Although diminished value claims are on the rise in Texas, insurance companies still feel like they are winning the war. Insurance claims adjusters know that for the majority of people the adjuster can take advantage of the claimant’s inexperience in dealing with insurance claims and personal injury litigation. If you are new to diminished value claims, start by reviewing my introduction to Texas laws for diminished value claims. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).
Insurance claims adjusters have heard everything imaginable and they know all of the tricks to frustrate, manipulate and stall claimants. They know as long as you do not retain an attorney they will have the upper hand. While it is possible to negotiate a diminished value claim on your own, many claims adjusters will never give your settlement offers the same kind of consideration they will an offer coming from an attorney. That can result in accepting a substantially lower settlement than what an attorney could obtain for you. An important part of the settlement process is determining what claims you have. It is common for people to either massively undervalue or massively overvalue it. However, these five mistakes are sure to make it hard for the claims adjuster to take you seriously:
1. Referring to your claim as a “slam dunk” or “guaranteed to get X amount of dollars at trial”
Sure, the insurance company may have already admitted liability when it repaired your vehicle but that doesn’t mean you are automatically set to win whatever amount you believe your diminished value claim is worth. Diminished value is not based on any concrete formula; there is going to be some disagreement about the true value of the claim. Even a diminished value appraisal by a reputable appraiser will not convert your case into a “slam dunk” or “guaranteed victory” because insurance company can find appraisers who can make a good faith appraisal far less than the one you bring to the table.
2. Repeatedly threatening to hire a lawyer
Claims adjusters hear this all the time: you come in with a demand on your diminished value claim on your own and when the adjuster, predictably, doesn’t immediately give in to your demand so you threaten to hire an attorney. The first time or two the adjuster might try to convince you away from hiring counsel but nothing says you are almost guaranteed not to hire an attorney is to keep threatening to do it. It’s practically a bat signal to the adjuster that you have no idea how to negotiate your claim. People who hire lawyers don’t repeatedly threaten to do it. They just do it.
3. Demanding to talk to the adjuster’s supervisor
The adjuster might work in a call center-like setting but this is definitely not the same as calling your cable provider when you have a problem with your bill. The adjuster’s supervisor likely won’t talk to you. Even if he or she will, he or she isn’t going to take a different position. The supervisors encourage the adjusters to be difficult with you and settle your claims for as little as possible. The supervisor is just going to laugh at you. Again, this is a great signal to the adjuster that you have no clear plan.
4. Including demands for payment of claims that are not recognized as legal claims
You can ask the adjuster to pay anything you want but a demand letter that arrives demanding payment of claims that you could never recover under in court tells the adjuster you don’t understand litigation, do not understand how to settle your claim and do not understand the true value of your claims. I have seen more than one diminished value demand letter sent to a claims adjuster asking for settlement of non-existent claims or for damages that cannot be recovered at law. For example, diminished value claims are property claims and you cannot recover pain and suffering or punitive damages on a negligent car accident. You may be able to recover for other losses not directly related to the diminished value. (Such as lost wages while dealing with the car repairs, rental car charges and losses related to bodily injury you may have suffered.)
5. You know a guy…
Telling the adjuster you know “a guy” who got a certain amount so you should get the same. The adjuster doesn’t care what somebody else received on a claim. The adjuster does not care how any other claim shook out. How somebody else fared on a diminished value claim has zero relevance or affect on your claim. Relying on irrelevant or arguments will not help you settle your diminished value claim; but will hurt your claim by showing the adjuster you do not understand the value of your claim.
Diminished value claims can be successfully negotiated by the vehicle owner, provided you understand the value of your claim and how to settle it. Otherwise, you can expect to leave a lot of money on the table.