. Renter’s Policies also cover stolen or fire-damaged personal property. Homeowner’s Policies include coverage for personal property and the building that you own. An Umbrella Policy increases the liability policy limits of the Automobile and Renter’s or Homeowner’s Policies.
If you are physically injured by direct contact with another person, their Renter’s or Homeowner’s Policy would come into play instead of an Automobile Policy.
There is one insurance adjuster for each insurance policy involved in the accident. So if you are the driver of your car in a single-vehicle accident, only one policy and one adjuster is required. If you are involved in a multi-car accident in which each car is borrowed by its driver, there will potentially be twice as many adjusters as there are cars in the accident.
The job of the adjuster, along with his or her supervisors, is to act as the decision maker for the insurance company. From the time of the accident to the payment of a claim, several decisions must be made.
The adjuster decides the following, in this order:
Is the policy on which the claim is made enforceable on the date of accident?
Is the car involved insured by the adjuster’s company?
Does any other insurance cover the car?
If there is no insurance on the car, does the driver have insurance with the adjuster’s company?
If the adjuster’s company insures either the car or the driver (in cases in which there is no insurance on the car) then the adjuster asks: What happened in the accident and how much responsibility can be put on each person involved?
What damages have been done to property and what injuries has each party sustained?
What can be done to repair the damages for the least expense or to replace property if that would cost less?
What can be done to pay the least amount to a person who has become injured?
Getting from the first question to the last can take as little as a few hours or as long as several years. As an adjuster, I once received a claim at one o’clock in the afternoon from a policyholder driving her own vehicle. Although she did not know the name of the pedestrian she had hit in a crosswalk, I was able to track the person down and give them a nominal amount of money to close their claim before the end of the day.
The policyholder later complained that money had been paid. The policyholder wanted to do nothing until the company received a complaint. However, the insurance company has other priorities.
The insurance company would prefer to pay a small amount and have the matter closed. What the company fears is a lingering claim. There are two reasons for this fear:
First, an open claim requires the company to hold money in reserve which cannot collect interest.
Second, while a claim is open it tends to get more expensive because an injured person can do two things — assess their need for more treatment and/or find an attorney.
Since an attorney is an individual’s guide to the court system, the insurance company wants to settle each claim quickly, before an injured party seeks out the advice of an attorney. It is the intention of the adjuster to get you from injured to settled as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Don’t allow yourself to be rushed through the liability claims process. If you were hurt in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you deserve full compensation to cover the costs of your recovery and property damage. Before signing anything from the insurance company, consult with an experienced New Hampshire attorney. Based in Nashua, I’ve dedicated my law firm to helping clients get fairly compensated for their injuries no matter how fiercely the insurance company pushes for a quick settlement. Schedule a free consultation today.