Auto-insurance companies love to claim in television commercials that they're on your side or have your back, but the truth is, their primary focus will always be on their profit margins. Most insurance adjusters operate in an ethical manner, but there are some who will do things to sabotage your case to avoid paying for damages and losses sustained in an accident. Here's how to recognize when this may be happening to you and what you can do about it.
Lack of Communication
One tactic some insurance adjusters use is to take a long time to communicate with you or avoid doing so at all. This can take the form of
This lack of communication usually taps into an overarching stalling strategy that may include making unreasonable demands such as requiring you to send unnecessary documents, waiting until the last minute to file required paperwork, or requiring needless legal procedures (e.g., asking for a meeting with a mediator for no valid reason).
The purpose of these tactics is to frustrate you so much you'll eventually abandon the case. Alternatively, and more concerning, the insurance adjuster may be attempting to run down the clock on the statute of limitations.
Each state limits the amount of time you have to file a personal-injury lawsuit. Most states set the time limit for at least two or three years after the date of the incident. In some states, such as Kentucky and Louisiana, you only have one year to file a case, however. Once that time has passed, you cannot bring legal action against the other party.
If you feel the agent is giving you the runaround, there are a couple of things you can do. Look at your policy for communication deadlines. If the agent is failing to meet those deadlines, tell the person directly and quote the passage. This will put the person on notice that you're well aware of what your rights are and also aware that he or she is not performing as required, and that may be the kick in the pants the person needs to act in a professional manner.
Another option is to talk to a supervisor, ask that your case be given to another adjuster, and give reasons why you want this. If the insurance company itself is reputable, the supervisor will likely take your complaint seriously and try to work things out. At the very least, the insurance adjuster will know you mean business, and that may also force him or her to do better.
If the statute of limitations deadline is fast approaching, notify the adjuster that you intend to file a lawsuit against the company. Set a deadline for your case to be resolved and then file suit if the adjuster fails to comply. Defending against a lawsuit costs the insurance company money, something they want to avoid. Therefore, the adjuster will likely scramble to avoid that outcome.
Lying About Your Policy
Insurance adjusters know not everyone actually reads their insurance policies. The person may bank on this fact and state your policy says things that it actually doesn't. The worst thing that can happen is for you believe the person and settle for a lowball offer or not pursue your case as a result. At the very least, the adjuster will have caused a delay in your case that may result in your missing important deadlines.
Another thing that can happen is that the insurance company may make changes to your policy without notifying you or obtaining your consent. For instance, one insurance company altered records to show the person's policy expired 90 minutes before his accident. The court found out about the lie and awarded the family $12 million as a result.
If you don't have a current copy of your policy, request one immediately following your accident and read it to verify that what the adjuster is saying to you is true. Immediately point out his or her inaccuracies to prevent the person from taking advantage of you. If you suspect the company may have altered your records, contact an attorney as soon as possible. He or she can subpoena records to determine whether this happened and help you obtain justice.
For more information about this issue, contact an auto-accident attorney such as Carl L. Britt, Jr.
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