If you have ever been in a motor vehicle accident, you’ve dealt with an auto insurance adjuster. How did it go for you? What? You didn’t get as much money as you expected? Join the crowd. Many people have negative stories about their experiences with these insurance mavens. But the relationship between you and the auto claims adjuster doesn’t have to be contentious. All you need is some training on negotiation techniques.
An Auto Insurance Adjuster’s Job
Before you learn tried-and-true negotiation tactics, you need to know what a claims adjuster does. Contrary to popular belief, he or she was not hired to make your life miserable.
To those of you who have never been in an accident, let’s start with a basic definition: “A claims adjuster analyzes the damages to your automobile (and perhaps your body) after an accident.” He/she does this to calculate how much money the insurance can or will pay for those damages.
This is not a simple job. To perform it, the adjuster must submit an estimate of the cost of fixing your automobile based on the cost of parts and labor. He/or she must then rectify this with the terms of your insurance policy, i.e., what type of coverage you carry, the amount of your deductible, etc.
The claims adjuster also deals with guidelines of what can be paid. For instance, if the repairs will cost more than the value of the vehicle, he/she may decide to “total” it. This means that, instead of paying for repairs, the insurance company will pay you the blue book value of the car, which is probably a lot less money than you think it’s worth.
Regardless of what the adjuster decides, keep in mind that he/she will always try to pay you the least amount of money possible. It’s his job. Also, remember that the adjuster is human. He or she probably has a huge caseload and doesn’t have a lot of time to tweak the figures, taking care to get them right. That’s why you have to be vigilant about the claim. You may need to negotiate to get the best deal.
Negotiating with an Auto Insurance Claims Adjuster
The first rule in negotiating with an insurance claims adjuster is to not be afraid to argue. But you can’t just argue to blow off steam. Rather, you need to argue with purpose, having knowledge and facts to back you up. Here are some tips to help you successfully negotiate your claim:
Challenge the Evaluation Report
When an insurance adjuster finishes analyzing the cost of repairs, he fills out an evaluation, which tells how much the insurance company is willing to pay. On the report will be the comparables he used to come up with those figures. (Comparables are vehicles of a similar type.) He uses comparables to determine the fair market value of your vehicle. To do this, he calculates the average value of the comparables. In case you’re wondering, two vehicles are all it takes to get an average. However, the adjuster will usually have several listed. If you look on the evaluation report and the adjuster has listed six vehicles, two of which have a much higher value than the other four, ask the adjuster if he can just use the average of those highest two.
Speaking of comparables, you can also ask the claims adjuster to lessen the number of comparable vehicles he used for his figures. If you ask him just to use the top few comparables, for instance, you might be surprised at how much that may increase your pay out.
Provide your Own Comparables
There are some cases where you should provide your own list of comparables. For instance, if you have a classic car, the appraisal should be a lot higher than what the insurance adjuster comes up with. If this applies to you, don’t wait until the adjuster does his analysis. Instead, be proactive and gather your comparables right away!
Ask Him to “Total” It
Most insurance companies will only pay for damage if the cost of repairs is less than a certain percentage of the vehicle’s value. This figure is usually around 50 percent. If the damages are more than that, they will “total” the car and, as previously mentioned, just pay you the blue book value.
But if your automobile’s damage is close to that limit, would you really want the insurance company to pay for repairs? After all, if you go to resell your car, potential buyers will probably find out that it was in a terrible accident. You will either have trouble selling that vehicle, or interested buyers will try to low ball you on price.
In this case, you may want to ask the insurance adjuster if he will just go ahead and “total” it. (Telling him there may be some hidden damage that isn’t apparent yet may persuade him to do so.) You can then take the money the insurance company pays and use it for a down payment on another car.
Choose your Own Repair Shop
To get your vehicle repaired, the adjuster will likely suggest a list of “preferred body shops” that he would like you to use. Their prices, however, may be a lot higher than body shops that you select on your own. To avoid price gouging, go to a body shop that you know and trust. You’ll be better off.
Argue a Little More
The insurance adjuster would like to settle your claim as quickly as possible. He doesn’t want to argue about the evaluation report, and he may not be prepared if you want to argue. You can use this to your advantage, because an adjuster usually has an amount – usually $500 – above his original offer that he can use to immediately settle the claim. So if you argue with him, you may well get an extra $500 on your claim!
Negotiating with an auto insurance adjuster is not difficult. Don’t be intimidated. All it takes to get a better settlement is some knowledge about how insurance claims work and some negotiating skills. Hopefully, this article has given you both!