I have remarked to several clients over the years that one of the most common means of gaining a new client comes from the automobile property damage claim.  This might seem odd at first, but it speaks to the overall mindset of insurance companies, and it causes injured persons to seek assistance from lawyers every day. 

Typically someone who is the victim of an auto collision suffers property damage of some level, from minor to major.  Most often, whether the individual is injured badly or not, the  first priority is dealing with the loss of their vehicle.  Most of us depend on our vehicles for access to everything in our lives; driving to work, daycare, school, the grocery store, the doctor’s office, etc.  

When the individual begins dealing with the other driver’s insurance company, two things happen:  1) the insurance adjuster makes the property damage appraisal and payment process seem very confusing and urgent; and 2) the adjuster begins pressuring the individual to take whatever amount of money the company has offered to close the claim.  Topping it off, adjusters are typically unhelpful to the claimant, dismissive of a claimant’s questions regarding the property damage claim, and frequently give misleading or flat-out incorrect advice.

The process is confusing because there is typically more than one adjuster talking with the individual about their property damage claim.  Claims are often transferred between one or two different “claims specialists” within the first few days after the collision.  That’s confusing and silly.   The person next typically hears from a separate property damage estimator, who comes out to determine the amount of damage and potential cost of repair.  Based on whether the car can be fixed, or whether the car is worth less than the estimate amount, the insurance adjuster then tells the client to get the car fixed, or offers them an amount of money to buy the car based on alleged “blue book”, or retail value.  The individual is not made to feel that they have any leverage in this situation to negotiate.

The adjuster then applies pressure by threatening the individual with interruption of benefits they might have provided if they question the adjuster’s decision: loss of a rental car benefit (if one was provided in the first place, which is an entirely separate article), cessation of storage fees in the case of a totaled vehicle, and other out-of-pocket costs that quickly pile up.  Storage fees are usually around $100/day, and rental cars can vary from $25 to $50/day.  You can see why most people get very nervous dealing with adjusters regarding their damaged car.  Added to these pressures is the fact that people need their vehicles to get their daily tasks done!

At the same time, these individuals frequently are dealing with physical injuries.  Negotiation is difficult enough when one is physically well, but when one is suffering it becomes more difficult.  Insurance companies know this and push their employees to take advantage of it.

So, back to where I started.  In the last month, I have been hired by two clients who were getting abused by insurance companies.  In the first case, my client’s car was rear-ended by a driver at 60 miles per hour.  Her car, which she had purchased used only ten days prior, was sent over 100 ft. into a median.  Obviously, the car was totalled.  My client suffered significant injuries that required surgery.  During this, the at-fault driver’s company was calling my client two and three times per day, denying her a rental vehicle, and pressuring her to provide them with her vehicle’s title, all before even offering her a dollar for her car.  The same adjuster told her that they would not pay for rental, and tried to get her to deny injury related to the collision.

I got involved and was able to immediately move the claim to a more “senior” adjuster, who immediately and professionally permitted my client a rental car for an extended period of time, and also stopped chirping about the storage fees that my client was allegedly racking up.  The first offer the insurance company made was far, far below the retail value of her vehicle.  During this time, I was able to negotiate with the company and the client ended up nearly doubling the amount that the company paid.  My client was actually able to replace the vehicle with one of the caliber that she had recently lost. 

Why is this of interest to you?  If you’ve read this far, you are probably experiencing some of the tactics above.  I posted this to exhibit that insurance companies frequently pressure those who are not represented to take much less money on something as seemingly straight-forward as the value of their wrecked vehicle.   While I am not always able to negotiate a substantial increase in the amount that an insurance company might offer, I can always level the playing field and remove the stress of dealing with the insurance company about the car.  You are able to deal with the other events going on in your life.  That’s a quick example of how I can make a difference. 

Let me add the obvious disclaimer that nothing in this post is to be construed as legal advice on any particular case, nor does this story constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship. 

If you have an issue along these lines, give me a call and I’ll be happy to speak with you.

Andrew