Don’t make the same mistakes! Get what you pay for from your insurance company.
Every month, you pay your insurance company so that you’ll have one less thing to worry about if something bad happens. However, your insurance company is built around paying out less than they take in—and they’ll use a number of tricks to weasel out of paying the full amount of your claim.
These are a few insurance company tricks I’ve learned the hard way, with tips to help you fight back.
1. Offering you a low-ball settlement
Like most businesses involved in big money transactions, the insurance company expects to haggle. Never accept the first offer you’re given, because it’s a deliberate underestimate—your company knows that accident victims are usually under a great deal of stress and financial pressure, so they hope you’ll jump at a small, take-it-or-leave-it settlement.
What you can do: As easy as it may seem to just take what’s offered and move on, you’ve got more power than you think. Insurance companies don’t make money by handling claims—they like customers who are safe, quiet, and regularly pay their premiums. They want the claim process to wrap up quickly, just like you do—so if you persist, and refuse an unfair offer, they’ll bend. As much as possible, stay polite, patient, and assertive.
2. Tripping you up with bureaucratic policies
One of the easiest ways insurance companies can wriggle out of your claim is if you fail to dot your i’s and cross your t’s in the days and weeks immediately following an accident. If you are injured, and don’t go to a hospital right after an accident, the insurance company can claim that you exaggerated or fabricated your injuries. If you say anything (particularly in writing) that might be construed as admitting fault, they will gladly deny your claim. If you fail to file an accident report, file for unemployment or disability benefits, or submit a no-fault claim, it can severely complicate your attempt to settle with your insurance company.
What you can do: Make sure you’re on top of things, even on the day of the accident. This can be a challenge, but if you’re hurt, go straight to the doctor. If you’re not able to work, file for unemployment or disability right away. Don’t talk to anyone about the accident except the police and your attorney You are not obligated to submit to a recorded interview with the insurance company in order to file a claim.
3. Stall tactics
This is where insurance companies get mean. They’ll “lose” your paperwork, put you on hold for hours, make you tell and retell your situation to agents unfamiliar with your claim—all to deliberately waste your time so that you’ll accept an unfair settlement and go away.
What you can do: If your insurance company plays games like this, they’re playing to their strength—with limitless agents and customer service reps, they can pass you back and forth as long as they have to. If they bring out these tactics, you probably need to get professional legal counsel and start looking for a new insurer.
4. “Preferred” repair shops
Your insurer will likely promise faster service and other incentives to get you into their preferred shops. This isn’t always a bad move, but pay attention to who is working for whom—the mechanic is not trying to impress you with quality work, he’s trying to impress your insurance company by getting the job done as quickly and cheaply as possible.
What you can do: Preferred shops can be honest and fair, but keep your eyes open: preferred shops may cut corners or ignore damage in order to lower the cost to your insurance company. Ask questions, get to know the guys at the preferred shop, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
About The Author
Colleen Harding is a staff writer for a personal injury lawyer on topics relating to employment, labor and state law. Her passion for the legal realm started with a job as a Legal Aid and continued when she accepted a role as a Human Resources Coordinator for a mid-sized U.S. manufacturing company.
Today, Colleen hopes that sharing her knowledge via on topics of law will make us all happy, law-abiding citizens. She is also a member of Amnesty International as well as an active volunteer in her community.