When adjusters attack — ways insurance companies will try to reduce or deny your injury claim
Are you in a battle with the insurance adjuster over the value of your injury claim?
If so, you’ll quickly discover that the weaknesses of your case become the insurance company’s primary area of attack. Therefore, it’s important to strategize ahead of time and develop responses to all potential weak points in your claim to respond with your best argument right away.
In this article, we’ll explain how you can best respond when the insurance company tries to minimize the value of your claim by pointing out weaknesses. While it’s not possible to list every scenario, we hope that some of the information provided below will offer a few solid responses when adjuster’s attempt to devalue your claim.
The liability attack — finger pointing and the “blame game”
Many times, it’s clear that 1 person is at fault for causing an accident. But some accidents aren’t just the fault of 1 person. Sometimes there is shared blame. In Georgia, if a driver is judged to be 50% or more at-fault for causing an accident, then that they are barred from making a claim for personal injury damages.
This being so, insurance adjusters in Georgia may look for ways to argue this very point against you. If this strategy is applied against you by the adjuster, you need to know how to respond.
Let’s look at a couple of examples where liability is commonly disputed:
Parking lot accidents
Adjusters often conclude that parking lot accidents where drivers were simultaneously backing out of parking spaces are both equally responsible. In other words, 50% of the blame goes to each driver. With no witnesses to verify either side, it becomes a simple case of he said/she said to the adjuster.
Additionally, if the adjuster is going to side with anyone, it’s going to be their insured and not you.
What should you do if this happened to you?
It feels so unjust. You know there was no car behind you when you backed up. Now, your claim is being denied. How can you defend yourself against the attack of the adjuster who says your claim is denied because you helped cause the accident?
Here are 3 tips and suggestions:
- Find witnesses. Immediately following the accident, try to see if you can locate any witnesses from the accident scene who saw what happened and can testify on your behalf. For instance, maybe someone saw the other car speed out of their parking slot. You may find witnesses working in a nearby store or serving near a restaurant window. There may also be a witness listed on the police report or a security officer’s incident report. Don’t assume that no witnesses exist.
- Check cameras. In addition to witnesses, security cameras can often be found near parking lot accidents. Look for cameras from local businesses and ask permission to see the video. If the owner of the video will not allow you to see it, politely ask the owner of the camera to check out the footage from that day. Who knows — the accident may have been caught on tape.
- Take pictures/video. Take photos and videos of both cars after an accident takes place. Sometimes the amount of damage to a vehicle can be an indicator of speed. Two cars slowly backing up generally don’t cause that much damage. Heavy damage is a red flag that someone may have been exiting their parking space faster than normal.
Furthermore, the angle of the impact and the drag marks across either vehicle can indicate what happened. If the damage is elongated and drags across the rear side of one of the damaged vehicles, this could be an indication that one car had control of the drive-through lane after backing out of a parking space. In that case, you would point to the impact area of your car and argue that you were in control of the drive-lane before they backed into you. Physical evidence can serve as an objective reference point to verify your account of events.
Finally, in cases where the 2 cars are bumper to bumper, be sure to take photos after the accident of where the cars were at the point of impact. For example, if photos show that your car was nearly all the way out of a parking slot when the other car backed into you, this should be clear evidence to the adjuster that your car had control of the drive-through lane. The second car should have seen you and not backed up at all until the way was clear.
In some cases, shared blame is placed against the victim of an intersection accident. The most common way that the adjuster places blame against the victim is the “last clear chance” argument. In this argument, the adjuster will attempt to say that the victim had, on some level, an opportunity to avoid the accident but failed to take action inside that window of opportunity.
Note that this argument isn’t saying the victim is the proximate cause of the accident. Rather, it’s saying that the victim driver failed to take advantage of the opportunity to avoid the accident.
For example, imagine you’re driving your car down a 4-lane highway going the speed limit of 45 mph with no traffic controls for your direction of travel. Suddenly, a pick-up truck leaves a stop sign and crosses your path from right to left. Normally, the pick-up truck would be found 100% responsible for causing the accident because they failed to yield to oncoming traffic. However, if you hit the truck in the rear quarter panel, it’s possible that the adjuster for the pick-up truck may try to use the last clear chance argument against you.
The adjuster may argue that if you had hit the truck in the front, this would be evidence that the truck surprised you and you could do nothing about it. But since you hit the truck in the rear side panel, this is evidence that you had some level of notice and did nothing about it. In these types of scenarios, the insurance adjuster will often attempt to apportion 10% to 30% responsibility against the victim car.
In many ways, this is a very strained argument by the adjuster. It can come across as idealistic to think that hitting a vehicle more in the rear than the front or middle is a clear enough piece of evidence that partial blame should be placed on the victim. But when this argument is made against the victim as a weakness in their claim, you must be ready to respond.
Below are 5 possible responses to the last clear chance argument that might be an applicable response if/when the adjuster attacks you for being “partially responsible” for causing an intersection accident:
- Brake maneuver. If you applied your brakes suddenly, this may have allowed much of the truck to pass in front of you. So, contrary to the adjuster’s argument that you didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to avoid the accident with evasive maneuvers, it’s precisely because you did try to avoid a collision that the truck then had more time to pass in front of you.
- Sharp turn. In the middle of realizing that the front of your car was about to hit the driver door of the pickup, perhaps you turned your wheel sharply right to avoid a head-on collision into the driver himself. In short, you saved his life. This might explain why the truck has more damage on the rear-half.
- Speeding vehicle. Maybe the pickup was speeding across the road to beat oncoming traffic, which would account for why so much of the pick-up passed in front of you before the collision.
- Obstructed view. Perhaps another car was traveling in the outside lane going the same direction of travel, and you were driving in the inside lane. When the truck tried to cross, there might have been little (if any) time or forewarning.
- Idealistic standards. The typical juror in a court of law is not going to be as analytical as an adjuster. They will likely not hold the average person to such idealistic standards. In cases such as this, the adjuster is often being “penny smart and pound foolish.”
The “low impact” attack
The most common type of low-impact injury claim is a rear-end impact. In such an accident, the front of the defendant’s car hits the rear of the plaintiff’s car, and the defendant is cited by the responding police officer for following too closely. In such cases, liability is usually accepted by the at-fault driver’s insurance company without much controversy.
However, if the physical damage to your vehicle has the appearance of being minimal, you have what adjusters often refer to as a “low impact injury claim.” It’s generally (and wrongly) assumed by most, including insurance adjusters, that minimal physical damage to a vehicle results in little to no physical injuries to the people inside.
The average rear bumper assembly is made up of 3 main parts: the outer bumper cover, the absorber that is behind the bumper cover, and then the reinforcement bar. The function of the outside bumper cover is primarily cosmetic only. The absorber is behind the bumper cover and is usually made of either styrofoam or bendable thick plastic. The function of the absorber is to absorb impacts from the rear. The steel reinforcement bar sits behind the absorber. In the event of a significant impact, it’s the steel reinforcement bar that will absorb most of the impact and reduce further damage to the rear of the car (and its passengers).
In injury claims where there is minimal damage to the painted rear bumper cover, some skepticism may be raised by the insurance adjuster. If both the bumper cover and absorber are damaged, this adds some credibility to an injury claim. But if an insurance adjuster discovers that there is no evidence of damage beyond the bumper cover, the adjuster will probably conclude that your claim to injuries is doubtful.
But this is not necessarily the end of the road for your injury claim. Likely there is more to the story.
Unfortunately, adjusters can get into a bad habit of rubber-stamping injury claims as “low impact” based on the optics of only a few photos. However, there are a number of ways to respond after the insurance adjuster dismisses your claim as merely a low-impact accident.
Below are some basic responses you can levy against the adjuster who tries to minimize the legitimacy of your claim.
Show damage to the other vehicle
Always have the adjuster find out what the damage is to the defendant’s car. In some cases, the physical damage is much more significant to the at-fault driver’s car, and photos can demonstrate that this was no minor impact at all.
For example, if the at-fault driver was driving a midsize sedan and you were driving a large pick-up truck with a trailer hitch protruding from the rear, the damage to your truck may appear minor while the damage to the sedan is severe The adjuster will likely try to maintain their “minor damage” argument regarding the truck, but they will no longer be able to argue “minor impact.” That argument is now removed by having the adjuster take a better look at the evidence.
Share pictures of vehicles
Never make the assumption that your insurance adjuster has photos of your vehicle. If you didn’t have collision coverage, the at-fault driver’s vehicle might not have been inspected. Additionally, it’s always possible that the adjuster simply did a poor job in their investigation and failed to obtain photos of their insured’s vehicle.
If you have pictures of the other vehicle from the day of the accident, show them to the adjuster. Having photos of the other vehicle is an excellent comeback when an insurance adjuster is hyper-focused on the “minimal damage” argument.
Use updated repair estimates
Use the updated repair estimate to your advantage. When the adjuster points to an earlier photo of minimal damage, redirect them to the most updated repair estimate of your damaged vehicle. It’s possible that the earlier photos didn’t correctly reflect the hidden damages that were later found during actual repairs. This is an excellent counterpoint to the “minimal damage” argument by the adjuster. It’s an objective reference point and was probably documented by the adjuster’s own “preferred shop” to boot.
Remember, when referencing an estimate to the adjuster, it’s crucial that you are referencing the most recent estimate. As a matter of course, there is usually a second or third estimate that is called “a supplement.” The second or third estimate is usually obtained after the car goes in for actual repairs. During repairs, the shop will take apart the damaged area of the car and search for hidden damage.
The “pre-existing injury” attack
Pre-existing injuries can be a significant weakness in your claim. Adjuster’s often thoroughly review medical records when evaluating an injury claim, sometimes coming to the conclusion that your injuries already existed before the collision.
Unless the accident in question caused your injuries, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for it. But there is an important distinction to make:
The insurance company doesn’t owe for injuries that already existed, but they DO owe for the injuries caused or affected by the accident.
If the pre-existing condition is one that is known, arguments can still be made that the accident in question affected and even changed your pre-existing medical condition.
Keeping this in mind, let’s examine how we can respond to the adjuster by explaining the difference between an aggravation and an exacerbation of a preexisting condition.
Injury aggravation vs. exacerbation
Consider the pre-existing medical condition of a disc bulge in the neck or lower back. If you had a painful pre-existing disc bulge that was not changed by this accident, the argument that you’ll want to make to the insurance company is that the accident aggravated your condition — it didn’t cause or exacerbate your condition. The painful pre-existing disc bulge may be more sensitive, hurt worse, and take longer to heal.
The aggravation argument usually isn’t a hard point for the adjuster to accept. This is especially true if the prior condition ws well documented before the accident date, and the mechanism for injuries is solid.
However, if the accident made your painful pre-existing disc bulge worse, you would argue that the accident in question exacerbated it. To be clear, we aren’t saying that the pain is greater. We are saying that the disc bulge is now worse and bulging more.
When an injury claim is made for the exacerbation of a disc bulge, a good piece of evidence is an MRI that contains a comparative study which utilizes a prior MRI report and compares the 2 in order to show any changes that may have taken place. If a change is shown and there is no other explanation, the adjuster will have little choice but to accept that the accident exacerbated the pre-existing injury.
Keep in mind that when you argue the value of your case with the adjuster, you should pay close attention to the degree to which the pre-existing condition has changed. If the change is minor, the value of the exacerbated area may be viewed as having little value by the adjuster. However, if the change is significant, the value of your claim is going to be much higher.
Contact an experience Atlanta car accident lawyer
If you’re in a battle with an insurance adjuster over the value of your accident claim, it’s time to get legal help. At Scholle Law Firm, our passionate and experienced Atlanta car crash attorneys know how to deal with insurance adjusters and we’ll make sure you aren’t being duped. Many times, adjusters drop their weak arguments against your claim as soon as they find out you are being represented by a passionate attorney who’s not afraid to take them to court.