Okay, back on topic after the July 4th holiday.
Last week, we met with a client who came to us after having some trouble getting paid on his property damage claim after an accident. This is a very common time for clients to reach out to attorneys, and I thought I would set out this story to see if others identify with it.
As I said, the client was hit by another driver, and sustained injuries as well as substantial damage to his vehicle. The client’s injuries were not life threatening, although he was taken by ambulance to an emergency room from the scene of the collision. In the meantime, the vehicle was towed to a lot since it was not driveable. My client contacted the defendant’s insurance carrier soon after the collision in order to obtain rental car coverage and work toward resolving his claim for the total loss of his vehicle. At this point, he ran into the typical insurance roadblock.
First, he was passed from agent to agent, and given phone number after phone number to call. He followed the telephonic menu options through the maze until he was connected with what was supposedly an agent who would handle the property damage claim, only to have that person give another phone number, which he called and was then informed that his claim was being transferred to another agent.
After finally reaching someone who would speak with him about his loss, the agent advised that they believed the vehicle to be a total loss, and were reviewing the vehicle’s value to that end. They promised to be in contact in the next several days. The company provided him with a cheap rental vehicle after he finally contacted them.
In the meantime, my client did what any sensible person would do, and started researching the value of his car. He went to the usual websites, and talked to a local car dealer about the retail value. Armed with some printouts from the internet, he spoke with the adjuster.
The adjuster offered him about 65% of what he had researched. The adjuster explained that the vehicle was high mileage, in less than perfect condition, and was reduced by a percentage based on my client’s national region. He told him that retail value was not what the company used for measuring a loss payment. He told him that the internet sites were unreliable. Finally, the adjuster said, the number wasn’t negotiable. It was a take-it or leave-it proposition. Oh, and by the way, the adjuster let him know that the rental car coverage would be ending three days after the offer was made, so the pressure was on to accept the amount on the table!
As I said in the beginning, we tend to meet a large majority of our clients soon after they have this conversation. The reason is typically that this is the first instance when a potential client has experienced the unique brand of customer service offered by insurance companies. Typically, in our meetings, our clients say something like “I knew when they began cheating me on my property damage claim that they were only going to get worse” regarding their injuries. Unfortunately, this is true in many to most cases.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. I am pleasantly surprised when I am working with an adjuster who is fair and friendly from the beginning. But, those times are few.
So, what can you do if this situation is occurring in your life right now? There are a number of ways to arm yourself in the negotiation for property damage claims. Again, you can go to www.Edmunds.com, www.NADA.org, www.kbb.com, and other similar sites that allow you to get a value of a used vehicle. An advanced step would be to get to know your body shop manager or used car dealer, who can access databases that show the sales price of similar vehicles in your region (as well as what they have actually sold for).
Finally, however, the stereotypical “letter from a lawyer” tends to have an effect on adjusters beyond what a layperson can create. This is an unfortunate reality.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, motorcycle accident, or other collision where you’ve experienced property damage, and are dealing with an insurance company, give us a call at (303) 694-2666, and let’s talk about it in depth. This includes situations where you’ve been hit by someone without insurance.