Following an auto accident, the scene is usually flooded with police investigators, fire/rescue personnel, tow trucks and traffic control officers. As soon as the police complete their investigation and send the involved drivers on their way with a copy of their preliminary or "Exchange of Information" report, a litany of insurance adjusters for each driver springs into action to begin the claims process. Assuming the crash resulted in both property damage and personal injury, there may be as many as five different adjusters involved on behalf of each driver. Each adjuster focuses on a different part of the claim and are as follows:
- Property damage adjuster for YOUR vehicle;
- Property damage adjuster for the OTHER driver(s) vehicle;
-PIP adjuster for YOUR medical bills:
-Bodily Injury adjuster for OTHER persons claiming injuries from the accident;
-Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist adjuster for YOUR medical bills.
Of these multiple adjusters, the two that you need to be initially aware of are the property damage adjuster and the PIP adjuster. Since your vehicle may have been rendered inoperable as a result of the accident, you should cooperate as much as possible with the property damage adjuster who will make the determination whether your vehicle is repairable or not and arrange for a rental vehicle while your car is either repaired or replaced.
The PIP adjuster is assigned to your claim as soon as the first medical bills are received by your insurance company. If you receive treatment at a hospital emergency room, that treatment will be billed to your automobile insurance that same day. The PIP adjuster is someone you MUST cooperate with, as the law in Florida is very clear that your insurer can limit or cut off your PIP benefits if you fail to do so. If requested, you must provide the adjuster with a statement ( usually a recorded telephone statement) describing the facts of the accident, the extent of your injuries and treatment to date. Later in the treatment process, the PIP adjuster can require you to appear for an examination by a doctor of their choosing to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment you are receiving.
While you must cooperate with the adjusters working for your insurance company to protect your benefits, don't be surprised if you also receive mail or phone calls from the other driver's insurance company. While friendly, they are specifically trained to attempt to minimize your claim. They may try to interview you at an inopportune time in the hope that you will dismiss them by saying you are "getting much better", "it was no big deal", etc. They may tell you that hiring an attorney will result in you receiving less from any settlement (untrue) and may offer you a quick settlement and present you with a settlement check while standing on your doorstep. Some insurers award bonuses to their adjusters based on how successful they are in closing claims quickly.
While I usually avoid painting with too broad a brush, you should assume that any representative of the other driver's insurer does not have your best interests in mind. Their job - for which they have received extensive training - is to save their employer money by not paying the full value of your claim. The bottom line is that where you are injured and the at-fault driver has substantial bodily injury coverage, your dealings with that person's insurance company immediately become arm's length in nature, no matter how accommodating and pleasant the adjuster may be. In short, you have no obligation whatsoever to speak with anyone from the other driver's insurance company.
As a final note, you should understand that in the overwhelming number of cases, hiring an attorney to handle your claim dramatically increases the net recovery. In a study conducted by the National Insurance Council, claimants who hired attorneys obtained on average 3 1/2 times greater settlement amounts than those who were unrepresented. Insurance companies know this. While you may handle your claim without an attorney, understand that you will be dealing with a multimillion dollar corporation with superior knowledge and unlimited resources to defend their at-fault driver. Should you have any questions, we at the Heyman Law Firm are always available to meet with you for a no-cost consultation.
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