When you've been involved in an automobile accident, dealing with a claims adjuster is part of the process of reconciling the incident. For many auto insurance companies, contacting all parties involved in the accident and asking them to speak with a claims adjuster is standard procedure. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.
Even so, before speaking with a claims adjuster you should always speak first with your own insurance company, and with a lawyer if you feel that might be helpful. Consider this your first and most important step.
The claims adjuster works for the insurance company, so even if they seem especially friendly and open, keep in mind that they aren't automatically on "your side" in the matter. Their job is to better understand the circumstances of the accident so they can determine who was at fault and make calculations about the value of your insurance claim.
How to protect your interests when dealing with a claim adjuster
During your phone call or meeting, the adjuster will ask you a series of questions about who was involved in the accident, what happened before, during, and after the accident, whether there were injuries, who was driving the vehicles, what was said between the parties right after the accident, and how the police conducted their documentation and investigation of the incident.
While you should answer the questions to the best of your ability, it isn't necessary to offer your opinion or impression of the situation. Stick to the facts as you understand them, and remember that it's perfectly alright to answer with, "I don't recall" or "I don't remember that detail." Only answer questions that you know the answers to, and don't guess. If the claims adjuster asks you to guess, you may certainly politely decline.
How to answer a claim adjuster's request for permission to record the conversation
The representative from the insurance company may ask you if it's OK with you if they record the interview. They may indicate that they'd just like to have the recording for their own benefit, to help them put together the facts of the case as accurately as possible.
Even though this may not make you feel uncomfortable, and you may have nothing to hide, it's essential to decline their request. There are a few ways to do this politely, yet firmly.
"I don't mind talking with you informally, but I cannot agree to being recorded at this point. I would need to speak with my lawyer first."
If they persist, you can and should politely decline a second time.
"Sorry, no. I don’t agree to having our conversation recorded today."
Even though the call isn't being recorded, try to be aware of any discussions the claims adjuster wants to have about your injuries. Their job is to settle the claim as inexpensively and quickly as possible. Anything you say that could devalue your current or potential pain or injuries that occurred as a result of the accident will only hurt you.
Any time you feel pressured to say or express a certain feeling or agree with something that you aren't comfortable with, indicate that you prefer to speak with a lawyer before continuing the conversation.
It's always better to seek the advice of an expert who has a lot of experience with claims adjusters than to risk not being able to cover your medical bills or vehicle repairs because of something you said to the insurance company's representative.
Even if you _might _have been at fault in the accident, you don’t have to assign blame. You can remain neutral, tell the truth, and protect your interests in the matter. It isn't the insurance adjuster's job to hand out punishments or judge you if you made a mistake that led to an accident.
How to get your car fixed
Your insurance company will send you to the body shop they use for repairs. You should also have your mechanic look at the vehicle. Ask the body shop if they use original manufacturer parts. If you don't feel confident about the body shop or they don't have good reviews, discuss your options with your insurance companies or with a lawyer.
Anytime your vehicle requires bodywork, it devalues your car. Talk to the body shop about how they'll handle that and ask them to reduce the diminished value of your vehicle.
If they decide your car is a "total loss," and the amount of money the insurance company offers you seems low, you can decline. Let the adjuster know that you will speak with your lawyer and get back to them with a number that is more in line with the amount of money it will cost you to replace the vehicle.
Don't agree to a settlement on the spot
Since it's the insurance adjuster's job to get you to agree to a settlement as quickly as possible, they may make an offer right after your conversation. It's not usually in your best interests to take this offer. In fact, you should always be cautious about signing off on a claim release and settlement agreement. It's smart to put off signing any paperwork until you speak with an expert that doesn't work for your insurance company.