Car Insurance Adjuster Secrets to Know When Filing a Claim

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Updated: May 20, 2024

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Understanding an insurance adjuster's tactics when filing a car insurance claim can be very helpful. These professionals are trained to safeguard their company's interests and possess insider knowledge that can affect your claim. Gaining insight into these car insurance adjuster secrets empowers you to navigate the process effectively and secure a fair settlement. Here's what you need to know.

Key Takeaways

A car insurance adjuster investigates and elects a settlement amount when you file a car insurance claim.

If you don’t agree with the settlement amount set by the adjuster, you can negotiate with them for a higher amount.

Your settlement depends on the actual cash value (ACV) of your car before the accident, but payouts can vary as each insurance company has its own valuation method.

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What Is a Car Insurance Adjuster?

A car insurance adjuster is an independent investigator who determines the amount that your insurance company will pay out to you after a car accident or other damages. They work for the insurance company and are responsible for:

  • Inspecting the damage to all vehicles involved.
  • Interviewing drivers and witnesses of the accident.
  • Collecting documentation, such as police reports and repair estimates.
  • Deciding the amount of insurance coverage or settlement for the policyholder.

Most insurance companies have their own adjusters or hire independent ones. If your case is complex, you're unsatisfied with the settlement or you don't have the time to process your claim, you can hire a public adjuster to handle the claim on your behalf.

What’s the Difference Between a Company-Provided Adjuster and a Public Adjuster?

The main difference between a company-provided adjuster and a public adjuster is who they work for. A company adjuster represents the insurance company's interests and aims to settle the claim for the lowest possible amount. In contrast, a public adjuster works for the policyholder and strives to settle the claim for the highest possible amount.

When deciding whether to hire a public adjuster:

  • Consider the claim's size and complexity. For small or simple claims, a public adjuster may not be necessary.
  • Think about your comfort level with negotiating. If you're not confident in negotiating, a public adjuster could be helpful.

Key Car Insurance Adjuster Secrets Unveiled

When filing a car insurance claim, adjusters are the middle man between you and the insurance company. Their main job is to check the damages and decide how much should be paid out by the insurer, but they also have methods to save their company money. It's important to understand how the claims process works and how insurance adjusters operate so you can ensure you get a fair settlement.

1. Car Insurance Adjusters Look for Inconsistencies

Insurance adjusters often compare the claimant's statements for consistency. If you're filing a claim, always be consistent in your recounts of the incident. Adjusters might compare your initial report, your statement to them, any police reports and statements given to other parties (like healthcare providers). Discrepancies, even if they arise from genuine mistakes or forgetfulness, can be used as a reason to doubt the validity of the claim or reduce the payout amount. Being consistent and truthful is essential.

Come prepared with records, like:

  • Photos of the damage, injuries and the accident site
  • Car repair bills or estimates
  • Medical bills
  • Police reports
  • Cost of lost wages

Maintaining your own records will be useful should you decide to negotiate the settlement amount later on.

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The vehicle's actual cash value (ACV) is vital in car insurance claims, especially for damage or total loss. It's the fair market value at the time of the accident, considering your car’s:

  • Age
  • Make and model
  • Year
  • Mileage
  • Condition

Insurance companies use ACV for repair payouts. If repairs cost more than the car is worth, the company may declare it a total loss and offer the ACV as a settlement.

ACV helps determine fair compensation based on vehicle age and condition. Each insurance company has its own valuation method. If you disagree with the value your insurer comes up with, do your research on the ACV of your car and provide evidence to support your claim.

2. Negotiation Is Expected

Many claimants don't realize that the adjuster's first offer isn't necessarily their final offer. Insurance adjusters typically have a maximum amount they're authorized to offer without seeking additional approval. They'll often start with a lower offer, but if you believe your claim is worth more, always counter their initial offer with evidence, such as comparable repair estimates or medical expenses.

In addition, pay attention to their language and responses; they might indirectly hint or signal when they're nearing their limit. Being informed and assertive, without being confrontational, can lead to a more favorable settlement.

3. You Can Hire an Attorney or a Public Adjuster

Hiring an attorney or public adjuster can be beneficial because insurers understand that these professionals are more adept at identifying lowball offers and tactics that might not be in the claimant's best interest.

In many cases, the mere presence of an attorney or public adjuster can lead to a more expedient and favorable settlement, as the insurance company may want to avoid prolonged disputes or potential legal complications. However, you will have to pay out of pocket to hire a lawyer or a public adjuster, so always be sure to weigh the costs of hiring these professionals against the potential increase in your settlement.

4. You Can Ask for a Different Car Insurance Adjuster

If you feel you're being treated unfairly or find communication challenging with your current adjuster, you have the right to request a different one. Insurance companies don't always advertise this, but a change can sometimes reset negotiations.

The new adjuster, without any prior biases or assumptions from past interactions, might approach the claim with a fresh perspective or be more receptive to your concerns — but it's not guaranteed that the outcome will be more favorable. Use this option judiciously; constant changes can delay your claim's resolution.

5. Valuation Tools May Vary

Adjusters rely on specific software and databases, like CCC One or Solera, to estimate car repair costs or determine when a car is a total loss. These tools factor in local labor rates, parts costs and other vehicle-specific data to generate repair estimates or replacement values.

  • Generic Parts vs. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Parts: These tools might default to generic or aftermarket parts, which can be cheaper than OEM parts. If your policy covers — or if you insist on — OEM parts, this can be a point of negotiation.
  • Total Loss Threshold: The decision to declare a car a total loss isn't just about repair costs — it's about the repair cost relative to the car's actual cash value (ACV). If repairs approach or exceed a certain percentage of the ACV (often around 75%, but this varies by insurer and state), the car is deemed a total loss. However, there's room to debate both the estimated repair costs and the determined ACV of the vehicle.
  • Comparable Vehicles: For total loss valuation, adjusters look at the sales prices of comparable vehicles in your area. However, the chosen comparable cars might not always match your car's exact condition, mileage or features. Highlighting these discrepancies can be a basis for negotiation.

While valuation tools provide adjusters with a structured approach to evaluating repair costs and total losses, there's inherent variability and subjectivity in these processes. Being informed about how these tools work and where their potential weaknesses lie can give claimants an edge in discussions and negotiations.

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These tools are not infallible. They generate averages and general estimates, which might not always align with real-world repair costs in every locale or for every specific vehicle condition.

6. Insurance Adjustors Want to Resolve Claims Quickly

Insurance adjusters often work under time constraints. Whether driven by internal performance metrics or just the sheer volume of claims they handle, there's an incentive for them to resolve claims quickly.

Adjusters may present an initial settlement offer shortly after the claim is filed. This tactic can capitalize on a claimant's desire to have the matter resolved quickly, especially if they're feeling overwhelmed or unfamiliar with the process. While it's tempting to accept the first offer and move on, especially when bills are piling up, this quick settlement might not fully compensate you. Injuries might take time to manifest or worsen, and vehicle damages might be more extensive upon closer inspection. A hasty agreement can prevent you from claiming these later on.

Knowing that adjusters are keen to close files can sometimes be used to your advantage. Being organized, responsive and ready with all necessary documentation can position you to negotiate more effectively, as the adjuster might be more willing to make concessions to finalize the claim.

Time is a double-edged sword in the insurance claims process. While a swift resolution is often desirable, it's key for claimants to ensure they're not sacrificing a fair and comprehensive settlement for the sake of speed.

7. Adjustors May Not Communicate in Good Faith

Adjusters are trained communicators, and the ways in which they phrase questions or statements are often deliberate and designed to protect their company's financial interests.

  • Leading Phrases or Questions: Adjusters might use questions that are designed to elicit a particular type of response. For instance, instead of asking, "How are you feeling after the accident?" they might phrase it as, "You're feeling better now, right?" Such leading questions can make it seem as though you're downplaying your injuries or damages.
  • Ambiguous Language: Be wary of vague statements like, "We want to help you get this sorted out quickly." While it sounds accommodating, the underlying intention might be to rush the claim to a quick, potentially undervalued settlement.
  • Recorded Statements: Adjusters may request a recorded statement shortly after the incident. While this seems routine, it's important to be cautious. Anything you say can be used later in the claims process. If you give a statement while still in shock or without full knowledge of the damages or injuries, it can be detrimental to your claim. It's generally advisable to consult with an attorney before providing any recorded statements.

Communication with adjusters is not just a casual chat about the incident; it's a structured conversation with potential implications for your claim's outcome. Being aware of the nuances in their communication approach can shield you from potential pitfalls and strengthen your claim's position.

In addition, make sure you document the entire process and get everything in writing to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that the insurance company follows through on its promises.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following answers to frequently asked questions about the car insurance claim process will help you navigate the process more effectively.

Who do car insurance adjusters work for?
What do I do if I’m not happy with the settlement amount?
Where do you find a public adjuster?
How much can I get from my claims payout?

About Mark Fitzpatrick

Mark Fitzpatrick headshot

Mark Fitzpatrick has analyzed the property and casualty insurance market for over five years, conducting original research and creating personalized content for every kind of buyer. Currently, he leads P&C insurance content production at MoneyGeek. Fitzpatrick has been quoted in several insurance-related publications, including CNBC, NBC News and Mashable.

Fitzpatrick earned a master’s degree in economics and international relations from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. He is passionate about using his knowledge of economics and insurance to bring transparency around financial topics and help others feel confident in their money moves.