Usually, the first thing a claims adjuster does to gather information on your claim is contact you by telephone. If you’ve never filed a claim before and dealt with claims adjusters, you need to be aware of the risks involved in handling it on your own. We’d suggest you read up on the most common insurance company tactics used to minimize your settlement.
If you’re asked to sign a medical authorization form giving the insurance company access to your medical records, don’t do so without consulting a lawyer first. These forms are often worded to allow the insurance company unfettered access to your personal medical history. A common tactic is to look for any medical issue they can use to dispute your claim. A good personal injury attorney can advise you on which medical records are appropriate to share with an insurance company.
Be careful what you say
Although the person who contacts you may come across as a genuinely nice person who just wants to help you get everything squared away, his/her loyalties are to Farmers Insurance—not you. Any misstatement from you, however inadvertent, gives the adjuster ammo to dispute or even deny your claim altogether. Be careful what you say, and NEVER say anything that implicates you as being partially at fault for the accident.
The phone call you get from the insurance company is a critical part of the claims process and will probably be recorded, so you need to be prepared. If you get a call shortly after filing your claim and you don’t feel like you’re ready yet, simply tell the adjuster this isn’t a good time to talk and ask for a number where you can call them back. You’re not obligated to speak to them right when they call, so just politely request to speak with them later.
Document your contacts with Farmers Insurance
It’s a good idea to follow up every phone conversation you have with Farmers Insurance with a short letter or email outlining what the insurance company told you they would be doing to settle your claim. Keep copies of your letters and emails, as this may be useful if the insurance company later changes their tune on what they’re going to do to settle your claim or starts giving you a runaround on your claim.
Be prepared to prove fault or lack of fault
In cases where another driver was clearly at fault for the accident, handling a claim by yourself goes easier. If there’s any question about who was to blame for the accident, however, you can expect a fight from the insurance company. The determination of liability is a critical factor in a personal injury claim, so be prepared to fend off any allegation that you contributed to the accident in any way.
It’s you vs them… a lot of them
The rep you speak with on the phone isn’t the only person you’re up against when negotiating an injury claim. Like all big insurance companies, Farmers Insurance has hundreds of lawyers with all kinds of devious strategies to minimize payouts on claims. As many policyholders have found out, your years of being a loyal customer means nothing to an insurance company when money is on the line.
When you’re going up against a big insurance company on your own, be prepared to get the runaround on everything. One of their favorite tactics is to drag their feet on your claim to the point you’re shut out of taking legal action against them due to the Statute of Limitations. In Wisconsin, you have three years from the date of an accident to file suit against an insurance company. Can they really drag out your claim that long? They most certainly can, and they most certainly do.
Keep your eye on the calendar
Filing a suit against an insurance company is the one nuclear weapon you have in the claim negotiation process. If they manage to string you along past the three-year point, you’re shut out of taking any legal action against them by the Statute of Limitations and you’ll be stuck with whatever woefully inadequate settlement offer they make.
Don’t settle for less
Insurance companies are known for making the claims process difficult and lengthy. They do this in the hope you’ll capitulate and accept their lowball settlement just to get it over with. Don’t let them get away with it.