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January 14, 2013
Clarke Speaks

Common Tricks The Insurance Companies Use To Settle Your Car Accident Case For Less

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Don’t Be Too Quick to Take a Settlement Check from a North Carolina Insurance Adjuster

It’s common enough for North Carolina car accident attorneys to warn clients about insurance companies and their adjusters. “They want to save money for the insurance firm,” we say, “and you can’t expect them to be generous with the company’s money. They will usually fight to give you as little as possible.”

We’ve started to hear some feedback from clients—and people who, eventually, chose not to become clients—that we’re off base here. “The adjuster was such a nice guy,” we’ve been told. “He called once while I was still in the hospital, but there was no pressure, and he just wanted to hear how I was recovering. About a week later, he came to the house and we had a very frank talk. He was ready to write me a check right then and there—for more than I expected, really. He even pointed out how I could control all the money—I wouldn’t have to share it with a lawyer—and if there was more than I needed for my doctor’s bills, I could replace the couch in the parlor.”

This Wilmington car accident victim saw a pleasant young man who seemed genuinely concerned about her health. Listening to this account, we noticed all the warning signs from this interaction. This “nice guy” was very, very good at his job, but only someone familiar with insurance adjuster tricks would have noticed the danger signals. Let’s take a closer look:

A phone call just to see how you’re doing

You can bet that the insurance adjuster was taking notes during this phone call. He placed the call in hopes you might make admissions that could be used to reduce the size of your insurance recovery.

When a stranger asks you, “How are you doing?” many people will fall back on conventional polite responses, such as “Oh, I’m doing okay.” Now, imagine that taken out of context: on the witness stand in your personal injury lawsuit. When the adjuster testifies, “Three days after the auto accident in Wilmington, the plaintiff told me she was doing okay,” that will convince the jury that the injuries really weren’t all that serious.

The adjuster is ready to write a check on the spot

If you accept a settlement check from an insurance company, you have to sign a document permanently forfeiting your rights to sue for a larger amount. When the adjuster believes you potentially have a strong case to collect large jury damages, he will try to short-circuit the process by getting you to settle early on.

The settlement offer is bigger than you expected

Do you know what your case is worth? Certainly not! The doctors may not even know the full extent of your injuries until months after the accident. Even if you have been told what your injuries are, you don’t know what to expect in medical bills. Will you need additional surgeries, occupational therapy, or months of physical rehabilitation? You just don’t know.

However, you can bet that the insurance adjuster knows the typical cost in your area to treat each of your injuries, as well as the likelihood of complications along the road to recovery. If the settlement offer exceeds your expectations, that’s a strong indication you’re underestimating the value of your case.

The adjuster stresses that you don’t have to share the money

Above all, the adjuster wants to ward you away from hiring an attorney. He knows that personal injury settlements for people with legal representation average three to four times larger than settlements for people who represent themselves. Even if a portion of that settlement goes to your lawyer, you still come out ahead on an “average” settlement—and the insurance company has to pay much, much more. The adjuster hopes that a subtle appeal to your greed will keep you from hiring a Wilmington auto accident lawyer.

The adjuster suggests that you could spend the “extra” money on home improvements

This is a classic adjuster trick. Even though he knows that his settlement offer is probably too low for your legitimate needs, he suggests that there might be money left over for luxuries. You let him into your house, so he can evaluate your standard of living. He may suggest replacing shabby furniture, upgrading to a new television, or even spending the “bonus money” on a vacation. Again, he’s trying to arouse your greediness so you will make a quick decision against your best interests.

Don’t be beguiled into an early settlement that doesn’t meet your needs

Insurance industry adjusters are mostly decent people who are just doing their jobs. Unfortunately, those jobs often require taking advantage of people who don’t have the background to estimate what their North Carolina personal injury case is worth.

So, here’s the deal. Call Speaks Law Firm today at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 910-341-7570. Order a copy of our book, The North Carolina Auto Injury Book; we’ll send it to you free. Schedule a FREE case evaluation with one of our attorneys, where we can tell you whether the settlement you were offered is a fair deal. If you don’t like our answer, there’s no obligation to hire us, and you can still accept that settlement from the adjuster on your own.

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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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