Animosity between plaintiff personal injury lawyers and the insurance companies we work with does not help further our client’s goals. Viewing an insurance claims adjuster as the enemy does not facilitate an open discussion about the value of your client’s case, nor does this view motivate an adjuster to offer you top dollar for your client’s case.
Let’s look at how to develop a working rapport with an adjuster and how to get into the right frame of mind when we pick up the phone and introduce ourselves to the adjuster for the first time. Ideally, your first phone conversation with an insurance adjuster should be preceded with a properly worded letter of representation. Quote your state’s authority, to obtain the defendant’s insurance policy limits; in California, the case is Boicourt v. Amex Assurance Co. (2000) 78 Cal. App. 4th 1390. Also, include a short questionnaire that asks questions related to the purpose of the trip the insured driver was on, when the accident happened. The answers to these questions will help you determine if the accident happened while the defendant was in the course and scope of employment. The adjuster assigned to your case will respond to your letter of representation with an introductory letter of their own. Once you receive this introductory letter, pick up the phone and introduce yourself.
Before you pick up the phone, try the Just Like Me / Loving Kindness meditation, to help improve your rapport, goodwill and sympathy for the adjuster (also a human being) on the other end of the telephone. I learned about this meditation from the book “Search Inside Yourself, The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (And World Peace)”, written by Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan (page 169). Start by sitting in a comfortable position, and rest your mind by focusing on nothing else other than the process of gently breathing in and out. Visualize an image of the claims adjuster you are about to call. Now, read the script below, pausing at the end of each sentence for reflection:
This claims adjuster has a body and a mind, just like me.
This claims adjuster has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me.
This claims adjuster, at some point in his or her life, has been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt or confused, just like me.
This claims adjuster has, in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This claims adjuster wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This claims adjuster wishes to be healthy and loved, and to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.
This claims adjuster wishes to be happy, just like me.
End your meditation by focusing on your breath. Now, you should be in a good frame of mind to pick up the phone and discuss your client’s case, with the person who may end up writing a large check if the case settles.
When you are on the phone, a good way to start the discussion is to share some information that will help the adjuster. Let the adjuster know about your client’s injuries, treatment status and lost wages. If the adjuster asks for your client’s social security number, provide it. Providing the social security number allows the adjuster to verify whether or not your client is Medicare or Medicaid eligible, and it will help the adjuster to run an ISO report, which will reveal any prior or subsequent injury claims that may impact the value of the case.
From your point of view as the plaintiff’s attorney, it is a good idea to confirm the name of the insured driver who was actually driving at the time of the accident. This will ensure that you do not confuse the policyholder owner of the vehicle with the driver who caused the accident. Also, again ask the adjuster whether or not the insured driver was in the course and scope of employment at the time of the accident. The answer to this question may reveal additional insurance coverage for the accident.
Use the Just Like Me / Loving Kindness meditation to put yourself into the shoes of the adjuster. Your kindness will make the adjuster more receptive to your arguments and will, ultimately, result in a more reasonable settlement offer. The insurance claims adjuster is not your enemy. They are more like a juror whom, ultimately, you have the burden of persuading at trial. Yes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.Published in