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What to do and say (and what to avoid) following a truck accident
We want to believe that if someone says, “I’m sorry,” they really mean it.
Sometimes it’s true.
But if the apology comes from an insurance company after you’ve been in a truck accident, chances are it’s not truly sincere.
Don’t be swayed by an apology
Many insurance companies will use an apology program, which is a specific set of guidelines used to train adjusters to “apologize” to an accident victim as a way of avoiding claims or convincing you to settle for less than your claim is worth.
Here’s how it works:
You were in a collision with a commercial truck. Later that day, you receive a call from the trucking company’s insurer. A pleasant-sounding adjuster says, “We’re so sorry you got hurt.” She then offers to send you a check for the full replacement value of your car.
Or maybe she’ll say that she’s going to make you a “reasonable” settlement so that things don’t get messy by hiring lawyers.
But there’s a difference between empathy and apology.
|An expression of empathy is when someone is sorry that something happened to you, but without acknowledging fault.
“I’m sorry you were hurt.”
|An apology is offered if someone believes that they’ve made a mistake.
“I’m sorry you were hurt when our driver hit your car.”
Often, an adjuster is trained to express empathy that sounds like an apology without actually apologizing — because doing so would acknowledge fault. Just because someone uses the word “sorry” doesn’t mean they’re making an apology or admitting responsibility.
Resist the temptation to be taken in by a kind-sounding voice and a financial offer. They’re not calling you to be nice. They’re calling because studies show that when an injured person believes they’ve received an apology, they’re more likely to settle the claim for less than they deserve.
In fact, these apology programs are so successful that they’re also being used in many hospitals for medical malpractice situations.
One study showed that an apology “gave the patient a sense of satisfaction and closure, which led to faster settlements and less demand for damages.” In other words, it reduces the amount of medical malpractice payments.
The claims adjuster might also call to “check” on you. She might say she wants to see how you’re doing following the crash. The best way to answer is not at all. Even if you say, “I’m fine,” it can come back to haunt you if you wind up in court. By telling the adjuster you’re “fine” or “good,” you’re letting them know that you’re not injured.
Even if you think you are fine or good, keep it to yourself. You don’t want to lie, but you also want to protect yourself in case symptoms of an injury crop up later, which does happen.
How truck accident insurance works
The trucking company pays a premium to its insurer, just like you do for your own car insurance. And, like your insurance, the premiums increase when the trucking company is liable for crashes.
The insurer is responsible for paying out the claims, regardless of how much they make in premiums. Because trucking accidents are often more serious than accidents between passenger cars, these insurance claims can amount to large sums of money.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re confronted by the insurance company:
- The insurer’s objective is to pay out as little as possible for each claim. Because... of course. Why spend more of their own money than absolutely necessary? And remember this: YOU aren’t their customer. The trucking company is.The insurer is a business, too. It needs to pay out the lowest possible settlement in order to remain profitable. By keeping their payouts low, they keep premiums low. Keeping premiums low keeps their customers happy, and then they stay in business.
- The insurance adjuster knows things you don’t. They know how much your injuries are actually worth. They also have access to databases with comparables (which is information about payout amounts for similar accidents) and other industry information.
- The insurance adjuster is trained to elicit certain responses from you. It can be as innocent-sounding as “How are you?” and if you say “good,” that could work against you later. If they try to make small talk, try to avoid it. If the adjuster asks anything about the accident, you should definitely decline to answer those questions, even if they seem harmless. They want you to say something that puts more liability on you and takes it away from the trucking company.Remember, it’s not being naive or uninformed if you fall into this kind of trap. For one thing, you’ve just been involved in an accident. Even if you do feel fine, you’re probably at least a little shaken from the emotional turmoil and stress of the event and you might not be thinking straight. Second, remember that asking these questions in a way that influences your response is the adjuster’s job, and they have scripts to follow and training that teaches them to do this.
- The insurance adjuster is trying to work within their settlement authority. The insurance company has already calculated what it thinks your case is worth. The adjuster is authorized to settle for up to an amount that is likely far below the actual value of your claim. The adjuster is motivated to settle for as far below the claim value as they can because that’s what shows their value to their boss. But you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to accept it.
- Some insurance companies will purposely delay the claims process. The insurer has made you a settlement offer. You declined. Suddenly, your phone calls are no longer being returned. Your emails remain unanswered. There’s paperwork that never gets processed. It’s unethical (and sometimes illegal), but an insurance company might try to run out your statute of limitations.The statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. It might be different depending on the state where you live. An insurance company might drag its heels long enough that you’re unable to file legal recourse.
- Don’t use the service providers they recommend (unless you want to). The insurance company might require that you get a quote from a specific body shop, but that doesn’t mean you have to have the work performed there. That shop can quote the amount anticipated for the repair, and the insurance company will use that number to make a settlement, but the money will be paid to you, not the body shop. You can choose any repair shop you want. The service providers recommended by the insurance company aren’t necessarily providing you the most low-cost and high-quality services.
How to work with your own insurance company
There are going to be two (or more) insurance companies involved in the claim process. In a truck accident, there can be several parties involved.
Regardless of who’s involved on the trucking company side, there’s also going to be your insurance company. While your insurance company is a necessary part of the process, remember that your insurance adjuster is not your lawyer.
Your insurance company has its own best interests in mind, not yours. The objective is to pay out as little as possible on any claim because every payment it makes costs the company money. If there’s any liability on your part, that affects how it negotiates with the opposing insurance company.
Your insurance adjuster might be conducting negotiations with the other insurance companies, but it’s not necessarily representing you. That’s why if your own insurance company presents a settlement offer from the other insurer, or offers payment on your claim, you still need a personal injury lawyer to review the amount.
When to hire a personal injury lawyer for a truck accident
When should you hire a personal injury lawyer following a truck accident?
That way, when the insurance company calls, you can tell them to talk to your attorney directly.
In what could be a complicated case with a lot of insurance companies involved, your lawyer is the one person you can count on to represent YOU. Your lawyer will try to minimize your liability, manage the communication, conduct negotiations, and work with insurers to get the highest possible settlement for you.
And like the insurance company, your lawyer knows what your case is actually worth. Your attorney knows the deceptive tactics and strategies that adjusters use to get you to agree to a lowball settlement offer. They know exactly how much time you have to file a lawsuit.
Unlike the insurance company, though, your lawyer’s job is to advocate for YOU and get you the money you need to cover your bills and expenses. Your lawyer won’t settle for an amount that’s lower than what you deserve. If the insurance company won’t agree to the desired settlement, you can file a lawsuit. Your lawyer will always advise you of what your options are and provide guidance through the entire process.
Consider the Enjuris Personal Injury Law Firm Directory your starting guide to finding the lawyer who’s going to be there for you every step of the way.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.