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How Claims Adjusters Impact Car Accident Lawsuits

Dan Brian   |  May 26, 2016   |  

What a claims adjuster says about who is at fault after a car accident, the value of damages you have suffered, and how much the insurance company will pay can have a significant effect not only on your claim, but also on your future. But it’s important to remember that the adjuster doesn’t have the final say.

Here is a look into whether what a claims adjuster says really matters, what the role of an adjuster is, and how you can take steps to prove an adjuster wrong in a North Carolina car accident lawsuit.

The Role of an Insurance Adjuster

After you have been in a car accident in North Carolina, you will file a claim with the appropriate insurance company. Because North Carolina follows a traditional at-fault car insurance system, you will file a claim with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance, or with your own insurance if you were at fault (your own insurance may pay for certain damages, even if you caused the crash).

Once you submit a claim, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your claim. Read more about car insurance requirements and fault in A Consumer’s Guide to Automobile Insurance, published by the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

The role of an insurance adjuster is to settle a claim. And more specifically, the goal of an insurance adjuster is to make sure that the insurance company they represent pays out as little money as possible in the process. In order to settle the claim, the insurance adjuster will conduct an investigation into the cause of the accident, who was at fault for the accident, and the extent of damages that the accident caused.

Once the adjuster has finished conducting all of the investigation, he or she will suggest a settlement amount, or the sum of money that the insurance company will offer you for your claim. At this point, you have the right to accept the settlement or reject it and negotiate a higher amount. If negotiations go south and an amount cannot be agreed upon, your case may go to court in the form of a lawsuit.

How a Court Might View What an Insurance Adjuster Says

Remember that the role of the insurance adjuster is to make sure that the insurance company spends as little as possible in order to settle your claim. In order to do so, the insurance adjuster will search for any signs of fault on your part, as well as any way to diminish the amount of money you are entitled to.

For example, if you tell the insurance adjuster that you were traveling 5 miles per hour over the speed limit at the time of your crash, the insurance adjuster may infer this as an admission of fault, and may attempt reduce or withhold your compensation as a result. Or an insurance adjuster may claim that the injuries related to the car accident for which you are seeking compensation were caused by an unrelated event.

If your car accident claim goes to court, how the court weighs what the insurance adjuster says will depend on the judge and jury, if there is one. While the insurance adjuster’s statements may be considered evidence, they are not the only type of evidence that may be presented to the court, nor are they the final word. For example, just because the insurance adjuster believes that you contributed to the accident does not mean that you actually did contribute to the accident. You will need to demonstrate this to the court to recover your full damages amount.

How to Prove an Insurance Adjuster Wrong

The best way to prove an insurance adjuster wrong is to collect and present compelling evidence that speaks to your lack of fault and to the extent of damages that you suffered. Some solid evidence that can be used in a car accident lawsuit, and may refute a car insurance adjuster’s position, includes:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Medical reports
  • Eyewitnesses testimony
  • Electronic control module data (“black box”)
  • Cellphone logs (to prove or disprove distracted driving through cellphone use)
  • Testimony of the other driver
  • Accident reconstruction experts’ testimony
  • Medical experts’ testimony

Remember, if you are filing a claim to recover damages for your losses, and have filed a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, the burden of proof rests on your shoulders. In other words, it is up to you – the plaintiff – to prove that your injuries would not have occurred but for the actions of the defendant, as well as the extent of your injuries. You are also responsible for proving that your actions in no way contributed to the occurrence of the accident, and therefore that you should be able to recover your full damages amount.

How to Avoid Going to Court – Negotiating with an Insurance Adjuster

While you may be able to prove an insurance adjuster wrong when going to court, ideally you may want to avoid court altogether. While an insurance adjuster wants to offer you as low of a settlement as possible, an insurance adjuster also realizes that going to court is time-consuming and costly, and that a judge or jury may very well decide in your favor. As such, the mere threat of court may be enough to persuade an insurance adjuster to offer you a higher settlement amount, especially if you can provide evidence of the other party’s fault.

How an Experienced North Carolina Car Accident Law Firm Can Help

You may be able to win even if the claims adjuster states that you do not deserve your full compensation amount. At the law firm of Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our skilled Raleigh car accident attorneys can help you understand the role of an insurance adjuster and the power of their words, as well as how to negotiate for a settlement and what to do if a settlement cannot be reached.