If you have been injured and it was the fault of another party, there is a good chance you will be dealing with the responsible party’s insurance company, or in some cases, your own insurer (if the other party is uninsured or did not have adequate insurance to cover your losses). This means you will probably be working with an insurance adjuster to obtain compensation for your injuries.
Dealing with an insurance company can be a difficult and complicated process, especially if this is your first time. There are numerous potential pitfalls you need to watch out for, and most of these pitfalls stem from tactics the insurance company uses to try to trip you up and weaken your case.
Here are some of the most common tactics insurers use during a personal injury case:
Contacting you Right Away after the Accident
One thing you may have experienced already is a phone call from the insurance adjuster shortly after the accident. This is presented as a call to find out how you are doing and to express best wishes for a full recovery. One of the primary goals of this call is to establish trust and help convince you that the adjuster is “on your side” and that you will be “taken care of”. Keep in mind that no matter how friendly they are, adjusters work for the insurance company. As such, their interests are not aligned with yours. The insurance company’s main objective is to protect their bottom line, and this means paying out as little as possible for your injuries.
Implying that you are Better Off without Hiring a Lawyer
One of the things that may come up in the initial conversation with the insurance adjuster is the possibility of obtaining legal representation. By getting in touch with you quickly after the injury, the adjuster hopes that you have not had a chance to speak with an attorney yet to review your legal rights and options. During the conversation, the adjuster may imply that you are better off without a lawyer by saying something like, “you can hire a lawyer if you want, but it will not have any bearing on the settlement you receive”.
This type of statement is misleading at best, because it is impossible to know a few days after an accident the full extent of your injuries and all of the complexities that may be involved with your case. These are things in which attorneys have extensive expertise, and because they have the ability to thoroughly investigate the facts and evidence of the case, they can often uncover important information (that may have been otherwise unknown) that will help you properly value your claim.
Asking for a Recorded Statement
After the insurance company believes they have earned your trust, they will often ask you to give a recorded statement about the accident. This is frequently presented as a formality that needs to be done in order to process your claim. The fact is that there is no requirement to give them a recorded statement, and the only real purpose of such a statement is for the insurer to get you on record admitting partial fault, apologizing, or saying something else that may weaken your case. Be polite and professional with the adjuster, and kindly decline providing a statement without first speaking to your lawyer.
Making a Quick Settlement Offer
If the insurance company believes you have a strong case, one tactic they may use to minimize the amount they have to pay out is to give you a lowball settlement offer early on in the process. They know that you may be struggling financially, and they also know that many people want to put this type of ordeal behind them as soon as possible. Their hope is to take advantage of your vulnerability by offering you a quick settlement for far less than the claim is worth.
Unnecessarily Delaying a Claim
If you refuse to provide a recorded statement and/or do not accept their lowball settlement offers, they may decide to “slow walk” your claim by not communicating with you for several months at a time. Their hope is that you will either get frustrated and give up, or that they can run out the clock on the statute of limitations, so you will lose your option to file a personal injury lawsuit. In Mississippi, for example, the statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits is three years. This may seem like a long time, but it can go by fast if you are not hearing from the insurance company on a regular basis. And if the statute of limitations expires, the insurance company knows that you have very little choice but to accept any offer they will give you.
Following You Around
This is one of those things that may feel creepy, but it is not illegal. It is completely legal for an insurance company to follow you or look for more information about you. While they should not interfere with your life at home or at work, you are fair game if you are in public. There is no expectation of privacy in a public area, so they can follow you, take photos of you, or take videos of you if you are in a public place. This means that, rather than challenging the legality of being followed, you have to focus on how to protect your claim.
Types of Surveillance
There are several different ways that insurance companies might check up on accident victims. The easiest route they usually start with is electronic surveillance. Social media makes it all too easy to get the details on someone’s life, so plan on them checking out your social media profiles. They’ll look for posts indicating that you are less injured than you claim, that you are engaging in insurance fraud, or another type of fraud.
If the initial search brings up anything alarming, they might move on to a private investigator. A private investigator will follow you throughout your day, looking for additional evidence that you are engaging in fraud. If this is fruitful and they have solid evidence that you aren’t as hurt as you are claiming, they might do a full investigation. This often involves speaking to witnesses, people you work with, family members, and others who are likely to know the extent of your injury.
When Do Insurance Companies Follow a Victim?
If you’re panicking because an insurance investigator might be following you, stay calm. It is relatively uncommon for insurance companies to follow an accident victim. After all, their goal is to make money. If they send a private investigator to follow every claimant, their profit margins will drop drastically. They are only likely to investigate you if there are any red flags in your initial report. Possible red flags include:
- Changing reports of the accident
- Differences between your version of events and what the witnesses saw
- Reported injuries that are much worse than what would be expected in the accident you experienced
Get in Touch with a Skilled Biloxi Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured through no fault of your own, you need strong legal counsel by your side to effectively thwart the common tactics used by insurance companies to devalue or deny your claim. At Reeves & Mestayer, we have extensive experience successfully representing individuals who have suffered all types of personal injuries in Mississippi. We work closely with our clients, and we fight hard to help our clients obtain the full and fair compensation they need and deserve. Call us today at (855) 558-2977 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Biloxi office in person at your convenience.