If you have been injured because of someone else's carelessness, you are probably going to be dealing with at least one insurance adjuster, maybe more, and this all while trying to recover from a serious injury. This article gives you the "cast of characters" that you will be dealing with early in the claim. Although the article focuses on the Oregon auto injury claim, it gives good general information for all types of injury or insurance claims.
Your Insurance Company
If you are injured in a car insured in Oregon, you have Personal Injury Protection (also called "PIP") benefits, which provides coverage for medical expenses and lost wages. You will be assigned a PIP adjuster, and will be provided forms and medical releases to complete. Your insurance policy is a contract, and in it, you are required to fill out these forms, and complete the medical and wage authorizations so that your company can process your benefits (pay the bills). Do you have to give a statement? Sometimes, because there may be an issue about who was at fault, or in other words, caused your injury. So, we generally advise people to work with the PIP adjuster, although disputes may arise.
Other People From Your Insurance Company
If you have collision coverage for car, you may hear from another adjuster, also from your company, that will handle the claim for the repair or replacement of your car. This adjuster may even hire another person, an appraiser, to look at your car. Like with your PIP adjuster, your insurance policy will require that you cooperate with the adjuster to get the claim handled, but again, if there is a dispute you may have options.
The "Other Guy's" Insurance Company
We call these folks "liability adjusters." These adjusters will refer to themselves as a "claim representative" or a "bodily injury" adjuster. These adjusters are on the other side of the legal fence from you. Their interest is for their insured (the other driver), and their insurance company. You do not have to give statements, sign releases, or even talk to these adjusters. Often, the first adjuster you deal with has little experience, and will work directly under another adjuster before making any decision on your claim. This adjuster may also deal with issues about your car (see below), and to get these issues squared away, you will have to work with the liability adjuster.
You should also be aware of a quick offer of settlement. Many of these adjusters will try to get an injured person to sign an agreement to resolve the case quickly, even promising to cover future medical expenses. Some cases can be resolved relatively quickly, especially where is no injury involved, and the only issue is fixing or replacing the car. However, we have seen sad stories where people unaware of a serious injury settle the claim quickly, finding themselves with a serious injury and no way to get the proper medical care.
Also be aware of statements. Many of these adjusters are specially trained to twist your words, or get you to make statements that can later be used against you. We seldom, if at all see a case where our client has helped themselves by giving a taped statement to the other party's insurance company.
We also generally recommend that people not sign medical releases for liability insurance companies. These releases are often very broad, and allow the insurance company to poke around at your prior medical care, or medical problems or issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with the case.
You may also deal with a property damage adjuster from the other person's insurance company. Although you technically do not have to speak with this adjuster, unless you have comprehensive coverage, you will have to deal with this adjuster in order to get your car repaired, get a rental car, or settle on the value of a car that was damaged beyond repair.
You are also going to get a lot of letters from lawyers offering to take your case. Like any decision to hire a professional, do your research. Go online and check out AVVO, an attorney rating website. Research the attorney on his or her website, and if you decide to go for a "free consultation," ask about fees and costs. Ask the attorney about their experience as well. After all, you are the client.
Still have questions? Check out our web site for other helpful articles, or call us at 503 325 8600. We are here to help you know where you stand, and if you want to meet with me, set up a time. We have offices in Astoria and Beaverton.