First, let me begin by saying that I, of course, never (never, never) recommend that you represent yourself when you have been injured in a car accident (or any accident for that matter). Would you hire a realtor or try to sale your house on your own? Trust your friend’s opinion instead of having that mole checked out by an actual doctor?
The truth is that in order to maximize your recovery in any personal injury matter you need someone who understands how to navigate the process and who is adept at presenting your particular case to the other side (i.e. the person with the money) in a way that focuses on the issues that will actually convince them to pay you appropriately.
So, if you are injured in an accident, consult an attorney. Whether you hire my firm or someone else, make sure you have an experienced attorney looking after your best interests.
Ok, having said that, there are always those people who believe they don’t need an attorney and that they can save money (despite, all the studies and literature which say the opposite) by dealing with an insurance adjuster themselves. So for those people, here are three absolutes you should never forget:
Remember that the Adjuster is the Opposition and Not your Friend. No matter how friendly or nice the adjuster may seem on the phone, she is not your friend. Rather she is a trained professional that is working for the other side to minimize what they have to pay out to you. It is that simple. Be courteous and polite, but set a serious business-like tone. And don’t let your guard down.
Be careful as to what you say and when you say it. The first time you speak with an adjuster, sometimes just mere hours after the accident, they will want to find out “everything.” They are often on a fact-finding mission and will want a recorded statement from you. Why? Because it benefits them to pin you down to exact answers on as many issues as possible as soon as possible. But, truthfully, you are not in a position to answer many important questions in the immediate aftermath of an accident. For instance, you do not know the full extent of your injuries or even whether or not you have injuries. You likely will not know what actually happened to cause the wreck until after you hear from witnesses, read the incident report, and view the photographs from the crash scene. Take your time. Proceed at your pace, not the pace of the insurance company. Effectively settling a car accident case is a marathon and not a sprint.
Do not exaggerate or lie. Your credibility in a personal injury is more important than anything else. Even more important than how the accident occurred or what treatment you received. In short, if you are caught being dishonest on one issue, then you will not be trusted on any issue. Not by the adjuster or a jury.