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Function of a Car Insurance Adjuster

A car insurance agent investigating an accident to make a claim.
Here's what you need to know...
  • An insurance adjuster will decide how much you should be offered in a settlement
  • You may be assigned several adjusters depending on the scope of damage and injuries
  • You do not have to accept the settlement offer
  • Once you cash a settlement check, it’s too late to fight for more compensation

Well, the textbook definition of what an insurance adjuster does is investigate your claim after your car accident. The adjuster then decides how much your claim is worth.

Simply put, the function of a car insurance adjuster is to examine the situation surrounding an accident and then offer a settlement based on:

  • the damage to a vehicle
  • the extent of any injuries and medical costs

The insurance adjuster is not required to offer you what you think you should get, only what they feel they should pay.

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How do car insurance claims work?

AdobeStock_53662132-1600x1600When you purchase a car insurance policy, you will know from which types of accidents, damages and liabilities you will be protected. Either you or another party involved in an accident with you has the option of filing a car insurance claim with your provider.

Claims are generally approved when there is clear evidence that supports the statements made by the person that filed, but they can be denied for a wide range of reasons.

Generally, car insurance claims are filed after a collision has occurred, but a Consumer Reports article on dealing with car vandalism says that claims should be immediately made after a vehicle has been vandalized.

Basically, any type of damage to you or your vehicle that is covered by your car insurance policy can be reported as an insurance claim.

Your car insurance provider may want you to submit your claim via fax, email, standard postal mail, or electronically via the Internet. It is imperative that you find out the procedures for submitting an insurance claim required by your insurer so that you are able to expedite the process.

After your auto insurance claim has been submitted and accepted, an investigation by a car insurance adjuster will follow. The investigation may only take a few days with you never being contacted by the claims adjuster at all.

You should provide your auto insurance provider with all of your contact information so that you will be able to get in contact with the car insurance adjuster easily.

When will you need to speak to a car insurance adjuster?

Man reporting car accidentThe following individuals may need to talk to a car insurance adjuster:

  • witnesses to the accident
  • those involved in the accident
  • the victim of an accident

Although you are not required by law to provide car accident adjusters with any information, it is in your best interest to be honest and forthright. This is especially true if you have a pending car insurance claim, whether it is your car insurance company or not.

Some policyholders that submit car insurance claims may not understand why they were not contacted prior to their claims being denied.

Although car insurance adjusters often speak to as many different parties as needed to complete a report, they are not always able to do so. If you believe that there is critical information missing from your car insurance claim, you can submit an appeal and speak to your car insurance adjuster.

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How do you prepare for the auto insurance adjuster?

Well, if you understand that this is a rigged game where the insurance company writes the contract and has hired the ref to interpret that contract on their behalf, not yours, then the answer is very carefully. Or buyer beware.

Here’s a handy list of what you should do after an auto accident:

  • Get a copy of the police report and make sure it’s accurate.
  • Make a list of the names of and contact information for all the witnesses.
  • Make certain that you have the other driver’s name, address, license plate number and, of course, their insurance company.
  • Use that phone camera and take photos of the accident scene.
  • Draw a picture or diagram of the accident.

It’s also helpful to know your insurance policy like the back of your hand. For example, if something is stolen from your car, is that covered by your homeowner’s policy or your auto insurance policy? You might need to know that.

How can insurance adjusters take advantage of you?

Dollarphotoclub_92848862-1600x1600Here are some things you need to look out for when your claim is getting “adjusted” so to speak. The adjuster might try to:

  • Give you a total loss evaluation that’s lower than you thought you deserved
  • Fix your car with mostly or all used parts
  • Cut your rental car usage early
  • Give you a lower bodily injury settlement, which can easily mean tens of thousands of dollars
  • Deny coverage on questionable investigations
  • Determine fault to the wrong driver, or accuse you of being a bit tipsy after the scene when it was the other driver

Having More than One Adjuster

The truth is that some insurance companies will assign multiple insurance adjusters to your case, claiming that each one is an expert in a specific area.

For example, if you have an injury, they may assign you an adjuster that is an expert in medical claims while someone else handles your car accident claim.

While you have no recourse when this occurs, the most you can hope for is to keep track of what each one tells you. Eventually, everything will come together and you will get an offer for your accident.

However, if the insurance company assigns several adjusters, they may be trying to delay the process a bit and possibly trying to frustrate you so that you’ll accept a smaller claim settlement.

Do I have to accept the offer from the insurance adjuster?

adobestock_102670391-1600x1600No! You are not obligated to accept any offer from an insurance adjuster. Just be aware that if you turn an offer down, the insurance company is not obligated to come back and offer you more money. They can stand by whatever amount they choose, so long as it covers your initial costs.

If you accept an offer and cash a check, only to later discover you have a serious medical condition resulting from the accident, you cannot go back and ask the insurance company for more money.

The bottom line is that cashing the check is your acceptance that the case is closed.

If you don’t accept what they call their final offer, then you will need to take the next step. This is either to use a mediator to come up with a settlement offer or go to court.

Just be aware that either option is going to lead to more time before you can get the money you deserve or need after having an accident.

Do I need an attorney?

Your only two options to counter the insurance adjuster that the insurance company hires are for you to hire an attorney or a public adjuster that handles auto insurance claims.

Let’s talk about getting an attorney first. The answer to the question is another question: Is it worth it? If your claim is worth less than three thousand dollars under the best of circumstances, then probably not.

If your car has been totaled and you’ve been maimed for life, and your insurance company wants to give you $5,000 and some stale popcorn when you thought you were getting $300,000 in liability coverage then, yes, you should talk to an attorney.

The good news here is that attorneys will take on the liability portion of auto insurance injury claims on contingency, which means that they only get paid if you get a settlement.

Finding a Public Insurance Adjuster

There are some states that have and allow public adjusters for auto insurance claims. This means that the insurance industry doesn’t or shouldn’t employ them.

Yes, it’s true the insurance industry sometimes hires private adjusters as well, but here’s a common-sense question: Would they hire private adjusters that help them more or that help the consumer?

The answer, yet again, is that the auto insurance industry is a very, very wealthy industry for a reason. In theory, though, an insurance adjuster not vetted by the insurance industry should give you a better deal.

There is some bad news about auto insurance public adjusters.

  • One is that they’re very hard to find. They’re not in every state (and in some states, they’re not legally recognized) and they don’t show up easily even with Google searches.
  • Two, a reason they might be hard to find is that there simply isn’t a financial incentive to be a big-time insurance adjuster who represents consumers. The really big money for public adjusters is homeowner insurance, where they often also work on contingency.

However, instead of getting 10 percent of a $5000 auto claim, you’re looking at 10 percent of a $50,000 house claim or a total loss claim that could easily reach $300,000 in today’s housing market. What job sounds more lucrative to you?

There have also been attempts by the insurance industry to get rid of public adjusters for reasons that you can well imagine.

Bottom Line: Follow the advice given earlier about how to prepare for an insurance adjuster. The good news is that the entire game isn’t rigged and there is healthy and real competition between insurance firms offering car insurance.

Those zillions of ads you see by GEICO, Farmers, Nationwide, are proof of this competition.

Your job as a consumer is to go out and find the best and fairest auto insurance deals and this should be your best protection. Use the information on the Internet that explains your policy to you.

Make sure you check your rates and your possible discounts every year or so. This is the consumer’s edge: shopping around.

You can start now by typing in your ZIP code into the FREE box and comparing car insurance quotes now!

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