Illinois law requires all drivers in Chicago and across the state to carry auto insurance in order to drive on the state’s roadways. After a motor vehicle accident, one of the first steps will be filing a claim with the insurance company. When the claim is filed, the insurance company will assign an insurance adjuster to determine the legitimacy of the claim and how much money the insurance company will payout.
Within a day or two of filing a claim, the insurance adjuster will contact you.
What is An Insurance Adjuster
An insurance adjuster is simply an employee of the insurance company who is in charge of investigating insurance claims to decide what the liability is for the company. Generally this involves reviewing the details of the case by doing interviews with the claimant, any witnesses, looking at records related to the claim, such as police or medical records, and carrying out inspections for property related claims.
How to Handle Negotiations with Insurance Adjusters
Insurance companies are notorious for low-balling settlement amounts. However, it is important to remember that, regardless of the perception of insurance companies, the best course of action when dealing with insurance adjusters is to be honest and provide them with any necessary documentation. Doing so will make the process much smoother.
When the insurance adjuster contacts you for the first time regarding a claim they will typically ask for a statement and a signed release granting them access to medical records. You are not required by law to give a statement the first time an insurance adjuster contacts you. Since you will be bound to anything said in that statement, it is often wise to decline and request more time.
Give the adjuster your physician’s name and tell them you will keep them informed of your medical treatments and progress. However, do not discuss the accident or injuries in detail. Discussing a settlement prematurely, before your injuries have fully healed, may result in a smaller payout to you. In addition, new injuries or losses could be discovered later on. Set limits for amount of time you will spend with them on the phone and ask them not to record the conversation. Finally, ask the insurance adjuster to send a confirmation letter that you have been in contact and the claim has, indeed, been filed.
Entering Negotiations with Insurance Adjusters
Many people find it intimidating to negotiate with insurance adjusters, but the key is to be confident and know that your claim is solid. For this reason, in serious car accidents, many claimants find it useful to have a lawyer do the negotiations.
During your negotiations you should outline your case, you injuries, and the damages. Begin with an account of the accident, how you were abiding by all road rules, making sure support your claim with details regarding the other driver and supporting facts from the police report. Then discuss your total injuries and damages, highlighting your losses with the support of proper documentation, stating how much you want in a settlement. The insurance company will usually begin with a much lower offer so it is important to set a minimum amount you are willing to accept and start with an initial demand that is higher.
After hearing your initial demand, the insurance adjuster may break off the conversation and say the company will consider the demand. Do not lower your demand until they come back with an offer, even if they delay a few days. Negotiations may go on for a while, back and forth. However, you should only lower your demand slightly and eventually the insurance company will meet you at a level you can both agree on.
Stalemate in Negotiations
Of course, there are times when negotiations reach a point where neither party will budge. If you and your insurance adjuster cannot reach an agreement there are a few actions you can take. You can ask the insurance adjuster for their supervisor to be brought in, hoping a new set of eyes might move the case along. In the event, the insurance company is drawing the process out, with weeks between offers, the best course of action is to complain to the Illinois Department of Insurance as such delays are considered ‘bad faith’ on the part of the insurance company.
If up to this point you have not enlisted the help of an attorney, a standstill in the negotiations may warrant one. The right attorney will have far more experience in handling insurance companies. With a well documented case, which includes photographic evidence, medical records, and so on, you likely have a strong case and it is in the interest of the insurance company to reach a settlement that satisfies you both.