The biggest secret of a State Farm car accident claim is this: Every single insurance company has one thing in common – they want to pay you as LITTLE as possible. Please don’t be offended, it is not personal, its just how they make money. Despite their “good neighbor” marketing, they are not there to be your friend, be your neighbor, or loan you a cup of sugar when you’re baking cookies with your kids. They are there to make money, nothing more and nothing less. The trick to doing that as an insurance company is to take in as much as you can in premiums, and pay out as little as you can in claims. Again, its not personal to them, its math. They are a business, like any other, and they are there to make money. If you want a “good neighbor,” I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to move in next to Mr. Rogers! If you don’t want them to make their profit by underpaying YOUR claim, keep reading.
The first secret of dealing with a State Farm car accident claim is to find out who your adjuster is. If you find out that your claim has been handled to a “Team” of adjusters (such as the notorious “Team 22”), in my experience you can be sure of one thing – you will NOT be offered fair value for your claim. If State Farm assigns your claim to a “team” of adjuster is means that they consider it a lower value / lower risk claim and they are going to try to lowball you every step of the way. A “team” adjuster assignment means State Farm considers yours a “minor” accident verses a major injury claim, a difference that I explored in more depth here. While ALL of the adjusters have the same goal in mind (to pay as little as possible), the team adjusters have the very lowest levels of authority and are only able to make very low dollar offers on any claim. Typically speaking, if you end up having to file a lawsuit, your claim will be reassigned to an individual adjuster. While this is no guarantee of an increase in the settlement offer, typically State Farm will up their offer once a lawsuit is filed.
The next secret of dealing with State Farm is the recorded statement, specifically, that you do not have to give one! To clarify, when you are making a claim against the person that hit you (what we car accident attorneys call a “third party claim”), you are NOT obligated to give a recorded statement to the State Farm adjuster, even though they will make you think it is a “required” part of the claims process. When I represent someone who has been injured in a car accident and I’m up against State Farm, I will deny their request for a recorded statement about 95% of the time. Why do they need it? If they have questions about the facts of the accident, they can look at the police report (if you read my “what to do after a car accident” article, you know that getting the police to investigate is critical.) If they have questions about your injuries, they can look at the complete copies of medical records and bills you will send them after you are finished treating. The reason the State Farm adjuster wants to take a recorded statement is simple – they have a list of leading questions they are going to ask that are designed to elicit the answers that will best suit their needs. For example, they are less likely to ask an open ended question like “Tell me about all of your injuries.” Rather, they may ask something like, “How are you feeling today,” a question designed for you to give the reflexive answer of “Fine.” If you go back and change your story later, they have you “on record” and WILL use what you said against you! Keep in mind, many times people feel a LOT worse a day or two AFTER a collision. You may give a recorded statement to a State Farm adjuster the day of the accident, inadvertently say that you are “okay,” and be in so much pain the next day you can’t even get out of bed. There is no legal requirement that you give a recorded statement when making a third party car accident injury claim against State Farm!
Several years ago, CNN’s Anderson Cooper did an excellent investigative piece about the claims handling procedures of State Farm and a couple of other major companies. What it boiled down to is this – State Farm was using the “Three D” approach, “deny, delay, and defend,” particularly on what they considered “lower impact” (i.e. the most common) claims. State Farm found that by fighting as hard as they could against people making car accident claims, they were able to significantly increase their profit margins. Essentially, State Farm was exposed to be making it so hard to pursue fair compensation, that many people would give up the fight and just settle for the low offers. State Farm (and other insurance companies) argue that they need to play with such “hardball” tactics in order to fight fraud, but the fact is that only a very tiny percentage of auto accident claims are fraudulent. I cannot keep count of the number of times I’ve represented a car accident victim making a claim against State Farm express shock at they way they are treated: “But its all those OTHER people that are abusing the system, I’ve got a legitimate claim and just want fair treatment!” Yep, I know – welcome to the world of the “Three Ds.”
If you have been injured, and want to be treated fairly when making a State Farm car accident claim, call the offices of nationally recognized personal injury attorney Stewart J. Guss at 800-898-4877 today for a free consultation. With principal offices in Houston, Texas, he has been fighting against “hardball” adjuster tactics for over 20 years. Remember, there is no charge for your consultation, and you will pay no fee unless they win your case!